Expert resume tips for when you are job-hunting overseas
The world has shrunk.
Expats working overseas face pretty much the same job-search hurdles as their counterparts at home, with the possible exception of how many languages they’re required to speak.
There are still a few differences when it comes to best practices for international job resumes, such as longer CVs and pictures of applicants being the rule in Europe rather than exception.
The experts below, however, all seem to agree that it’s the job that matters, not the location. And pretty soon, disruptive services may make CVs and cover letters as we know them things of the past.
The team at Ajirablog, a career management blog, says there is one major difference between domestic and international candidates: your “international IQ.” Your ability to adapt to living and working overseas is given as much — or even more weight — than your education, technical abilities and experience.
“Thus,” they continue, “your CV should be able to highlight the cross-cultural skills, and other smaller details that are unique to job applications for international jobs.” Those other details include a calm disposition, a willingness to take the lead and an ability to work well in a group.
Christine D’Silva, principal consultant at the international consultancy Cubiks, says personality assessments help with more than just the job selection process. “It can also help to provide individuals with a more detailed level of feedback in order to understand their own reactions and behaviours under challenging circumstances, and to inform future training programmes.”
Keep it Simple
Tiffany Hardy at Executive Career Insider says to remember that lengthier CVs are acceptable in certain overseas countries and for senior-level executives.
“However, no matter how long your resume ends up being,” Hardy says, “it must be succinctly written, 100 percent aligned with your career goal, and drafted with a discriminating reader in mind — who will very quickly have had enough.”
She offers a few tips on how to keep this document brief:
Eliminate jargon. Phrases such as “results-focused” and “an excellent communicator” are overused, do not make you unique and create little value.
Keep company information short: Industry, revenue, size and countries are enough.
An overview of your responsibilities is required, not a day-to-day task description.
Career coach and expat Denise Mooney says your resume should specifically address the job for which you're applying. Too many people don't include information that specifically addresses what the employer seeks.
"Before you write a single word, go through the advertised job description in detail," she advises. "Typically, employers will look for relevant qualifications and experience as well as attributes such as communication, relationship management, analytical ability and strong organisational skills. Make sure you cover these off on the first page of your resume."
Susan Pines of the Shy Job Seeker also talks about the importance of customising a resume. "When you apply for a job opening," she writes on her blog, "you want to make it easy for the employer to see how you fit the organisation’s needs and requirements."
There's another reason to tweak: The tracking system used with online applications matches keywords that filter for for skills and experience.
"If your resume does not contain the right words, the electronic system screens it from human eyes,” Pines warns. “Only the resumes that pass this test will be forwarded to human resources or a hiring manager."
Have the Right Stuff
Staffing strategist Gail Tolstoi-Miller says some 90 percent of job applicants are unqualified for the position they're applying for. Recruiters and hiring managers are inundated by what she calls “air ball resumes,” which clutter the application process and waste everyone’s time.
Still, Tolstoi-Miller encourages job seekers to seek out opportunities.
"But in today’s competitive job market," she writes on Talent Culture, "it is vital that candidates remain focused and objective in identifying their personal strengths, weaknesses, skills, experience and best fit."
Her advice to candidates: "Read the job description! If you don’t have MOST of the experience and credentials needed, move on to a more appropriate fit."
And if you are looking for work but don't have language skills, read our article on how to find english speaking jobs in Europe.
Tips from a Recruiter
At EuroLondon Appointments, an international multilingual recruitment firm, associate manager Nathalie Worsley gives some pointers on how to make the most out of your relationship with a recruiter:
Work with your recruiter to find the best role. A job they present may not tick all the boxes, but headhunters know the market, and can steer your search realistically.
Use LinkedIn to showcase your expertise, personal interests and to round out your personality. Obviously, you’ll upload your CV, but more than that, follow companies and participate in groups you're interested in and write articles in your area of expertise.
"Know what you don't want." Even if the salary is tempting, steer clear of jobs you don't enjoy.
Reach for the salary you would like, but also know the minimum you are willing to accept. Figure in the cost of your commute. Travelling can cost you time and money.
If you’re not sure of the salary you should realistically be seeking, consider the advice from Hudson, an international recruitment firm, on how to ask for a raise. The first step they recommend is to research the value of the position you’re interested in: Ask peers and recruiters, then look online at comparison sites such as Wage Indicator.
If the offered salary seems low, look at (or ask for) added value. Perks can include travel reimbursement, more paid time off, a comprehensive health insurance package or childcare compensation.
