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How to optimize your resume for international opportunities

Have you ever noticed that most of the time, your resume is the first thing your future employer will see about you? Recruiters scan resumes for an average of 7.4 seconds. Optimizing your resume is essential to maximize the chances of landing that extraordinary new international job.

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Written by Olby 12 min read

How to optimize your international resume

The first thing you should know when applying for an international opportunity is that an international resume is not only about translating your resume into English. Instead, it's about aligning your resume with local expectations and standards. The key to writing for an international audience is understanding expectations — what format do they prefer? Do they want it translated? Do they require references, a professional photo, or a portfolio?

Additionally, international tech companies often prefer candidates who share their values. Therefore, reviewing the job description is essential to assess how well your skills and career goals match the organization's expectations. When you read the job description, you can tailor your resume to that specific position and demonstrate your commitment to the organization's values.

As you write your international resume or curriculum vitae, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

1. Research standards in your target country

There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for an international resume, so do your research, be bold and ask locals for advice. The tone of voice is also critical - depending on which country you're applying. For instance, American-style resumes are more self-promoting, whereas in other countries, like Japan, you're expected to be more modest.

2. Decide on the resume format

Just like you start your new software engineering project with a proper plan, your resume needs an appropriate structure and layout. When you have the perfect resume template in mind, it becomes just a matter of filling in the gaps. The secret is choosing a format and layout with clear headlines and subheadings, ensuring you leave blank spaces to separate sections properly.

Your resume should always be either a Word or PDF file to ensure that recruiters can open it - no matter what kind of computer they use.

3. Determine the appropriate length

When creating a resume, keep in mind its purpose. A resume will not get you the job - its goal is to generate enough interest in you to secure an interview. With that in mind, remember that the resume's length will depend on the country you're applying.

For instance, an American resume is typically either 1 or 2 pages based on the overall length of your career. People competing for entry-level positions can easily use just one page to describe their qualifications. In contrast, people trying to achieve leadership roles may need two or even three pages to cover their complete job history, accomplishments, education, skills, and certifications. Most European countries expect only one or two pages in a resume. Meanwhile, it is common to see four-page resumes for management positions in Australia.

4. Mention your language skills

You should list all languages on your resume depending on these two things: 

  • Your level of proficiency;

  • How the language relates to the position.

Listing your language skills can help your application stand out. In addition, you'll be more likely to get a call from a recruiter or hiring manager if they're confident that communication won't be an issue for you in their country.

5. Tailor your resume for specific positions

One of the essential tips for a resume is to tailor it to the role you are applying for. 

Every sentence and achievement has to add to your case that you are the person for this specific job. The more irrelevant details there are, the less attention an employer will pay to everything else. Therefore, when considering the content in your resume, an excellent guideline is not to include information that isn't relevant to the job you are interested.

6. Make sure to understand the power of keywords. 

Companies with high numbers of candidates use their ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to screen candidate resumes by automatically looking for specific keywords and phrases. 

The golden rule here is to include keywords from the job description in your resume.

7. Include previous international experience

If you've studied abroad, worked overseas, or worked closely with an international client, you should mention this experience on your resume. It will help you to stand out - especially as an international candidate. In addition, hiring managers and recruiters will be impressed if they know you already have multicultural experience.

8. Proofread it!

Carefully proofreading your resume before sending it to an employer is mission-critical. 

Typos, misspellings, bad grammar, or incorrect punctuation can drop your chances of landing your next job.

What should an international tech resume include?

As previously mentioned, it is crucial to understand the cultural norm of the country where you wish to apply: only then will you know how to optimize your resume. 

Let's focus on a hands-on example: the American tech scene. The main idea is to familiarize yourself with the job searching scene in the USA so you can adapt accordingly.

First, it's essential to understand that a CV and a resume are different for Americans. A resume summarizes a person's work history, skills, education, and other items that an employer might be interested in. For Americans, a CV is very detailed and chronicles their entire career with details about their achievements, publications, education, and other relevant items to the job they are applying for. A CV is the same as an American resume for the rest of the world.

A resume is usually structured in chronological order, starting with your most recent experience. Usually, it includes:

1. Personal information

The first item in your tech resume should be your name and contact information. Do not include a home address; avoid including links to your social media pages.

