About me: How to apply for a job in another country

    Medium US
    Business Spotlight 9/2023
    "job application" typed on a typewriter
    © Markus Winkler/Unsplash.com
    Von Deborah Steinborn

    Adapting your résuméLebenslaufrésumé for a foreign country can be just as challenging as moving to one. Even in today’s globalized business world, it’s unknown territory for many jobseekers.

    I speak from personal experience, having recently updated my own English-language résumé and — for the first time ever — developed one for Germany, where I’ve lived and worked as an expat(riate)dauerhaft im Ausland lebendexpat American journalist for years.

    to be fluent in sth.etw. fließend sprechenFluent in German, I naively thought preparing a résumé in that language would be one evening’s work: Cut and paste here; translate and to rejigger sth. (US ifml.)etw. ändernrejigger there. Instead, I began a cross-cultural adventure over several weeks, including many weirdseltsam, merkwürdigweird conversations with colleagues, friends and career coaches. (“I have to include WHAT?!” began one such chat.)

    Maximize the information that’s going to sell your qualifications

    I learned that in résumé writing, language skills play a big role, but cultural adaptability plays an even bigger one. Experts in Europe and North America agree that the challenges of an international career begin long before you send your first e-applicationOnline-Bewerbunge-application.

    “You only get two pages of real estate (US)Immobilie(n); hier: Platzreal estate,” says Amanda Augustine, a professional career coach and résumé writer based in New York. “Maximize it with the information that’s going to sell your qualifications in a particular company and work culture. If you are exploring opportunities anywhere outside your own country, do your research first. Know what you’re looking for and understand what’s expected of jobseekers there. Collect specifics.”

    Many different details

    Once you know where you’re headed, and have an idea of what’s needed to get there, it’s time to develop your résumé — in some countries, the term “curriculum vitae (CV)Lebenslaufcurriculum vitae” (CV) is more common. This concisekurzgefasstconcise document highlights your professional background, education, skills and accomplishmentLeistungaccomplishments. It sounds simple, but the level of detail, format and style can differ greatly from country to country. And it’s not just about language. Cultural approaches to everything from communications to job descriptions and presentation skills vary, so it’s no surprise that résumés would differ, too.

    “Should you have a headshotPortrait; hier: Fotoheadshot on it or not?” asks Augustine. “What size paper are you to be supposed to do sth.etw. tun sollensupposed to be using? How many pages are typically expected in your résumé or CV? Should it include a personal statement? How do you best to incorporate sth.etw. einbauenincorporate keywords?” Getting these details right can lead to a job interview, while getting them wrong might mean your résumé lands on the rejection pileStapel abgelehnter Bewerbungenrejection pile without even being read.

    Your résumé is your first attempt to “show hiring managers how you can be an assetVermögenswert; hier: Bereicherungasset and add value to their company and mission,” says Augustine, who works on career advancement with recent graduateAbsolvent(in)graduates and experienced professionals. Doing this in a foreign country adds another layerEbenelayer of complexity, she explains.

    Despite the fact that the business world has internationalized in recent decades, both small and large companies often follow national traditions when it comes to professional credentialsReferenzencredentials, experts say.

    While employers in Greece may be impressed by longer résumés (the more pages, the better!), résumés in Norway should be no more than two pages. In New Zealand or Italy, meanwhile, recruiterPersonalreferent(in)recruiters are comfortable reading through a senior-executivevon einer Führungskraftsenior-
    résumé of five pages or more.

    In South Africa, jobseekers must include personal information such as their ID number and ethnicity, a legal requirement in the post-apartheid era. In Japan, résumés must begin with name, age and gender. In some European public-sector jobs, however, it’s not unusual for a résumé to be kept entirely anonymous. The idea behind that one? Hide characteristics that might allow potential employers to discriminate, intentionally or not.

    More international movement

    Global job mobility is rising. In the EY 2023 Mobility Reimagined surveyErhebungSurvey, 88 per cent of employers said cross-border mobility could help address global talent shortages. Yet, cultural challenges across borders need to be worked out.

    “In some countries, there’s just an assumptionAnnahmeassumption that you’re going to to fib on sth.bei etw. flunkernfib a little bit on your résumé,” says Jessica Schüller, a career-services consultant focused on Germany and elsewhere in Europe. “You’re going to be a bit more exaggeratedübertrieben, überzogenexaggerated in describing what you’ve accomplish sth.etw. erreichen, schaffenaccomplished, and everyone knows it.” But in Germany, she explains, a résumé is treated as an official document and may need a personal signature — that’s not a legal requirement, but some employers insist on it. “I’ve seen international professionals to apply for sth.sich um etw. bewerbenapply for positions in Germany and really rethink what’s on their résumé before signing it.”