You can also ask for a performance-based bonus, the Hudson team says, especially if salary budgets are an issue. “A one-time payment won't affect the pay structure, so it might be easier to get.”
The Cover Letter
Jennifer Parris at FlexJobs doesn’t downplay the importance of a strong resume, but she says a cover letter can move your job search to the next level by demonstrating to a hiring manager your value as a problem solver.
To do that, you’ve got to understand the job description thoroughly, and also do some research as to how the position works within the company itself.
“Then,” Parris continues, “when writing your cover letter, discuss the challenges that the company faces and offer your insights on how you think you could help the company overcome them — if you were hired.
“Not only does this show that you took the time and effort to find out more about the company, but that you’re also a solutions-based person who will work as a team member to fix any issues. Both of these are very strong (and desirable) qualities that a potential boss is looking for in job candidates.”
Consider The Company’s Point of View
Identify any objections a hiring manager might have about your candidacy, and address those head-on in your resume. For example, hiring managers will often try to read between the lines to gauge the real reason you're interested in joining their team, whether they’re a startup or part of a larger corporation.
"The risk," writes Marco Mancesti, R&D director at IMD Business School in Switzerland, "is having colleagues who only join because 'it will look good on their CV,' and then leave as soon as the heat is on."
In his International HR Adviser article, Mancesti suggests recruiters "use various angles to try to uncover the 'real' personal purpose," including challenging the CV storyline. When you’re on the other side of the CV, as an applicant, make sure your interest in joining the firm will pass this scrutiny.
If you've a gap in your resume, you can try to deflect attention from it, but don't attempt to hide the gap altogether. In fact, the best thing you can do is show how you've spent that time. Debra Donston-Miller, writing for job site The Ladders, has six ways to show recruiters how you've made productive use of that time.
One is to show relevant volunteer experience in the same manner you would a job; another is to include any training or further education you acquired during your period of unemployment.
If you’ve been out of work for a year or more, it might make sense to use a functional rather than chronological resume structure. By focusing on your skills and experience, rather than the dates or even names of employers, you take the emphasis off the fact that there is a long gap between jobs.
"Say you relocated with your spouse to another state, and then didn’t find a new job for 10 months. Consider adding a statement right at the beginning of the job you ultimately landed that reads something like this: 'Following a family relocation to Austin, accepted a client services role with this leading food manufacturer.'"
Women in the UK who’ve taken a decade or more away from their careers to raise a family have help getting back into the workforce with midlife internships. Amelia Hill at The Guardian says one organisation, called Women Returners, helps both former professionals as well as companies who want to access the highly qualified candidates who bring with them experience, motivation and stability.
“The typical scheme resembles a short-term consulting project,” said Julianne Miles, co-founder of Women Returners. “Returners work on CV-worthy projects which draw on their existing skills and experiences and they are paid accordingly. They can rebuild their professional confidence and skills in a supportive peer environment, receiving training, mentoring and access to corporate networks. They also get to practically test out the role and assess whether they want to return to a demanding corporate job.”
The End of the CV?
The whole scenario of trying to get your CV to stand out in a pile, grabbing the attention of an all-important recruiter, may soon be a thing of the past. Tom Davenport and Andrew Lavelle, co-founders of recruitment startup TalentPool, tell The Guardian that their online service matches graduates to jobs without the requirements of traditional resumes and cover letters.
“Its unique point,” says Davenport, “is that it does away with the need for a jobs board and online profiles for jobseekers. Instead, young people fill out a questionnaire about their qualifications and experience to form a talent database.”
Employers, usually small and medium-sized businesses with openings that are often unadvertised, search for specific qualifications or experience, and get a shortlist of interested candidates from TalentPool.
Davenport says all parties benefit: "We get rid of both job adverts and CVs without giving candidates public profiles. So, there’s no trawling; it’s very controlled and private."
When Your Job is Good, It’s Great
Once you’ve landed the job, with or without a resume, the best case scenario is when the work generates excitement and you form relationships with your colleagues built on trust, loyalty and integrity.
Social media and content marketing expert Michaela Alexis recently turned down a great job with Amazon for her current position at an IT company in Ottawa, Canada. Why? "They've made me a fan, not because of crazy awesome perks or sky high salaries," Alexis explains on her LinkedIn account, "but [because] of the people.
"Every day, I'm greeted by my wonderful coworkers, my work is always exciting and challenging, and most importantly, my bosses and colleagues believe in me, and push me to reach my full potential."