Personal information should be at the page's top and large enough to be easily seen. You should be sure to include:

  • Name;

  • Telephone number (usually your mobile);

  • Email address — preferably your first & last name @ domain.com – don't use cute or funny emails;

  • LinkedIn profile URL.

2. Title

The next part of your resume is the title. Again, this should be the same as the position you're applying for. It lets the recruiter know what role you're interested in and sets the tone as they review the resume.

3. Professional summary statement

It is good to bring a 2 to 3-sentence summary detailing your skills, experience, or education concerning the job you're applying for. It allows the recruiter to quickly recognize your qualifications and encourages them to read the remainder of the resume.

The sentence should describe your software engineering skills, experience, accomplishments, and passion for your career. As the name suggests, it is your software engineer resume summary, so use this section as your sales pitch to grab the hiring manager's attention. 

If you are going through a career change or applying for an entry-level position, you should write a career objective in this section.

4. Work experience

It would be best if you spent most of your time writing the employment experience section because it contains details about the jobs you have worked during the last few years. The positions should be in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent ones.

When listing your jobs, be sure to include the following:

  • Position or Title

  • Employer – Location (City, State) – Dates Employed (Month/Year – Month/Year)

Next, provide a 1 to 2-sentence summary of your responsibilities and any significant achievements. Then, write down 3 to 4 bullets describing notable achievements, key contributions, or specific duties related to the position you're applying for. If your job title is self-explanatory, you can skip the 1 to 2-sentence summary and focus on the bullet points.

In this section, you should be specific and use numbers to describe results. Quantify your achievements and results as much as possible and include some metric (i.e., $, #, %) in all statements. For beginners without previous experience, you can showcase a project you created while learning your software engineering skills.

5. Education

A bachelor's degree is becoming less and less mandatory to work as a software engineer, so you can skip this section if you do not have one. On the other hand, some companies still value a degree. Like the work experience, start with the most advanced/recent degree and work backward, listing your other degrees. For example, if your formal education happened long ago, you could begin with the current certifications you have or any informal training that enhances your qualifications for the job.

When detailing your education, be sure to list the following:

  • Degree attained (i.e., MBA, BSc, AS), your major, and any minors;

  • The school or institution you attended;

  • Additional accomplishments such as publications, major projects, or internships.

6. Skills

After your work experience and education, you can list your skills that are relevant to the job. Include hard and soft skills related to the job, such as communication, empathy, teamwork, and leadership. The hard skills are usually stated in the job description as requirements. The soft skills enhance your qualifications and distinguish you from other applicants.

Here are some interesting hard skills to include:

  • Programming languages: e.g., JavaScript, Python, PHP, Java;

  • Software testing: e.g., unit tests, integration tests, TDD;

  • Programming paradigms: object-oriented programming, functional programming;

And some soft skills that are in high demand for developers:

  • Communication;

  • Leadership;

  • Time management;

  • Analytical skills;

  • Teamwork;

  • Drive and initiative.

7. Hobbies

This section is optional, but we highly recommend that you add them. Hobbies show the hiring manager more about your personality and personal life and can also help develop a connection between you and the hiring manager before an interview. So if you are going to add this section, list any achievements linked to your hobbies and provide a little detail about them.

Things to avoid in your international resume

Items you should not include in your resume are:

  • Personal information: your age, gender, race, or marital status. Employers can not ask about these due to restrictions related to job discrimination. Putting them in your resume could disqualify you from being interviewed.

  • References: International resumes do not typically include references. If an employer needs references before hiring you, they will request them after you have progressed through the interview process and are considered as one of the final candidates.

  • Typos, mistakes, grammatical and formatting errors;

  • Inconsistency between your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Cover letter: yes or no?

A cover letter is a tool to allow you to show personal motivation for a specific job position. It's not always required. However, you should be ready to make one if needed.

The ideal cover letter should be one page at maximum. It should be a few paragraphs concisely written about who you are, what you can do, and how you have proved you can do it.

Keep in mind that your cover letter should complement your resume. It is a tool to introduce yourself to the recruiter, explain your interest in the job and provide a summary of who you are.

You are now ready to start your international job-searching journey!

Optimizing your resume for international opportunities allows you to succeed in finding your next big break! But remember that we have offered you some general advice, and what's proper for the USA is only sometimes correct for other countries. So be sure to research as much about the local job application preferences as possible before you apply for a job.

As you begin your international job hunt, make sure you join Olby. We can match you with international tech jobs that match your skills and interests.