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What New Graduates NEED to Know About Applying for Jobs Internationally

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As an employer, I've come to understand that resume, interview and hiring practices and vernacular are very different based on what country you're job hunting in - and the differences are BOLDLY apparent whenever I receive a resume (also known as a CV or "curriculum vitae") from an international applicant.

It occurs to me that European students job hunting in the United States are at a disadvantage if nobody at their home university teaches them the difference between international applications because some of the practices that are considered "standard and customary" where they live are definitely not usual for American employers.

Likewise, recent U.S. grads who want to work in Europe should probably know that there are things they SHOULD include with their cover letter and resume that they would never send to a potential employer in the states. I don't remember anybody teaching me anything about that when I graduated from college, and I'm no expert. With that said, I think the following three pieces of information will be universally helpful no matter from what side of the pond you're applying for international employment:

1) Almost without exception, every young European woman applying for wedding planning position with my company sends me a resume that opens with a giant glamour shot portrait photo. And I've gotta admit, if the pictures are anything to go off of, half the Swedish Bikini Team has applied to intern or work at Weddings in Vieques. Unfortunately, those pictures make me feel uncomfortable because it would be against the law for me to make hiring decisions based upon their appearances. And if I were judging looks, then I'd need to reach out to all the other applicants from the states and ask them to submit photos, something I would NEVER do. I don't care if they're beauty queens or not - I'm looking at the substance underneath. But as an American employer, it's off-putting to be met with a giant smiling face when you think you're opening a professional resume. I can't speak for the European employer, but American applicants overseas should research the industry in which they're applying and figure out whether it's appropriate to include a snapshot.

2) Make sure that you do a good job writing your cover letter and resume in whatever language is the native tongue of the country where you're applying for a job. Google translator is not sufficient if you want your application to be taken seriously. As a business owner in Puerto Rico, I encounter language barriers on a regular basis and I cringe when I get a barely understandable cover letter along with a resume that claims the writer speaks fluent English or Spanish. There's a HUGE difference between "fluent" and "proficient" and sometimes honesty will help you get the job rather than overselling a skill you really don't have. Don't misunderstand me, it's great to demonstrate a talent for languages, but if you can't read, write and easily speak AND understand a language, you are not fluent. A lack of fluency will not keep me from hiring an applicant, but dishonesty will. If you tell me you're bilingual and you're not, we'll figure it out during the interview or on your first day at work. That could also become your last day of work if you claimed a language you can't actually speak. Trust me on this, I run several businesses on an island where Spanish is predominantly spoken. I have a number of employees who don't speak ANY English but I'm still able to communicate effectively and efficiently with all of them. Still I'm not "fluent," I'm "proficient" because my listening comprehension is not up to snuff. Not gonna lie, I use the words "mas despacio, por favor" (more slowly, please) several times a day. Puerto Ricans speak Spanish very quickly and it's not the same Spanish we learned in school in DC. Different dialects in different places will also affect how "proficient" you actually are when you get where you're going. What amazes me is that I don't require potential interns or employees to speak Spanish yet so many of them try to pretend they do on their resumes.

3) Recently, I've begun receiving resumes from European job candidates that include a video selfie portrait of themselves in the initial email contact. Let me assure you that isn't what any employer wants to see unless we are casting "Real World" or "The Bachelorette." No seriously. It took serious self-control not to paste in some of the links here and share, but I'm trying to help recent graduates with this blog, not ruin their future careers forever by circulating a professional embarrassment. Some of the videos are hilarious - and even well-produced - but having all of your friends talk about you and give you a reference on a video is not the way to approach an American employer. I don't know if this is something encouraged in Europe or if it's like the American fad of submitting really bad graphic-design-inspired colorful and swirly resumes with absolutely no useful information on them, but whatever the case, STOP IT. If you've got a portfolio of video clips germane to the job you're apply for and you want to share, send an attachment or a link with a really good explanation. And don't set the video to mix of current American Top 40 music.

There are caveats to my guidance above - some jobs, for example, do require a photo with your application. Cruise ship companies, for example, usually request pictures. Journalists applying for jobs in television would be requested to submit headshots too. A production company would request your video reel. But the key word is "REQUEST." If you're serious about applying for a job someplace, and especially if they're actually advertising the position, read what they're asking for and submit only that. If your cover letter is compelling, it's likely that the company will request more information.

Before you start applying for jobs internationally, do the basic research on what kind of work visas or permits you'll need to have to accept the position. Big multi-national corporations usually have whole departments that take care of that for you, but smaller employers won't expect to carry the entire burden. You should know before you apply for an international internship whether you qualify for a student visa or not - different countries have different requirements and restrictions. If you want to go work in another country, know what's actually required to do so before you submit your application.

I love that some students really research my little company from other countries and take time to apply for a job here - and I didn't write this blog to discourage that. But do your homework first so we'll seriously consider you. Sending me a cover letter that says you're applying for a job with me in Puerto Rico because you don't want to work in the United States tells me you didn't do your homework.

Good luck job hunting!