Culturally Competent Resumes for the Global Job Market

Printer-Friendly Version

Different cultures have different rules, customs, values, priorities, protocol, and religious or societal influences on business practices. For the culturally incompetent, the global job market provides a wealth of opportunity … to be misconstrued, misunderstood, and misinterpreted.

You must prepare your resume with an international perspective. By presenting your personal information in a culturally sensitive manner, you will enhance your chances of success in the global job market. Follow some simple steps to avoid the pitfalls of cultural faux pas and prevent potentially embarrassing and costly miscues.

The Curriculum Vitae (CV)

First, familiarize yourself with the international style resume — the curriculum vitae (CV). Very few of the rules of writing a resume in the United States apply to overseas employment.

American employers generally favor shorter resumes. The standard CV is a far more detailed document, typically between four and eight pages long. It is essential to include details on the first page necessary to generate enough interest to encourage further reading.

Your CV is your passport and your personal marketing tool when seeking international employment. It tells an employer who you are, where you have come from and whether you are qualified. It is critical that you consider how you want to present yourself. While your CV should always be honest and accurate, you must avoid any cultural or lingual nuances that may reflect negatively upon you.

CV Guidelines: Language and Manner

George Bernard Shaw once observed: “America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language.” Subtle communication breakdowns can distort your message to international employers. Write clearly and concisely. Be polite and formal and do not try to be humorous. Informality and casualness can make a bad first impression with many international employers.

Never demonstrate poor communication skills and lack of attention to detail. As always, use correct grammar and spelling. Spelling mistakes stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. You will tend to see what you expect to see, so always have your CV proofread.

CV Guidelines: Design

While there is no ideal layout for a CV, it should obviously be neatly typed and presentable. Strike a balance between creative design and content. Most international employers prefer candidates who are professional and businesslike rather than “cool.”

Avoid unusual fonts, and keep margins within standard parameters so that materials can be easily read. Do not try to stand out by using fancy colored paper or ink. Good quality plain white or off-white paper and black ink are best.

CV Guidelines: Content

Identify content that the employer expects to receive. Provide relevant and appropriate information. While there is no fixed format for content, employers have certain expectations, some important things to include, and some to avoid. If you want to provide a culturally competent CV and succeed in your quest for international employment, include the following:

  • Name, address, contact telephone number and e-mail address.
  • Personal data.
  • A summary of your work history, roles, experiences, and achievements.
  • A summary of your professional qualifications and memberships.
  • A summary of your educational history.

CV Guidelines: Personal Data

Information such as marital status, age, sex, and nationality are rarely included on resumes in the United States, but are expected in many countries. International employers are under different legal constraints regarding the information they request from potential job candidates.

Many people, especially in the United States, consider age, sex, nationality, or marital status to be irrelevant. In the global job market, it is the potential employer who ultimately decides what is relevant. If you do not provide the required information, you run the risk of being eliminated from the pool of applicants.

You should include on your CV any and all information that is likely to influence the decision to further your application. For example, nationality often has a direct impact on whether the candidate will be allowed to work overseas. For better or worse, most employers use a profile of their ideal employee as a basis for arranging candidate interviews.

CV Guidelines: Work History

The work history section is the central aspect of every CV. Include geographical locations to demonstrate your ability to adjust to new environments. Employers want to judge the breadth of your experience by evaluating where and when it was gained.

Traditionally, you should summarize each job in reverse chronological order, giving employer name, job title, start/end dates and a description of duties. Focus on the most recent five years — anything prior to that can be dealt with briefly individually or summarized into a couple of paragraphs.

CV Guidelines: Educational History

With the exception of recent graduates whose academic qualifications are their primary asset, general education information should be summarized toward the end of the CV.

However, relevant professional education should be mentioned prominently on the first page. Similarly, if you attended an internationally recognizable university, you should highlight it sooner rather than later. Prioritize and assess the value of content in your document.

When forwarding a CV to a potential employer, include copies of all diplomas, certificates, and transcripts.

CV Guidelines: Other Information

Include all other relevant information such as visa status, language proficiency, cross-cultural training, or international experience.

International employers often refer to references as “referees” and cover letters as “covering letters.” Cover letters should include an objective statement — a concise statement of what the candidate has to offer and what he or she is looking for. From this information, the employer can easily decide whether to consider the attached CV. Avoid long and rambling cover letters. The cover letter is also a good place to address salary requirements (if requested by the employer).

Final Thoughts on International Resumes and CVs

We have examined the general expectations of an international resume, but must also concede that we are all individuals. You probably share many traits in common with other American citizens, but differ in other ways. What all international employers will respond well to are preparation, planning, knowledge, experience and competence. Good luck!

Follow this link to find a few sample international CVs.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Have you taken advantage of all of our Resume (and CV) Resources?

Have you been to our growing section of Job and Career Resources for Global Job-Seekers?


Great Resumes Fast

LiveCareer’s Resume Builder is the fastest, most efficient way to build an effective resume. Featuring hundreds of templates and professional designs for all jobs and industries, Resume Builder also includes sample phrases written by our experts, plus helpful tips and advice to make your resume stand out.

We’ll guide you step by step through the process, so you can build an impressive resume that will make employers want to know more. Ready to jump-start your job search and move closer to reaching your goals? Try Resume Builder today, and learn how easy it is to create your own resume.

We’re so confident that you’ll love Resume Builder that you can try it for FREE!