Your Résumé: The Translated Version

March 20, 2012

Other than your tax return, your résumé is probably one of the most important and time consuming documents that you will ever write.  You carefully analyze your word choice to ensure that it conveys the correct meaning and frames you in the best light.  You list your skills, your experience and your education.  You delete, you tweak, you move things around until you are satisfied.  Then you have someone else edit it and repeat the process.  The final document consists of precisely chosen verbiage representing everything you have done in your life that would make the company want to hire you.  At least you hope.  You sit by the phone and wait for a call.

The process sounds familiar.  Everyone from the 16 year old high school student to the 55 year old who is considering retirement has written a résumé at one point in their life.  We’ve all applied for jobs and understand that an excellent résumé is key to getting that interview and getting a foot in the door of the company you want to work for.

But what is the company you want to work for isn’t local?  What if it is global?

Your résumé is still important and you are likely to go through all the same steps that you would normally go through when applying for a local job.  But the rules have changed.  Dun dun dun. (Cue the menacing death march music).  All of a sudden you are competing against other individuals that probably have a similar work or educational background (which is typical) but more importantly is that these people are probably local to the company.  If the company is in Thailand, then the fact that they already know the language, know the culture, are familiar with the people, best business practices, customs and all sorts of other affairs naturally makes them more suitable for the job at hand because they are the people that the business is going to be targeting.

So other than taking some extremely intensive Thai language lessons and Googling how to build a résumé that won’t completely throw the HR department for a loop, making them wonder what on earth you were thinking, what do you need to do to ensure that your application doesn’t just get a few chuckles and then end up on the top of the pile of office memos bound for the paper shredder/incinerator?

Well first, you do need to do some serious research about how to act professional.  You may think that professional courtesy is universal but with that mind frame you are definitely not going to get a call back.  What is professional in one country might be unprofessional in another.  Some cultures value getting right down to business while in others, it is expected to spend the first few minutes asking about each other’s personal life.  When accepting another person’s business card, never put it directly in your pocket or handbag or what have you in a casual manner that in America, wouldn’t get a second thought.  In fact, when interacting with someone of Asian descent, it is customary to accept the business card with two hands, examine it carefully before placing it in a hard cover folder of some sort to ensure that it does not get crushed.

Next, you must demonstrate your professional personality.  If they are going to go through the trouble of contacting an international job applicant, they are going to want to know what to expect from you in a professional setting personality-wise.  Are you going to clam up?  Are you often nervous?  Do you approach problems with a cool and collective mindset?  Do you stay goal orientated?  Can you resolve conflict before it gets blown out of proportion?  These are all assets that you are going to have to figure out a way to sneak into your résumé with your choice of wording.

Probably the most important thing to do when applying for a job outside of your locale is to know how to sell your cross cultural skills.  Do you speak a second language?  Have you spent time working with teams of culturally diverse people?  Can you put yourself in the shoes of a minority group to assess what sorts of needs they have that could be addressed?  You need to let potential employers know of any unique experiences that you have had that would benefit their company.  It is a good idea to mention things such as cross cultural work experience, whether you have a positive attitude with new work environments, project successes that focused on multicultural customer segments, volunteer experiences abroad, facility with respect to picking up new languages, travel experience, etc.

International internships, if you have done any, are a great thing to highlight.  And if you already speak a second language, even if it is not their own, you should still mention it as it demonstrates your ability to focus on a complicated task and see it through to the end.

If working internationally is something you would like to do down the road but are not quite sure what you want to do quite yet (after all it can mean a really big move complete with enormous shipping crates and insurmountable rolls of bubble wrap), consider looking into acquiring some of the above mentioned cross cultural skills so that when the time comes, you are prepared.

Have you ever wanted to work internationally?  What is holding you back?

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