5 Key Tips for Creating an Expat Resume That Stands Out
Writing a resume? Not an easy task.
Writing a resume when you're navigating a new job market, unfamiliar with the native language, and unsure of how to present your experience to stand out? Well, it's fair to say that writing an expat resume adds an extra layer of complexity.
But, with a few key tips, you'll be able to create a perfect resume that helps you land a new job abroad and sets you on the right path to building a successful international career.
As international recruiters, career coaches, and expats ourselves, Matilda and I have helped hundreds of international professionals turn their experience into a strong, high-impact resume that helped them stand out. (And we've done it ourselves when we moved abroad!)
Here are our key tips for creating a perfect expat resume.
#1: Understand the Local Job Market
As an expat, there are so many things you need to get familiar with in your new country, and the local job market is one of the most important ones. Understanding the job market is crucial to creating a resume that stands out to potential employers.
Here are two tips to help you tailor your resume to the job market in your new country:
Research the job market in your new country
Before you start updating your resume, research the job market and job search best practices in your new country.
The most obvious way to do it? Do a quick online search. For example, if you moved or plan on moving to Germany, google the following: "Germany resume best practices," "Germany resume tips," "Germany resume examples," "Germany interview tips," etc. See what comes out and adjust your job search and resume to the recommendations.
The alternative way? Ask locals on tips and suggestions that can help you stand out. (Just make sure you're asking knowledgeable people, preferably someone who works in HR or as a hiring manager.) Facebook and LinkedIn groups are a great place to start.
Plus, look for trends and patterns in the job postings to identify the in-demand skills, experience, and qualifications, and highlight the ones you possess. For example, if you are moving to a country where the IT sector is thriving, you may want to consider highlighting your technical skills and experience in your resume. Or if you've noticed that proficiency in the local language is a common job requirement, you should add your level of proficiency to you resume, even if you know just the basics. Employers will look for that information, so keep it transparent.
Gather all your findings in one place and tailor your resume accordingly.
Is adding a professional headshot to a resume the standard in your new country? Add the photo. Are 1-page resumes the standard? Cut everything to one page. Or, do they perhaps prefer detailed 4-page resumes? Add more information to extend your resume.
Whatever the best practice is on the new job market, create a resume that aligns with it.
Tailor your resume to the job requirements
Once you have researched the job market, the next step is to tailor your resume to the job requirements. Avoid using a generic resume for all job applications, as this might not align with the specific requirements for the job you are applying for.
Read the job description thoroughly and identify the key skills and qualifications required for the role. Then, tailor your resume to highlight your relevant skills and experience.
Use the same language and keywords as the job description to increase your chances of getting shortlisted.
Using a targeted resume shows the employer that you understand their needs and can meet the requirements of the job. The thing is, most job applicants don't do this. Our rough estimate is that only 5 out of 100 resumes are tailored to the job and written to match the job requirements. Yes, only 5 out of 100! So, even if you don't match all the requirements but tailor your resume to emphasize the ones that you do, you'll easily stand out and get ahead of the local candidates, increasing your chances of getting an interview.
#2: Highlight Your International Experience
As an expat, you may not have the local work experience. But, guess what? Your international experience is one of your biggest assets when it comes to creating a standout resume. Highlighting this experience can demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skills and abilities necessary to thrive in a global environment.
Emphasize your cross-cultural skills
Strong cross-cultural skills are essential for any expat looking to succeed in a foreign work environment, including you.
When highlighting your international experience on your resume, focus on how you have effectively communicated with individuals from different cultural backgrounds. This can include listing markets or regions you've covered, showcasing language skills, and highlighting successful cross-cultural collaborations.
When applying for jobs abroad, it's also a good idea to research the cultural norms and communication styles of the country you are targeting. This can help you tailor your application materials to better align with the expectations of potential employers.
Showcase your adaptability and flexibility
If you're already an expat, you have likely faced a variety of challenges and obstacles while living and working abroad. These experiences can demonstrate your adaptability and flexibility, which are highly valued traits in today's global job market.
When highlighting your international experience, provide examples of times when you have demonstrated these qualities. This can include discussing how you have successfully navigated foreign cultures and customs, as well as times when you have adapted to new work environments or taken on new roles and responsibilities. Additionally, it's important to emphasize your ability to thrive in new and unfamiliar situations. This can include discussing how you have embraced new challenges and opportunities in your personal and professional life, as well as how you have successfully managed the stress and uncertainty that often comes with living and working abroad.
If you can't find a way to add these examples into your resume, note them down and prepare them for your interview.
Highlighting your international experience on your resume is a powerful way to demonstrate your skills, abilities, and potential to potential employers.
By emphasizing your cross-cultural communication skills and showcasing your adaptability and flexibility, you can position yourself as a top candidate for global job opportunities.
#3: Address Your Language Proficiency
After receiving an expat resume, one of the first pieces of information recruiters and hiring managers will look for is the candidate's language fluency.
Here are some tips for showcasing your language proficiency in your resume:
Highlight your proficiency in the local language
You speak the local language? Perfect!
