Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Culturally Competent Resumes for the Global Market

To make in this age of globalization and international commerce, arm yourself with a resume and credentials that will get you a job anywhere.

Culturally Competent Resumes for the Global Market

Different cultures have different rules, customs, values, priorities, protocol, and religious or societal influences on business practices. For the culturally incompetent, the global job market provides a wealth of opportunity . . . to be misconstrued, misunderstood and misinterpreted.

You must prepare your resume with an international perspective. By presenting your personal information in a culturally sensitive manner, you will enhance your chances of success in the global job market. Follow some simple steps to avoid the pitfalls of cultural faux pas and prevent potentially embarrassing and costly miscues.

First, familiarise yourself with the international style resume -- the curriculum vitae (CV). Very few of the rules of writing a resume in the United States apply to overseas employment.

American employers generally favor shorter resumes. The standard CV is a far more detailed document, typically between four and eight pages long. It is essential to include details on the first page necessary to generate enough interest to encourage further reading.

Your CV is your passport and your personal marketing tool when seeking international employment. It tells an employer who you are, where you have come from and whether you are qualified. It is critical that you consider how you want to present yourself. While your CV should always be honest and accurate, you must avoid any cultural or lingual nuances that may reflect negatively upon you.

George Bernard Shaw once observed: "America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language." Subtle communication breakdowns can distort your message to international employers. Write clearly and concisely. Be polite and formal and do not try to be humorous. Informality and casualness can make a bad first impression with many international employers.

Never demonstrate poor communication skills and lack of attention to detail. As always, use correct grammar and spelling. Spelling mistakes stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. You will tend to see what you expect to see, so always have your CV proofread.

While there is no ideal layout for a CV, it should obviously be neatly typed and presentable. Strike a balance between creative design and content. Most international employers prefer candidates who are professional and businesslike rather than "cool."

Avoid unusual fonts, and keep margins within standard parameters so that materials can be easily read. Use fine resolution if you must send a CV by fax. Do not try to stand out by using fancy colored paper or ink. Good quality plain white or off-white paper and black ink are photocopier and fax-friendly.

Identify content that the employer is expecting to receive. Provide relevant and appropriate information. While there is no fixed format for content, there are certain expectations, some important things to include, and some to avoid. If you want to provide a culturally competent CV and be successful in your quest for international employment, you should include the following:

  • Name, address, contact telephone number and e-mail address.

  • Personal data.

  • A summary of your work history, roles, experiences, and achievements.

  • Summary of your professional qualifications and memberships.

  • Summary of your educational history.

Information such as marital status, age, sex, and nationality are rarely included on resumes in the United States, but are expected in many countries. International employers are under different legal constraints regarding the information they request from potential job candidates.

Many people, especially in the United States, consider age, sex, nationality, or marital status to be irrelevant. In the global job market, it is the potential employer who ultimately decides what is relevant. If you do not provide the required information, you run the risk of being eliminated from the pool of applicants.

You should include on your CV any and all information that is likely to influence the decision to further your application. For example, nationality often has a direct impact on whether the candidate will be allowed to work overseas. For better or worse, most employers use a profile of their ideal employee as a basis for arranging candidate interviews.

The work history section is the central aspect of every CV. Include geographical locations to demonstrate your ability to adjust to new environments. Employers want to judge the breadth of your experience by evaluating where and when it was gained.

Traditionally, you should summarize each job in reverse chronological order, giving employer name, job title, start/end dates and a description of duties. Focus on the most recent five years -- anything prior to that can be dealt with briefly individually or summarized into a couple of paragraphs.

With the exception of recent graduates whose academic qualifications are their primary asset, general education information should be summarized toward the end of the CV.

However, relevant professional education should be mentioned prominently on the first page. Similarly, if you attended an internationally recognizable university, you should highlight it sooner rather than later. Prioritize and assess the value of content in your document.

When forwarding a CV to a potential employer, include copies of all diplomas, certificates, and transcripts.

Include all other relevant information such as visa status, language proficiency, cross-cultural training, or international experience.

International employers often refer to references as "referees" and cover letters as "covering letters." Cover letters should include an objective statement -- a concise statement of what the candidate has to offer and what he or she is looking for. From this information, the employer can easily decide whether to consider the attached CV. Avoid long and rambling cover letters. The cover letter is also a good place to address salary requirements (if requested by the employer).

We have examined the general expectations of an international resume, but must also concede that we are all individuals. You probably share many traits in common with other American citizens, but differ in other ways. What all international employers will respond well to are preparation, planning, knowledge, experience and competence. Good luck!

About the Author
Sarah Histed-Shergill was born and raised in England and studied law and business at Brockenhurst College. She has lived in Denmark and Australia and studied international relations in Florence, Italy, before earning her degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Sarah is currently a recruiter in the Management Advisory Services division of Wegners LLP in Madison, Wisconsin. Her past experience in human resources and diversity education and training includes serving as director of administration in a large Dane County non-profit organization. Article Source: http://www.quintcareers.com/