Non-Traditional Resumes

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
Previous articles have discussed the standard U.S. resume, and also the traditional curriculum vitae. But these are not the only two resume styles in use today. Foreign countries have their own resume formats, and even here in the U.S. we have federal resumes and corporate biographies. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at some of these.

Foreign Resumes

Every country has its own resume format. Many are similar, but even the most minor difference can be important. For instance, leaving off your gender or marital status on a resume in Taiwan can result in the applicant passed over for an interview. So it’s important to be aware of the specific resume requirements for each country when applying outside of the United States.

The standard U.S. resume format can be summed up in the following manner:

Contact Information
Summary of Qualifications
Additional Information (computer skills, training, languages, etc.)

These are the basic sections. Traditionally, the U.S. resume does not include personal information such as date of birth, marital status, gender, or hobbies. In terms of format, the U.S. resume most frequently uses bullet points for all the key information. So, how does this differ from other employment documents? Before answering that, we need to look at what else is out there.

Some foreign countries have begun incorporating the U.S. style, as they begin to experience the same type of overwhelming volume of applicants for jobs that America has dealt with for the past 10 or 15 years. In most European and Latin American countries, the Curriculum Vitae, or CV, is still the most common format (see the article on CVs for more information). Other countries, such as Mexico and Australia, are presently in an in-between stage, moving from the CV to the resume. Most Middle East, African, and Far East nations use a true resume format; that is, no paragraph style information, only bullet points.

So what are those differences I hinted at earlier? For the most part, they deal with format. Resumes prepared for the Middle East, Africa, Orient, and Pacific Rim countries still require personal information. Depending on the country, this information might be expected right under the contact information heading on the first page, or it might come at the very end, with the hobbies and language skills. In American, this type of data is only found on federal resumes. In China, Thailand, the Philippines, and certain other Far East nations, it is still common for employers to request a picture of the applicant right on the resume.

Below is a summary detailing some of the key differences in resume formats. Remember, for international resumes, these are generalities. Each country has its own peculiarities, and it is always necessary to check first before writing a resume for that country. Or, better yet, call on a professional resume writer, who should be up to date on all global formats.

Canada:  Uses bullet points, with 2-page maximum length. Some companies and government agencies still want to see personal information and have Education placed before Employment.

Africa/Middle East/Asia:  Use bullet points, with a 2-page maximum length. Personal information should come right at the beginning of the first page, under the contact information.

Europe/South America:  Traditional Curriculum Vitae format. Document lengths preferred to be under six pages.

Pacific Rim/Australia:  Bullet point style, or combination bullets and paragraphs. Up to 3 pages maximum length, 2 pages preferred. Personal information at beginning or end.

Mexico:  Some companies prefer traditional CV, while others will accept a resume with bullet point format.
Federal Resumes

Federal resumes are a special format required by federal government agencies. In most respects, they are totally the opposite of the standard business resume. Federal resumes use a paragraph style for the employment content, and require a comprehensive description of the entire work and military history. This means the document can often end up as long as five or six pages. Also, there are specific requirements for font size and section headings. Every position must include the supervisor’s name and contact information, as well as pay scale, and the applicant’s personal information is required.
Corporate / Executive Biographies

These are the 1-page statements most frequently seen on websites and in newspapers, magazines, or annual reports, especially for newly-hired executives. The bio provides an overview of the person’s career, and uses a unique format, where there is an introductory paragraph focusing on the job title and main responsibility, one or two paragraphs detailing key accomplishments in the current job, a paragraph that provides an overview of the person’s previous employment (from earliest position to most recent before the current one), a paragraph of general skills or areas of expertise, and finally a short paragraph giving some general personal details, such as family and education. There is rarely any deviation from this pattern, and the length is always kept to one page.