Here are two ways to show your proficiency:
write your entire resume in the local language
add your proficiency in the local language to the skills section on your resume, e.g., Russian (native) or Dutch (working proficiency)
This will show that you have a deep understanding of the culture and can communicate effectively in the workplace. List your language skills prominently on your resume, preferably at the top. You can also mention your language proficiency in your cover letter and during the interview.
If you don't speak the local language, it's important to be transparent about it. Add this information to your resume either way. For example, if you're applying for a job in Sweden, add this: Swedish (basic).
And don't worry, not knowing the local language doesn't mean that you'll be ruled out. Sure, knowing the local language can help, but it's not always a strict requirement for landing a job or working successfully in a foreign country.
Need proof? Matilda landed a job in Hungary without speaking Hungarian (picture for proof), I landed a job in Poland without speaking Polish, and our clients have landed jobs across the world without speaking the local languages. We all did it, and you can, too.
Important note: Some markets and international companies prefer resumes in English, even though it's not the official local language. They'll typically note down that they're accepting applications only in English, so follow their guidelines.
Mention any additional languages you speak
If you speak any other languages, mention them as well.
Being multilingual is a valuable asset in many industries, especially those that involve international business.
List all the languages you speak and your proficiency level for each one, like this: English (native), German (working proficiency), Spanish (conversational).
This will show that you're adaptable and have a global mindset.
Focusing on your language proficiency is a crucial part of creating a standout expat resume.
By showcasing your ability to speak the local language and other languages, you'll demonstrate your cultural awareness, communication skills, and adaptability to potential employers.
#4: Keep it Clear
Regardless of the country and job market you're targeting, one thing remains universal: the information on your resume needs to be clear.
There are two main ways to ensure clarity:
Use straightforward language
Keep the content simple: Avoid using fancy jargon, complicated sentences, or confusing terms. Stick to clear and straightforward language that effectively communicates your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.
Show your impact with numbers: Numbers speak louder than words. So, whenever possible, include quantifiable achievements. Use numbers, percentages, or measurable data to demonstrate your accomplishments. This gives concrete evidence of your abilities and helps the reader understand the significance of what you've achieved.
Proofread for clarity and accuracy: Take the time to thoroughly proofread your resume. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes, but also pay attention to clarity and consistency.
Organize information in a logical way
Organize your resume: Make your resume easy to navigate by using clear headings and subheadings. This helps the reader find the information they're looking for quickly. Use bullet points to highlight key points and achievements, making it easy to read and digest.
Stay consistent: Using a consistent format throughout your resume can help make it more visually appealing and easier to follow. For example, use the same font and font size for each section, and ensure that your headings are clearly labeled.
Focus on what's relevant: Highlight experiences, skills, and accomplishments that directly relate to the position and keep them closer to the top of your document, if possible. This ensures that recruiters and hiring managers see the most important information right away.
Keeping your expat resume concise and easy to read is essential for making a strong first impression on potential employers. By using bullet points, clear formatting, and a consistent layout, you can make your qualifications stand out and increase your chances of landing an interview.
#5: Get Feedback from Local Professionals
Finally, the best way to ensure your expat resume helps you put your best foot forward in your new location is by seeking feedback from local professionals.
Ask for feedback on your resume from locals
Know someone in your new country? Perfect!
Reach out to those people who have experience in your new location and ask if they would be willing to review your resume. The only thing you should be aware of is that they should have some previous experience reviewing job applications, so aim at HR professionals or hiring managers, preferably in your field.
When asking for feedback, provide context on your experience and the type of positions you are seeking. This will help the reviewer provide more targeted feedback.
Incorporate any helpful suggestions
When you receive feedback, take the time to carefully consider each suggestion. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity to improve your resume.
Some suggestions may be minor, such as formatting changes or word choice. Others may be more significant, such as highlighting certain experiences or skills that are particularly valuable in your new location.
By incorporating helpful suggestions from local professionals, you can ensure your expat resume stands out and meets the expectations of recruiters and hiring managers in your new location.
In the end, creating an expat resume that stands out is all about showcasing your skills and experiences in a way that speaks to international employers and aligns to resume best practices of your target job market.
Here are the main tips to keep in mind:
Research the local job market and tailor your resume to the local standards.
Customize the resume for each job application and highlight your cultural adaptability, international experience, and language abilities.
Keep your resume clear by using a straightforward language, organizing its structure in a logical and strategic way, and formatting it professionally. Proofread it thoroughly to ensure it's error-free.
Finally, try to get feedback from local professionals to ensure your resume is spot-on.
By following these tips, your expat resume will grab the attention of hiring managers and set you on the path to a successful international career.
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Matilda Patsou & Ana Colak-Fustin
Matilda and Ana, the founders of MoreThanCareers, are expats, international corporate recruiters and HR professionals with 18+ years of combined HR experience. Since 2018, our career-building techniques, tools and resources have helped over 500 coaching clients and 8,000 individuals worldwide secure new, fulfilling, and higher-paying jobs.