Thinking about working abroad, but don’t know what to put on your resume or how to format it properly? Don’t worry because you are in good company. Most prospective first-time expat are in the dark when it comes to writing an effective resume or curriculum vitae that will get them noticed and ultimately get them an offer letter.
I felt the same way before my first expat experience. I remember scavenging the internet for tips, suggestions, and examples of expat resumes to get insight on how to write a job-getting CV. I learned a great deal from watching videos, reading blog posts, and even reaching out to some people in the expat community. Fortunately, my efforts paid off.
I have learned a lot since then, especially through having the opportunity to serve on hiring committees whose main goal was to recruit expat workers. So I decided to share a few tricks of the trade for those who are interested in writing an effective resume to land an expat position.
Clarity and Breadth
The first thing I recommend is ensuring that your resume or CV is clear. The hiring organization or hiring manager should not have to guess what type of job you did, where you worked, or how long you worked there. This should go without saying because this is a general rule for resume writing. However, it becomes even more important when you are trying to capture the attention of someone who may not have any experience or knowledge of how things work in your home country.
Don’t assume that just because you put that you were a teacher in your home country that the hiring manager understands what your job entailed. Yes, the basic foundation of teaching is generally applicable worldwide. However, there are many different teaching curricula and different teacher qualifications even within the same country. Therefore, you should spell this out clearly on your resume or CV.
For instance, all of your experience may be in the U.S. so you assume that the hiring manager knows that your experience is in American-style teaching curriculum. However, there are international schools in the U.S. and the names of the schools are not always indicative of the type of curricula that is taught in the school. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to note what type of curriculum you have experience with in order to advance your chances of being hiring.
Another important factor is the breadth of information. You need to include additional information about where you worked or gained your education and credentials on your resume. It is essential to include the country information on your CV even if your education and experience are from the same country.
Everyone is not familiar with the cities and states in your home country – this includes the U.S. Thus, stating you worked in Omaha, Nebraska doesn’t tell a hiring manager from Victoria, Seychelles much about your international experience even if you list your nationality as American on your resume. Including country information gives the employer context about your level of international experience.
The same guidelines apply to outlining your job duties. Potential expats usually need to add depth to this section to give the employer a more comprehensive understanding of their knowledge, skills, and abilities. I typically suggest job candidates include about 3-5 bullet points under each job, especially if they work in a generalist role. However, I usually suggest that international job seekers include about 8-10 job duties and tasks that provide substantial context and detail.
Few hiring managers or committees are going to take the effort to interview you if the information you provide on your resume is not clear or detailed enough. It is not uncommon for hiring managers to receive hundreds of applications for one post seeking multiple candidates. So the resumes that are clear and have depth of information will usually get shortlisted first.
International employers may also ask for more demographic details about prospective candidates than what is typical or legal to ask for in some countries. This is inclusive of a candidate’s age, date of birth, marital status, religion, etc. It is common practice to ask for this type of information in some expat countries.
Asking for such demographic data is not illegal in every country. Therefore, you need to be prepared to provide this information if you are vying to get an expat job offer in certain regions of the world. Failure to provide such details may disqualify you for the role. So think twice about neglecting to provide it on your resume or skipping these questions on a job application.
Another important aspect of an expat resume is the inclusion of any international experience that may have been gained in the past. This is not necessarily exclusive to paid positions that you have held in other countries. It could be study or volunteer abroad activities that you performed in the past. Oftentimes evidence of immersive experiences abroad (excluding vacations) is a plus on expat resumes.
International employers who frequently hire expats like to see that prospective expats have substantive international exposure, though this is not a requirement for the average expat position. As I mentioned in my previous post, expat employers want to ensure that you are not going to bail as soon as you experience a little conflict or trivial difficulties. Someone with a proven track record of satisfying the components involved in working, studying, and/or volunteering abroad is usually an asset to an expat employer.
So if you have immersive international exposure, you should include it on your resume or CV. Doing so will most likely increase your chances of securing an expat position.
However, there is a caveat to this general guideline. Some international employers do not accept expat workers who have lived in or visited certain countries that are dealing with civil unrest or countries whose residents are banned from entering the nation. This caveat can be a bit tricky so you will definitely need to do your research before providing all work, study, and volunteer abroad experiences on your resume.
This can easily be done by conducting an internet search to determine the allies and enemies of your expat country of choice. If a nation that you have worked, studied, or volunteered in is on their enemy list I suggest leaving that experience off of your resume. The same applies to countries that are experiencing major civil unrest that could be a threat to the expat nation in which you work.
Not having an immersive international experience doesn’t necessarily exclude you from being a viable expat candidate. So don’t feel that you are out of the game if you don’t have international exposure and are seeking expat employment. Though I will suggest that you try to gain international exposure by either studying or volunteering abroad. These are great ways to “get your feet wet”.
Not only will such opportunities possibly enhance your chances of securing expat employment opportunities, but they will also give you a chance to test the waters. Such experiences give you the chance to see if living abroad is really for you before you embark on a more extensive journey that could involve uprooting your entire life.