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Résumé for expats 101
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How to land a job in a foreign country

Finding a job is a job itself, especially if you are an expat dealing with a foreign job market or you are willing to relocate in another country. There is no need to worry though. We asked Allison Lewis, recruitment specialist, coach, consultant and head résumé Writer at Résumé Assist Now for a few useful tips to help you boost your CV and land your dream job abroad. 

Focus on your transferable skills and achievements

As an expat, you may have a lot of experience at home or in your host country, but your expertise could be considered insufficient or irrelevant in other countries, depending on the needs of the job market. To stand out, you should clearly show the company which skills would make you the perfect choice for them. Emphasize the results you achieved in your previous jobs and focus on soft or transferable skills, for example your time management abilities, problem-solving skills or good communications skills.

"A good résumé will focus on both transferable skills and achievements instead of just being a list of job tasks. One of the biggest mistakes I see is when a résumé reads like a job description. Future employers are interested in your achievements and how your skills will transfer into success with their business," Lewis says.

"In terms of layout, a 'functional' résumé starts with a focus on core competencies and achievements, whereas a more traditional résumé usually begins with the most recent job history. Keep in mind that your résumé will need to be tweaked with each application you submit and should include the company's verbiage and key words from the job posting or website".

Is it your first experience?

Young people who recently entered the job market can often only list short-term work experiences. "In this case again I think it is really important to focus on the achievements. Time spent on a job is not so important anymore and the work force has really changed in the past decade in that there are many short term opportunities these days. So focus on the results you got while you were there," Lewis said.

-  Keep it short

A good résumé is not about quantity but about quality. Think carefully about the information you include. "Don't feel like you have to include every last little job on your résumé" Lewis says. "Ditch everything from the 1980s and be very selective with anything from the 1990s; focus on the past 10 years and your achievements, quantify what you can: Did your marketing efforts mean an increase in visitors to your website or to your gallery or store?"

Another question mark would be whether to list personal interests. "Sometimes this will depend on space as you want to keep your résumé to two pages maximum," Lewis says. "If your interests are not interesting, then leave them off. Saying something like 'reading, movies, hiking' is boring. Instead talk about what you are passionate about reading (are you addicted to spy novels) or where you like to hike. But if it drips over to a third page, cut them out completely. Also, ask yourself: Do my hobbies or interests really have anything to do with this job or my ability to succeed at it? If the answer is 'no' - that may help you to decide whether or not to include these on your résumé."

-  Write a cover letter

Once your résumé is ready, it is a good idea to spend some time writing a cover letter to accompany it. Cover letters are chances to express a deeper interest in the company and to come across as real people. "Writing a cover letter or a letter of introduction gives you the opportunity to summarize your skills and past achievements and demonstrate how they are relevant to what the company is looking for," Lewis says. Cover letters should always be targeted for the specific company you are applying to.

-  Ask for references

Prospective employers often require you to provide references from your previous work placements. Make sure that neither you nor your references are open to being caught off guard. "I strongly recommend prepping your references when you are actively seeking employment: gain their permission first, either in person or on the phone, and let them know what kinds of jobs you will be applying for and why you think you are qualified, then send them your updated résumé," Lewis says.  

"Make sure you make a follow-up call to each of them every time you are invited to an interview as this is when the company's vetting process intensifies and you can expect them to contact your references. It can't hurt to have letters of recommendation available either and definitely ask any organizations you volunteer with to write one for you. Volunteer leaders and fellow volunteers usually make great references so prep them exactly like you would your professional references," she added.

Networking is the key

We are living in the digital era. If you haven't already done it, signing up for the main professional social networks could be the key to establish some useful connections and look up the latest job postings. "You absolutely need to manage your own personal brand online, especially with LinkedIn if you are in the job market and looking for opportunities," Lewis says. "Upload your updated résumé and ask colleagues or clients for recommendations." It may take a while to have a complete and functional online résumé, but it will multiply your chances of finding a fitting job opportunity.

You may want to check your personal profiles as well. "Google yourself and see what comes up because prospective employers will be looking for you on all the major social channels. If you have a blog, make sure your posts are positive. No one likes a complainer and you may end up turning off prospective employers," Lewis says.

"Remember that the job search process will take time and consider starting before you leave your current city. Dedicate time every day to networking and applying for jobs and don't lose faith. Reach out to past colleagues and old friends as well, and let them know what is new with you and what you are looking for. You may be pleasantly surprised just how many people will want to help you," she added.

-  Be prepared for the interview

After many applications, you are finally entering the next step: you landed an interview. "Always take two printed version of your résumé to the interviews you go to," Lewis says.

Besides finding information about the company, you should also be ready to answer some common questions during interviews. "What are your strengths and your weaknesses?" or "How do you see yourself in five years?" are quite easy to come by during a job selection process. Ask around what are the most frequently asked questions in your target country and make sure you know how to answer them.

How to follow-up after the interview

In some countries follow-up is a common habit. In some others it may be considered intrusive or even aggressive. Therefore, before making follow-up calls or sending an email, make sure this is not the case in your target country. If you are given the green light, here is some advice.

"Follow up is tricky in the digital age, especially when the application process has moved online for the most part," Lewis says. "It is always important to follow the application instructions in the job posting and if it says 'no calls' they mean no calls."

Again, networking could prove to be very effective. "Networking ahead of time helps with follow-up. Do you know anyone at the company already? Can a contact on LinkedIn introduce you to someone in the company's HR department? Is there contact information on the company website? You may have to do some research in order to know who to follow-up with."

Once you have obtained the information you need, it is time to decide the medium you are going to use. "Sending an email probably won't hurt but depending on the number of applications the company has received, don't count on a response, at least not right away," Lewis says. "Sending a snail mail paper letter, or a thank-you card, may make a positive impression and it means the hiring manager will have something from you they have to physically hold. It might seem old fashioned but it works."

If you follow these easy eight steps, we bet your career will soon be ready to take off in your new country. But we still have some extra advice: "As you look for your next full time gig, pay it forward and volunteer your time doing something good and I promise you the contacts you make will end up opening many doors for you," Lewis says.

To contact our expert Allison Lewis:
Twitter @resumeassistnow
email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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