Customs & Immigration for Resumes & Job Postings

January 5, 2011

Recruiting practices vary tremendously across borders. While one method is perfectly normal in one country, there’s no chance in hell it would fly in another. Resumes and job postings across continents are really galaxies apart. Starting with resumes, let’s take a look at how it’s done in the United States versus Europe. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s called a resume or a curriculum vitae. What truly counts is the content.

An American resume includes a 1-2 page long set of bullets with information purely related to the candidate’s overall academic and recent professional background. It’s concise and invites the hiring party to ask more questions later. However, in a European CV, don’t be surprised to find a 4-5 page detailed explanation of every experience since high school graduation, including case studies and comprehensive references. It’s also “mind bogglingly” common to include a picture, marital status, citizenship, age and even religion on the CV. In the US, this would be an HR and legal nightmare as it creates opportunity to discriminate in this lawsuit-loving country. The Europeans believe that the more information you give about yourself, the more help you’re offering to see if you’d make a good fit for the organization!

The same philosophy applies to job postings. In the US, you’re expected to provide the job title, list of duties, location, and educational requirements. In Asia, it wouldn’t be strange for a job posting to mention that full disclosure of age, gender, and citizenship, along with a recent photograph, is required as part of the application. Ever see a 60-year old flight attendant on Singapore Airlines? Fair hiring laws are virtually non-existent in Asia, which has benefited many industries, including the airline space Asian countries dominate. It makes sense when the aim is to hire young staff who demand less pay, work more hours, and rarely get sick. This spells out optimum productivity and minimal health coverage. In the US, you can only “discriminate” under a bona fide occupational qualification, which allows places like Hooters to only hire females as wait staff. 


Despite rapid globalization, you still cannot find a standard, universal template to write a resume or job posting. So which one do you go with? After all, it is your responsibility to customize your content accordingly. If you’re applying for a job at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt or Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, it’s easy to figure out how to tailor your material. Unfortunately, it’s not always that clear-cut.

For example, Zmags, a portfolio company of OpenView Venture Partners, was founded in Denmark in 2006, but moved its HQ to Boston in 2008. What now? The rule of thumb from best practices and recruiting tips would advise to go with the protocol of the country in which you would be working. Global offices hire most of its talent locally, so why not adhere to local standards? So if Zmags was still based out of Denmark, but you were interested in working in their small office in Boston, your best bet would be to omit your pretty passport picture from your 1-page resume. Think global, act local.

Good luck!

Director of Recruiting

Victor Mahillon is the Director of Recruiting at <a href="">Kamcord</a>. Previously he was a Talent manager at OpenView.