11 English Resume Writing Tips For Bilingual Job Seekers

11 English Resume Writing Tips For Bilingual Job Seekers

Here’s what you need to know for a great CV in English.

resume wasted time cartoonThis is a guest post by Tammy Paul. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

As a recruiter, I have seen more than my fair share of CVs. There are always those that stand out; some in positive ways, others very negative.

Most of the CVs I see belong to new immigrants who are looking to enter the Israeli job market, and as a result, don’t know what is expected of them on an Israeli CV.

The rest are from Israelis who don’t know how to write a CV in English.

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1) Know your audience

One important thing is to try and find out who you’re sending your CV to.

There’s no point in writing a long and descriptive cover letter in English when the person receiving your CV is a Hebrew-speaking HR person. They review hundreds of CVs and emails every day, and won’t spend their time weeding through a lengthy English letter before figuring out what the person wants. On the other hand, it’s also a bad idea to send nothing but a three-word email saying “see attached resume”.

2) Know your recipient

It’s important to know if you’re sending your CV to the company itself, or to a recruitment or employment agency. If an employment agency is screening CVs before they actually get to the company, it’s wise to write a short email (no more than two or three lines) telling the recruiter who you are and what type of position you’re looking for.

Many times a recruiter will decide that your CV isn’t right for the job you actually applied for, but may have other positions that they think will suit you better. Also, when writing to a recruiter, talking in your email about “your company” is pointless because you’re not looking for a job with their company, but rather their client.

So what can you do to avoid recruiters and HR personnel not even glancing at your CV before deleting your email?

3) Know your spelling

To begin with, be certain that both your email and your CV are completely free of typos and spelling errors. There’s nothing worse for a recruiter than opening up a CV to discover that the applicant thinks they serve “costumers” rather than “customers” (by far the most common typo I’ve seen).

4) Know your style

Secondly, try and steer clear of using colors and pictures in your resume unless you’re a graphic designer applying for graphic design positions. While you’d think a splash of color might make a CV stand out, it usually just gives the person reading it a headache.

The same goes for using nothing but bold or italic text. Bold and underline are important in a CV, but only to enhance clarity. If your CV font is completely bold, that isn’t helping anyone see it more clearly.

Do make sure to use headings and subheadings to make it clear which company you worked for and what your job title was. The simplest and clearest way of doing this is to have the company name underlined, and the job title in bold. Both should be in the same font and should be the same size. The one place it’s helpful to use both bold and italic text is to separate education, work experience, and personal details.

5) Know your copywriting

When detailing your responsibilities in a given position, remember that the most relevant (and hopefully the most recent) position should be shown in the most detail, while older and less relevant experience should be kept to a minimum. Do mention responsibilities in older jobs, but try not to use more than one line of text to do so.

When writing a CV in English, try not to use first person for job descriptions. It looks less professional than a more formal job description.

Don’t use numbered lists on your CV, and only use bulleted lists for listing responsibilities.

Another very important thing to remember is that your CV is not the only one that a recruiter or HR person has seen. There’s no point in taking five pages to list everything you’ve ever done including the babysitting jobs and paper routes you did when you were in high school. Make sure to keep your experience relevant for the position you’re applying for.

6) Know it’s offline

Your CV is also not your LinkedIn profile. If you have a profile on LinkedIn, then by all means, add a link to it on your CV. But don’t take your LinkedIn profile page and copy it into a Word document and send it out as your CV. As I mentioned above, no recruiter, HR person, or CEO is going to take the time to sift through an eight page document looking for one candidate’s relevant experience when they have five other candidates who have sent them properly formatted CVs.

7) Know your file format

Also, make sure to check what format your CV should be in. Many people prefer the CV to be an attached Word or PDF document. There are, however, those who prefer the CV to be directly in the text of your email. As a recruiter, I always recommend the former, but you must remember to check, as not everyone prefers an attachment.

8) Know the job description

Ideally, you should tailor your CV for the exact position you are applying for. If you’re applying for a position as a sales representative, there’s no point in going into great detail about your experience as a bookkeeper or an accountant. At the same time, If you’re sending your CV to a recruiter, then they will often give you suggestions on how to specialize your CV, so in this case, do make sure to give proportional weight to all your experience.

9) Know your skillset

Make sure to give relevant details about your skills and abilities.

Many of the CVs which come across my desk belong multilingual candidates. This is a very important skill, especially in the Israeli job market, but it is a skill that is frequently under-emphasized.

If you speak more than one language, make sure not only to specify the language on your CV, but also to state your level of fluency in that language. Don’t just say “I speak Hebrew, English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Turkish”, because that doesn’t say anything about your level of proficiency.

Instead, say “Fluent in Hebrew, Spanish and French; English mother tongue; intermediate level in Italian; conversational in German and Turkish”. This gives the person looking at your CV an accurate way of seeing whether you’re a good candidate for a position involving languages.

If it’s a recruiter who has other positions available, they may contact you about an additional vacancy that requires your skills and one of your other languages.

10) Know your contact information

Two more things which are very important to look out for are your email address, and email signature. No one will be impressed with a person who uses a cutesy, crude, or vulgar email address to apply for jobs.

If you don’t already have a formal and sensible email address, open a new email account for work related emails. Most email clients allow you to forward your emails to another account, so you can still continue receiving and sending mail from that account, just with a sensible email address. All your email address need be is your first and last name, with a number if necessary, to make your address unique.

If you must use an email signature, make sure it does not use anything other than normal, sentence case letters. Signing your name @br@#@m L1nc0ln is a surefire way to make sure that no one will take you seriously. The same goes for leaving “funny” quotes at the end of your signature. Signing emails to your friends with “Space, the final frontier: these are the voyages of the Starship Firefly” is fine, but most potential employers will find it horribly unprofessional unless you’re applying for a job at a Star Trek convention.

11) Know your grammar

A last and related mention must to go capital letters. Make sure to put capitals at the beginning of sentences, for proper nouns, company names, and names of references. If you must use the word “I”, make sure it is capitalized. Do not use capitals where they are not necessary, but when required make sure that they are there!

12) Know proofreaders

Finally, after proofreading, spell-checking, and proofreading yet again, send your CV to at least two native speakers of the language it’s written in so that they will also proofread it again for you. No matter how many times you look at your CV, there are mistakes you just won’t see without another person’s help.

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About the Author

tammy paul portraittammy paul portraitTammy Paul is a recruitment consultant working at Marksman International Personnel. She has many years of experience helping people hone their CVs, having previously worked as a college application consultant. She is now happily married to technical writer Yehoshua Paul who introduced her to JobMob and blogging. Tammy looks forward to many more years of helping people find jobs and hopes people will one day learn to proofread their CVs before sending them out…

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10 comments
Sheila Levitt says

An excellent article. Will be of great help to those seeking employment

Reply
Jo Levitt says

This article really hits the important points for a good CV for multilinguals.

Reply
margiecj says

A very useful and well-written article, both before immigration and afterwards..

Reply
Sharon Wallis says

Excellent article!

Reply
Eva says

Great article, incredibly useful. Thanks for sharing!

Reply
Bahtya says

Excellent article. These are smart, sensible tips! Not to be that annoying nitpicker, but was the “Starship Firefly” a joke or a mistake?

Reply
Bill Burns says

Great tips!

Reply
N Kanner says

Very useful!

Reply
Tammy Paul says

The Starship Firefly was a joke 🙂
Glad to see someone caught it!

Reply
Yvonne Greene says

A very useful item with practical suggestions.

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