How to write a CV and a cover letter to work internationally?

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How to make a CV to work internationally?

There is no single template for international applications. On the other hand, it is wise to adapt to the recruitment methods of the countries you contact.

  • First of all, the language used to write a CV must be that of the host country. Thus, the formulations must be mastered, the syntax and spelling without mistakes. Any unclear and poorly written application will be overlooked by the competition. At the same time, writing a CV in English (American or British, be sure to adapt to the recipient’s origin. The choice of words or expressions may differ greatly) is an additional asset to convince and show your motivation to work internationally.
  • Before applying abroad, a thorough study of the specificities of each country is necessary. There are large differences in the standard of assessment between countries:
    • Germany appreciates having as much information as possible on the civil status (parents’ profession, religious denomination, family situation…) in order to better target the candidate’s profile. The organization should remain basic, without layout effects. The past of employees is of great interest to German recruiters. It is therefore important to present, without too much detail, all experiences and training since college (dates of activities, job title). The CV must be signed and dated by hand to attest to the veracity of the information.
    • In the United States, on the other hand, discrimination law requires that personal information be kept to a minimum. The candidates maintain a certain discretion, the description must remain more standard (Name, first name, address, telephone). American recruiters appreciate direct and incisive wording, especially through the use of action verbs. It is strongly recommended that personal goals be mentioned to understand the candidate’s motivation. The highlighting of any publications in the context of your studies is a very good indicator for the recruiter.
    • Halfway between American and French customs, the Quebecers do not include any elements relating to private life, and no photograph either. On the other hand, mentioning your goals and career plan is essential for your application. Quebec recruiters will be more interested in describing your skills than in listing your diplomas.
    • As for Japan, it has very strict conventions. As such, it offers predefined structures. It is called Rirekisho. The models can be found in bookstores or supermarkets. The CV must be handwritten, in black ink. It is sent by mail, and not by email as is customary. The use of a large envelope is also required. Indeed, folding documents is extremely badly perceived on this side of the world. Photocopying is also a very bad signal to recruiters.

What are the elements to avoid in an international CV?

The first mistake to avoid when writing a resume is word-for-word translation. The risk is to give the impression of a too fragile mastery of the English language. A recurring trap is also that of “false friends”.

  • The Curriculum Vitae is translated as “Resume”. However, it is by no means a simple summary.
  • The term Grande école is the perfect example. It does not translate to “High school” (this term refers to high school). The French term is kept in this case. Example, “Grande école of Engineering”.
  • In the United States, “company” is the term used to describe a business, while the British use the term “entreprise” or “business”.

Beware of the equivalence of diplomas. Understanding and targeting language equivalencies is necessary before writing an international CV.

  • The BTS will be translated as “2 year technical degree”.
  • The master degree will be translated as “Master degree” or “Bachelor”.

Depending on the country, the use of the photo can be divisive. In the past, it was not acceptable to send a CV without a photo. Today, this is much more likely to be considered, especially because of the fear of companies to be accused of discrimination in hiring. However, some countries are still resisting and perceive the use of photography badly:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland

Example of an international CV

First and last name
Full address
Phone number


Brief description of the objective and profile of the candidate

Title of the job

  • List of positions
  • Year of activity and country of residence.
  • Brief description of positions held
  • Name of the company

A map of the world with colored areas to locate the spaces in which you have worked allows you to focus your resume towards a mobile and international profile.

  • Trainings
    • Years of degree obtained
    • Type of diploma
    • University of graduation
    • Brief summary of skills obtained.

At the bottom of the page, describe any additional skills that may complement your profile. Mastery of foreign languages, computer tools, various hobbies…

How to write a cover letter for an international career?

The cover letter is not mandatory, but let’s face it, it would be a shame to skip over such a crucial element for the recruiter. It makes the difference between the two. Even if it has elements in common with a classic cover letter (diplomas, objectives, hobbies…), facing an international audience adds an extra challenge to the task.

  • The first essential point concerns the candidate’s motivation to work abroad rather than in his or her country of origin. The question may seem perfunctory, but the reasons for studying elsewhere are of real importance to schools or companies. It must appear as a conscious and thoughtful choice.
  • Chances are you will not be the only international student in your program. Therefore, it is important to emphasize your interest in the exchange and in meeting new people. Shy or extroverted, recruiters want to see your ability to adapt to multicultural interactions. This should be a major motivation in your application.

What are the elements to avoid in an international cover letter?

  • A common mistake is to turn the focus of the cover letter on yourself. Mentioning one’s aspirations may seem legitimate, but the recruiter wants above all to know what the candidate can bring to the company. What is the point of selecting one student over another? It is important to put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes.
  • There is no need to copy what you have already mentioned in your CV. The cover letter should be complementary and provide new information about your application.
  • Too much neutrality can be discriminatory. The cover letter remains a space for expression, the recruiter wants to get a glimpse of your personality. Don’t stick to a standard, administrative style. Make the recruiter want to meet you.

Sample cover letter to work internationally

Here is a synthetic example of a cover letter for international work:

  • Fill in the subject of your application.
  • Madam, Sir,

After doing a lot of research on the possibilities of working abroad, I decided to put together an international mobility file. I chose your company because it corresponds in every way to my objectives and skills. My past experiences in the field make my application particularly legitimate for this position. I am convinced that my previous trainings as well as my experience in companies will bring a lot to your company.

My choice of residence is your country because multicultural exchange is at the heart of my professional orientation. It is a great source of interest and enrichment for my future employment.

Yours sincerely


Updated 19 April 2023