International Resume Writing

Whether you are writing a resume to work abroad or a resume to a company based internationally and hosted domestically, it’s important to know the differences between how one would write an international resume and how one would write a resume for US employers.

TIP #1 International companies are looking for employees with skills they can’t find near them.
For a country to approve an international employee for a company placed domestically, the company must prove that an international applicant is more qualified than candidates applying domestically. That means if you are applying to a company in a country that speaks a different language, you should be proficient in that language. Similarly, you must prove in your resume that the job is good for you (in addition to you being good for the job), and your objectives both career and value wise should match that of the international company.

TIP #2 There is a difference between the English we use in the United States and British English.
If you are applying for a position in an international English speaking country, make sure to find out which type of English is commonly spoken in that country. There are notable written and spoken differences between the various different versions of English, which are separated into three general categories: British Isles Dialects, North American Dialects, and the dialects of Australasia, according to Wikipedia. Most European countries use the grammar and vocabulary of the United Kingdom Standard English, so if you write a resume in American English, it may appear sloppy and full of typos to somebody who is more familiar with Canadian, Australian, or British spellings.

TIP #3 Send a paper copy.
It’s always a good idea to send a paper copy in addition to an electronic copy to make sure that your resume gets received. The electronic copy should be in an internationally acceptable format. If you haven’t heard back from your company in two weeks, it’s a good idea to check up with them to ensure they received your email and ask if they would like any additional information or references. Don’t be worried if you are not contacted for months after submitting an application, the process to go abroad often takes much longer; use this time to apply for a visa if you haven’t already.

TIP #4 Your resume should concentrate less on your technical skills and more on your ability to adapt to change and accept other cultures.
Highlighting your “personality and cross cultural skills” is important to international hirers. Hirers want to know you won’t be stumped by an overwhelming culture shock or language barrier. Concrete examples of experiences you have had in other countries adjusting to outside cultures, tolerance to cultural difference, adaptability to language divisions, acceptance and appreciation of relevant backgrounds, etc. will all benefit your resume and prove to your employer that international work is the best option for both the company and the applicant.

TIP #5 Be aware of different resume standards across borders.
According to Jean-Marc Hachey, a well-recognized career advisor, “ninety-five percent of the international jobs open to entry-level North American university students looking for professional international work will be with North American based employers or international organizations.” Regardless of where your country is based there may be differences in resume standard. Most companies abroad will accept longer resumes (up to 3-4 pages) because of the information they expect you to include regarding cross-cultural experience and personality traits in addition to your technical skills. Some international companies also expect a photograph of the applicant on the front of the resume. Some countries also use different terms that mean the same thing like “cover letter” in some countries mean the same thing as “letters of interest” and “motivation letters” in others. Mary Anne Thompson, the founder of, also suggests someone that speaks the same language as where your company is located should review the document if possible to check for culturally appropriate and relevant language. She also advises applicants to review the standard paper size in the country you are sending your document to (not everyone uses 8.5x11), so that no information from your resume is missing when the company prints it out.

Writing a resume can be challenging and frustrating, so make sure you reread and edit, reread and edit, reread and edit and give it to as many people as you can to reread and edit. Double check spelling and grammar (some of the simplest errors are sometimes the least obvious) and triple check you’ve spelled all proper nouns correctly and used the proper pronouns (name of the company, name of the recipient, and name of the applicant are all super important). Make sure you end your resume with a bang: match the objective of the company with your own goals and you’ll have that international job in no time.

Photo Credit: Sascha Pohflepp

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