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How to Create an International Resume

Illustration of a businessman riding a paper airplane over a map of the world.
Qvasimodo Art/Shutterstock

Thirty-seven percent of workers say they’re willing to relocate to another country to get a better job. Are you among them? If so, you need to know how to create an international resume.

If you live in the U.S., you’re almost certainly familiar with the standard resume style. It’s a succinct, single-page document designed to showcase your relevant experience. If you send that same resume to a hiring manager in another country, however, she might not be too impressed.

While every country and region has its differences, it can be helpful to keep a few key things in mind when you take your job-search global.

We’ve put together some basic pointers to help you make your resume more internationally impressive for a successful, globe-trotting career.

Is It a Resume or a CV?

Terminology for resumes is a bit different overseas. In the U.S., a resume is the standard job application document, and a Curriculum vitae (CV) is a special, long-form document for academic careers. However, in most other countries, CVs are used instead of resumes.

International CVs are sort of a hybrid of a resume and the U.S. version of a CV. They’re longer than U.S. resumes, but still tailored to your job search, and they don’t focus solely on academics.

How to Update Your Resume for International Applications

There are some key things you can do to convert your U.S. resume into an international one. We’ll go over each one below and provide links to additional articles you might find helpful.

Ditch the Single-Page Format

Your first step for applying in most countries is to ditch the one-page format that almost every U.S. worker uses. In other countries, it’s much more common for a resume to be a couple of pages or more.

Of course, you should still tailor it for the type of job for which you’re applying. However, you have more room to include additional job experience and more details about each of your previous positions.

In our guide to writing your first resume, we recommend you keep a detailed list of everything you’ve ever done that you could include on your resume and add to it as you gain more experience. If you don’t have a list like this yet, it’s a good idea to make one before you start writing your international resume because it will really come in handy.

After you have your master list, you can pull from it to lengthen your resume. For each international job application, use the most relevant information from your list to expand your resume to about two or three pages. Four pages in length is acceptable, but only if you have many years of experience. This keeps the information curated for the job while giving your resume the length it needs.

Also, make sure your information fills up the majority of each page. If the info on your last page covers less than half the page, try to cut things down until each page is full.

Know the Culture

If you weren’t born into it, you can never fully understand another culture. However, the more you know about the cultural norms of the country in which you’re applying, the better you can tailor your resume.

For example, in cultures that place a high value on appearance, photos are often expected on resumes (more on that below). In the U.S., people put less stock in appearance, and anti-discrimination laws abound, so resume photos are rare.

If you haven’t spent any time in the country, it’s hard to get a feel for the culture. Read as much as you can about it, though, and try to connect with some locals before you move. If you can get a couple of people to send you examples of their resumes, you’ll have a valuable resource for how yours should look. You can also look up resume formats and examples from that specific country online.

It’s also important to know what the local language is, even if you don’t speak it. While English is often spoken in business around the world, you might want to translate a copy of your resume into the local language.

Consider a Photo

Aside from the U.S. and U.K., many countries expect a photo on a resume. A high-quality, professional headshot shows that you know how to dress for the job and will present your best face to coworkers and clients.

An illustration of a hand holding a magnifying glass over three resumes that include photographs.

However, headshots can be a double-edged sword. In some countries, there are no discrimination laws, and employers can blatantly make hiring decisions based on how young, attractive, or well-dressed a candidate is. Of course, they’ll see what you look like if you have a face-to-face or video interview anyway, so you might as well include your headshot on your resume if it’s expected.

Add Relevant Skills

If you have locally-relevant skills, you should definitely include them on your international resume. If you speak another language—especially one that’s spoken in that region—this is an obvious bonus.

You might also want to highlight any skills or experiences that demonstrate your ability to work with people from other cultures or when there’s a language barrier.

Lengthen Your Education Section

Few U.S. resumes include information about high school (unless you haven’t yet completed college). On most international resumes, though, high school (or secondary school) is included, so add some basics about your high school to your Education section. You just need the name of your school, its location, the year you graduated, and your GPA, although you can also add any important honors you received.

Add More Personal Information

In the past, U.S. applicants used to include more personal information on their resumes, such as whether they were married or single. While this is no longer the norm in the U.S., it’s still a common practice in many other countries.

Along with your name and contact information, consider adding your date of birth, nationality, native language, marital status, and gender. Of course, you don’t have to include anything you’re uncomfortable with. However, keep in mind these details are expected on many international resumes, and a hiring manager can easily perform a Google search on you and find most of this info, anyway.

At the very least, including your nationality can be valuable. That way, if your resume doesn’t meet the specific local standards, the reason will be quite evident!

Keep Your Resume Design Simple

Luckily, international standards aren’t much different from those in the U.S. when it comes to resume format and design. Simplicity is always a safe choice.

Stick to clean designs, standard fonts, and black and white, unless you have a compelling reason to make a more creative resume. Also, since international resumes can be longer, you won’t have to resort to clever formatting tricks to fit everything on one page.

Moving abroad for work is a big step in more ways than one. It’s a great opportunity to expand your experiences, both personally and professionally. Although expectations vary from country to country, this guide will get you off to a good start with your international resume.

We can also help you out when it’s time to fly over for the big interview!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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