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You’ve just finished your degree, done your research on the job market, and are set on applying for that job outside North America. The next step is to format your CV, or curriculum vitae, for that job overseas.

Resumé or CV?

The first thing that you should know before shipping off your resumé is that it is essentially in the wrong format. An article written by Verge Magazine summarizes the difference between a traditional North American Resumé and a CV. A resumé is short, uses short sentences and bullet points, and is “typically accepted in countries that have North American influence.”

On the other hand, a CV can be as long as three to five pages and is more descriptive, written in paragraph form, with additional information not typically provided in resumés, like a professional photo of yourself, or personal information that’s illegal to ask for in North America. However, every country and industry has different preferred CV formats so always contact the HR department of the company.

With a CV, never disregard a part-time job that you had during school because, as John Paul Engel, founder of Project Be the Change, states, “what I want to see is measurable accomplishments. I want to see, ‘What did you do to make the store more successful?’ That tells me something. Instead of just talking about tasks, talk about ‘what did you do to make that business better?’ in a measurable way.”

“How did you contribute as an employee?”

Engel recommends using a functional resumé format which answers the question, “what are the five characteristics about you that make you stand out?” This format allows you to list your accomplishments. He suggests listing five traits at the top of your CV, and accompanying them with a single sentence that supports that trait.

Engel also says to try to convey that you’re culturally aware of the country, and you can do that by translating your CV into the Native language.

The CV format

John Paul Engel provides a breakdown of a basic CV:

  1. Name, address, and contact information.
  2. Your career objective emphasizing your strongest ability or skill.
  3. Five bulleted points that describe your skills and a one-sentence explanation of how each skill benefits the employer.
  4. Some countries will ask for personal information (date of birth, citizenship, etc).
  5. Employment history is listed in chronological order and is dated. List at least five measurable accomplishments (instead of tasks) in bulleted paragraph form.
  6. Education'includes the dates, majors, degree details, training and certifications.
  7. Professional qualifications'list certifications or accreditations, or any functional skills related to the job. If you don’t have much professional experience, you can always mention that you enrolled in an international studies or language course.
  8. Awards.*
  9. Publications.*
  10. Books that you’ve written.*
  11. Professional memberships.*
  12. Interests include languages and personal interests'sports, hobbies, etc.

Note: Instructions 8–11 will most likely qualify after postgrad studies, or after a few years in an industry.

You can check out the Europass website for a sample CV format used in the European Union.

Become culturally conscious

Jason Engel was a soldier for 11 years, allowing him to live and work in many countries. He suggests learning everything you can about the culture of the country you want to work in, “even before drafting a resumé.” John adds that you should “get to know the music, the culture, [and] the history of it'particularly even popular culture, because people appreciate it.”

Some great resources to learn about a country’s pop culture are:, which translates newspaper articles from international sources into English, as well as, a database of music news and artists from around the world.

Another suggestion that both John and Jason agree on is to never stop learning about the language, culture, and slang. “Even knowing a few words of the native language and a few of the simple courtesies that are expected will go a long way,” Jason explains.

Application logistics

Jason Engel recommends beginning to research the visa laws of the host country at the same time you’re drafting your CV. “Each country has different laws, and some countries have special agreements that make it easier for their citizens to receive work visas.” The best resource for visa requirements can be found in the government branch, of both your home and host country, that deals with consular and embassy affairs. “Before you send a resumé out, you should already have a basic understanding whether or not you are eligible to work in that country,” Jason says.


Jason stresses the importance of beginning the visa process early, as it can take a long time. “Depending on the country, be prepared to provide the host nation with background information, such as police reports, proof of citizenship in your home country, and sometimes medical and/or vaccination information is requested as well. If you have lived or worked in more than one country, be prepared to offer police reports and visa information for each of the countries you have lived in, even if those police reports are blank.” Jason also recommends researching tax laws and fees of the host country.