You Want to Work Abroad: How to Adapt Your CV

You Want to Work Abroad How to Adapt Your CV

With countless job opportunities worldwide and the ease at which a person can travel these days, working abroad is palpable. So just how important is it to have a country-specific CV when applying overseas?

The answer is simple. In the same way you would shape your CV to fit the needs of a specific company you’re applying for, an equal amount of crafting must be fashioned for the specific country when applying abroad.

An employer’s ideal CV can change drastically from company to company, but one thing’s for certain; they want to be convinced you are the right person for the job. Fortunately, the archetypal CV structured in reverse chronological order with your: personal details, education, work experience and then other activities, generally applies across the board.

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Competition can be stiff as there are roughly 232 million international immigrants worldwide, and half of them are concentrated in just 10 countries (Spain, Australia, Canada, France, UK, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Russia, USA); predominantly for their high incomes and enticing employment prospects. The added benefit of exposure to new languages, cultures, and networking opportunities is an invaluable asset for your professional career. However, as with many inspirational stories out there, the hardest part is taking the first step, and arguably that first step starts with a great, international CV.

European Requirements

Recent developments within the EU have made working in Europe a whole lot simpler. February 2005 saw the launch of the Europass website: an online portal providing templates to combat cultural requirements between countries and present a comprehensive way for creating your CV. So whether you’re drawn to Spain’s picturesque beaches or Germany’s spirited beer festivals, it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps.

When it comes to submitting your CV, however, you may still encounter issues you may not have even thought of. Here’s how to navigate your way around them:


  • Include a photo. This should be close to your personal details and towards the top of your CV. Why? Employers simply want to put a face to the applicant. A passport-sized, professional photo is all that is needed. It does not need to be quite as poker-faced as your passport though; stupefy them with your smile!
  • Include personal information such as nationality, date of birth, and gender.


  • Include a photo for a UK application. British people are a little more camera shy than the rest of Europe and it is practically unheard of to attach a photo to your CV, whereas in Germany or Spain you would.
  • Go over 2 pages. Although there are no strict rules about this, your CV should be no longer than two A4-sized pages.
  • List your references. It’s just not necessary unless the employer requests them (which is hardly ever in Europe).

USA Requirements

It’s the classic “you say tomato (to-mah-toe), I say tomato (to-may-toe)”, except by “tomato” we mean CV and resume. For all the Europeans out there, a resume in America is basically an American-styled CV (American CVs are much more elaborate and typically for academic purposes). The objective here is to avoid any “yadda, yadda” and be concise when detailing your education, work experience, and other relevant interests. Still uncertain? Here’s how you hop on the American job wagon:


  • No more than two pages max! One is preferable.
  • Adjust grammar to suit American English.


  • Include too much personal information e.g. marital status (unless the position requires it).
  • Include your age. Due to stricter privacy laws employers in the US have no legal right to know your age (unless local, state, or federal law requires it) so, unless you really want to, leave this part out.
  • Include a photo. Attaching a photo will automatically disqualify many candidates since taking the interview process any further could be considered unlawful as per discrimination policies.


Featured on Forbes top 10 on the list for Rich Countries With The Lowest Unemployment Rates and also the Most Popular Countries For Immigration, Australia seems to entice immigrants for more reasons than just its corked hats and wacky wildlife. Could it be because it offers one of the highest average salaries in the world and also more job openings than suitably skilled workers? Follow these tips for a “ripper” (really great) Australian CV:


  • Clearly state whether you are applying for a visa or are approved.
  • Indicate the Australian equivalent of your qualifications.


  • Include a photo? Well, this is not as essential as it once used to be, but can depend on the job position you are going for.


A general rule of thumb should be to write your Japanese CV (or rirekisho) in Japanese. Of course, if your Kanji isn’t quite up to scratch and it’s not a requirement for the job, English will be fine. Like with many other affairs, however, Japan takes a slightly different approach to CV writing:


  • Include a photo. As with most European CVs, a passport-sized photo should be placed in the top right-hand corner of your CV, but professionalism here is crucial. Although there may be some exceptions, etiquette and dress code hold a very high value in Japanese business, so play it safe and take a professional photo wearing dark colors.
  • Write your education history in as much detail as possible (e.g. all grades, certificates, and research topics). Japanese companies will often prioritize this section in the decision-making process.
  • Use CV maker. Although some tech and foreign companies are more accepting of the American style, Japanese-styled CVs are still very much the norm. Just like the Europass, it will help guide you in entering all the relevant information.


  • Elaborate on your work history. Unlike most western CVs, detailing your accomplishments or duties in previous workplaces is not expected.
  • Hand in your CV without having a native speaker run through it first (if applying in Japanese). Politeness is an integral part of Japanese culture and, even if you are confident in your Japanese writing abilities, having a native speaker check it couldn’t hurt.

Image via Pixabay

Final Thoughts On An International CV

(If only it were that easy!)

No matter where you are applying in the world, research is key, and not just about the company but also about cultural differences within business environments. Writing in the native language will certainly improve your CV success rate as well. You could even enhance your application by sending two versions of your CV (one in your native tongue and one in theirs) but be sure to keep the information and format consistent. Finally, talking with natives or even visiting the country of interest can uncover CV-specific nuances almost impossible to comprehend using other sources. Knowing these details before plunging into the international job market will avert conveying the wrong message and help you sail through to the all-important interview!

What other CV do’s and don’ts have you come across when applying abroad? Please share them in the comments below!