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Tailoring your Resume for French Companies

Though adjusting to a new culture can be extremely difficult, the process of finding a job in France can be a challenge on its own. You may have the perfect resume in your home country, but like most else, it may not mean much if you can’t translate your skills in a way that is readable for a French company or employer. Below are some tips on helping you format your CV for a French business, and to help you stand out amongst other prospective candidates!

1. Formatting your CV for French companies

Speaking from experience, in my home country (The United States) and many others, we value overselling ourselves: Using words on our CV’s such as “great leader” or “team worker” to portray to our prospective employers how awesome of an employee we can be. Though this is extremely valuable in our home countries, not so much in France. French CVs are often straight to the point, and factual. No embellishing needed! They also tend to contain more personal details such as nationality and even marital status. Below are some tips on things to include, and how to format your CV:

A. Headshot


Smile for the camera! In most European countries (Including France), adding a photo of yourself is highly encouraged. Include a passport sized, professional looking headshot of yourself at the top of your CV.

B. Presentation


Include your name, date of birth, nationality and contact details in this part of your CV, in an easy-to-read list format. You can also include a couple of sentences detailing your qualities underneath (This can also be saved for the cover letter of your application).

C. Formation


List your education history from most recent to last. Include the names of schools, any qualifications, grades and dates. Make it as easy as possible for the employer to read your application, and find all of the required information quickly.

D. Expérience professionalles


List your professional experience from most recent to last. Include company names, dates, and a description of your role, responsibilities, and duties while at each job.

E. Compétences spécifiques


List all skills that would be useful in the work environment. Make sure that this is specific to the job you are applying for. Include any information on your IT abilities, language skills and any other qualifications you have that would set you apart from other candidates.

F. Centres d’intérêts


Tell them about yourself! List hobbies, best personal achievements, and any extra-curricular activities. Give some examples to show the prospective employer that you are not just another “brick in the wall”, but a well-rounded and interesting individual.

G. Length of resume


This is extremely important! Be sure to limit your resume to only one page. Anything more and a hiring manager will surely throw your CV directly into the trashcan. If you can’t decide what information to put on your resume, leave only the most pertinent information pertaining to the job you're applying for.

2. Correct use of vocabulary


This is extremely important! Imagine writing your new prospective boss an email, and instead of saying “good morning”, or something more professional, you say “What's Up”. This is a sure-fire way to get your resume thrown directly into the trash. You want to make sure that your resume is written as formally as possible. If you’re unsure about your use of words, grammar, or syntax, there are websites such as Phrase.com and Lokalise.com to help you out. And if you're lucky enough, have a French friend, spouse, or even a member at Absolutely Talented review your work.

3. Equivalent qualifications


France has a totally different education system compared to most foreign countries! So, if you’ve seen the words “Bac+3” and been totally confused, trust me, you’re not alone! When listing your educational accomplishments, diplomas, GCE’s, certifications, or A levels, it is best to list them as you would for your home country. On the flip side, it is still extremely important to know these just in case you are asked by a prospective employer. Below are some of the French to British and American Qualifications:

BACC (Baccalaureat):

This is the equivalent to a High School diploma in the United States, or the A Level Exams in the UK.

DEUG/DUG/DU:

An Associate's Degree in the United States, or a two-year degree in the UK. For more a more technical degree (For example, an Information Technology Degree), this would be the be equivalent to a French

BTS or DUT: BAC+3- A Bachelor's Degree (Undergraduate Degree) in the United States and the UK (Normally 4 years). In France, you only do three years instead of four.

DEA/DESS/Bachelor+2:

This is the equivalent to a Master's Degree. Normally, two years after completing your Bachelor or undergraduate studies.

Doctorate:

This is the equivalent to a Ph.D. Normally, obtained two years after completing your masters' studies, and with the completion of a thesis and a thorough research report (which must be completed before obtaining this degree).

**Note: As mentioned before, France has a totally different education system! There is no official equivalency between French and American diplomas. Therefore, each employer decides on the equivalency to be granted.

4. Nationality

You may not be fluent in the French language(yet), but as an Expat, you have a lot to offer to French employers. Instead of shying away from the topic, make sure to include your country of origin, and any other languages you may speak. And be sure to emphasize how your international perspective can be valuable to the company. Language skills are an asset that businesses value, so highlight this. As well, be sure to include your level of French (according to the CECRL language grades, A1-C2).

5. Check, double check, and check again

If you’re not a native French speaker, it can be challenging to know whether your spelling, grammar, choice of words, and syntax are correct. It is extremely important to make sure that there aren't any spelling or grammatical errors in your CV, as they will make you look extremely unprofessional. In addition to the basic spell check (that most word processors provide), there are many ways to make sure your resume is completely error free, including Reverso and Google Translate. On the flip side, there are some errors that an online grammar checker will not be able to decipher. As mentioned before, it may be best to ask someone who is fluent in the language to review your resume. If you don’t know anyone, you can also use a website such as Lang-8, or Fiverr to pay a small fee, and have a native speaker review your CV and make the necessary corrections. Again, you may have to pay a small fee, but in my opinion, it's well worth the price if it helps you obtain the job of your dreams.

Final thoughts:

Creating an appealing resume can be hard, but doing it in a new country can be twice (or even three times) as difficult and at times, intimidating! Though it may not seem so, always remember that companies are lucky to have you, your experiences, and your skills to choose from. Highlight these traits in a way that is conveyable to these employers. And remember to emphasize that as an Expat, you are unique in what you have to offer. With these tips, I have no doubt that you will be able to secure the job of your dreams in no time!

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