    Whether by contacting a local career coach, to conduct sth.etw. durchführenconducting informational interviews with llike-mindedähnlich gesinntike-minded peers on LinkedIn or researching via online global job-search platforms, such as Glassdoor, learn as much as you can about résumés and applications in a particular country before starting to write.

    peerKollege/KolleginThat said, not all rules are hard and fastverbindlichhard and fast. “A lot has changed over the past five to ten years, also primarily because of international skilled workers coming to work here,” Schüller says of Germany and other E.U. countries. “We’re seeing both south-to-north movement within Europe and north-to-north: Americans to Germany, Dutch to the U.S. and so on. More and more young professionals in particular are considering that as an option.”

    Today, even small companies looking for international talent may be happy to receive an English-language résumé. Others, however, might be old-school stickler (ifml.)Person, die etw. ganz genau nimmtsticklers. One global German media group, for example, autoresponded a rejection to my own résumé because it wasn’t signed and dated (an old German norm).

    Your résumé is your personal marketing collateral

    When you start to write, say Augustine, Schüller and other coaches, have a clear plan. First, which format: résumé or CV? A traditional résumé is used in the U.S., Australia and Canada — the reason why these countries prefer this document has to do with antidiscrimination laws. A CV contains too much biographical data that to relay sth.etw. übermittelnrelays personal information. If you were to use a CV to apply for a job in these countries, it could be to discard sth.etw. aussonderndiscarded immediately if it contained information that to violate sth.etw. verletzenviolates those laws.

    As a rule of thumbFaustregelrule of thumb, CVs are used nearly everywhere else, including the U.K., New Zealand, Asia and the E.U. Hiring man­agers want to have an overall picture of your background, and a CV provides a clear snapshotSchnappschuss; hier: Auszugsnapshot of your skills and accomplishments, including professional, academic, research and awards.

    From there, organization and detail are key. to outline sth.etw. kurz darstellenOutline your accomplishments. “Show, don’t tell,” says Augustine. Give proof of those accomplishments. Highlight any foreign-language skills on the first page with a keyword (like “bilingual”). More generally, don’t forget to incorporate keywords you see in the job description that are relevant to the role you’re applying for.

    Finally, don’t make the most common mistake of all: to neglect sth.etw. versäumenneglecting to to proofread sth.etw. Korrektur lesenproofread. When asking hiring professionals about deal breakerAusschlusskriteriumdeal breakers, Augustine says: “Spelling and grammatical errors are at the very top. So double and triple-dreifach-triple-check your work! Put your résumé in a different fontSchrift(art)font. Read it out loud! Print it out!”

    Remember that whether they’re in Botswana, Bulgaria or Bolivia, recruiters spend, on average, 7.4 seconds reviewing a résumé. “At the end of the day, it is your personal marketing collateralhier: Begleitmaterialcollateral,” says Augustine. “Treat it as such.”



    What should I call it?

    CV (curriculum vitae)LebenslaufCV (curriculum vitae)

    U.K., most E.U. countries

      résumé (US)LebenslaufRésumé

    U.S., Australia, Germany, Asian countries

    Do I include a photo?


    U.K., U.S., Africa, Israel, Australia, Canada, Mexico


    E.U. countries, Latin America, South East Asia, Middle East

    How long should it be?

    1 page, letter paper

    U.S., Canada


    2 pages maximum, A4 paper

    Most other countries

    Do I include a personal statement?



    Should I include language skills?

    Yes Everywhere

    Should I sign it?

    Not a legal requirement, but some employers expect this, so it can’t hurt


    How personal should I get?

    General location, cell phone (US)Handycell phone, email address, LinkedIn profile

    U.K., U.S., Australia


    (In addition to above) nationality, visa status, date of birth, gender, marital status

    E.U. countries



    • Contact information
      Put this at the top of your résumé (US)Lebenslaufrésumé, so it’s easy to find

    • Career profile or summaryZusammenfassungsummary
      If you’re changing careers or have lots of experience, put this near the top to highlight your skills and show why you’re qualified for the job

    • Work experience
      Start with the most recent; include job title, main tasks and achievements. If you’re to apply for sth.sich um etw. bewerbenapplying for your first job, include internships (work placement (UK)Praktikumwork placements) or volunteerehrenamtlichvolunteer/school projects you’ve done

    • Education and training
      Again, start with the most recent; include all relevant qualifications and completed courses. If this is for your first job, this can go above work experience. As qualifications (and grades) may not be understood in a foreign country, try to give equivalents

    • Personal skills
      This section can include a number of areas, such as:
      Language skills: give your native language and levels of ability in other languages
      Social skills: for example communication/presenting skills, teamwork, etc.
      Organizational skills: leadership skills, for example
      Technical/computer skills: software programs and platforms you’re familiar with


    DEBORAH STEINBORN, a freelance American journalist, is editor-in-chiefChefredakteur(in)editor-in-chief of ZEIT Germany and a member of Forbes magazine’s World billionaireMilliardär(in)Billionaires reporting team. She lives in Hamburg


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