(Infographic) Tips On How To Create The Perfect French Resume/CV
To see a more detailed article about creating a CV for the French job market you should read this post.
To see a more detailed article about creating a CV for the French job market you should read this post.
DON’T CALL IT A RESUME IN FRANCE: Throughout this article, I use the term “French resume” and “CV” interchangeably but the correct term used in France is just “CV”. -pronounced [SEY-VEY]. It’s short for curriculum vitae, a Latin word that means “the course of my life”.
Before I created my resume for the French job market, I did what most people do. I researched the hell out of the subject.
I read countless articles written by French experts, recruiters and hiring managers, visited dozens of French employment forums, analyzed way too many resume’s created by French people and even asked my friends living in France how they created their CV.
The bad news is, there is no magic formula, no holy grail CV recipe that if used will land you any job you set your sights on all of the time.
The good news is, even though there are differing opinions from the so-called experts of what constitutes a great CV, I learned that there are standard rules, guidelines and best practices you can use that will satisfy the expectations of most employers and industries in France. You just need to know when and how to use them to your advantage.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of CV best practices in France and you”ll be able to create your own CV so you can start applying for jobs in France.
When to include them and how to include them correctly .
The first thing you should be aware of is that there are about 20 different things you need to consider including on your resume.
Each of the 20 things can be rolled up into one of the 9 possible sections listed below depending on how you format your CV.
Not all of the 20 things listed in this article are obligatory however they may still be expected. While other things are expected but for various reasons, you may not want to include them. You’ll need to know when to include them and how to include them so that you present yourself in the best possible way to French hiring managers.
You have 7 seconds to convince a hiring manager to read your CV. A great headline which consists of a headline title and headline summary not only improves readability, it immediately grabs the hiring manager’s attention and entices them to read the rest of your CV.
If you’re like most, you probably skim and glance through headlines. If one grabs your attention you maybe read the first paragraph. If that first paragraph peaks your interest, you keep reading. If it doesn’t, au-revoir.
When it comes to your CV, recruiters and hiring managers think and act much the same way.
Studies prove that the average employer, who may have to quickly wade through hundreds of CV’s, will spend as few as 7 to 10 seconds scanning your resume before they decide if they want to keep reading or not.
That’s why you need to include a great headline which consists of 2 things, an attention grabbing CV title and an enticing CV summary at the top of your CV where recruiters look first.
Together the Title and Summary tell the hiring manager who you are in terms of the position you are applying for and what you can do for the company.
Let’s explore how to incorporate these two things in your CV.
A CV title or headline title as some people like to call it is NOT your name nor is it the words “curriculum vitae”. It’s simply a job title- either the title of the job you are targeting or a more general job title like “sales & marketing professional”.
It may seem silly to put a job title at the head of your CV but it has several advantages.
When a busy manager or recruiter sees the job title, he doesn’t have to guess which job you are interested in. He or she can mentally assign you to a potential vacancy quickly. And if for whatever reason your resume gets circulated around the company, no explanation is necessary because it states right at the top of your CV, clear as day the job you are interested in.
For Example: If you apply for a job advertised as “IT specialist”, the title at the top of your CV could read “IT specialist”. If the type of work you do spans different but related fields or you plan on posting your CV to a job board, you can use a less specific / more general job title like “Human Resource Manager & Generalist”, “Sales and Marketing professional” or “Web Marketing professional”.
Below is a screenshot of a few CV’s that use a title to announce the job they are targeting. Notice how it grabs your attention. You know immediately who this person is in terms of their experience.
You might be interested in this: Why and how to write an attention grabbing CV title here.
Remember you only have a few seconds to make it abundantly clear “what you can do for the company and what your value is”. By including a CV summary – a short, snappy introduction that highlights and summarizes your experience and best skills as they relate to the potential job, employer or industry, you are essentially telling them what they want to know.
Now that you’ve got their attention with a CV title, you need to entice them to keep reading. At this point the recruiter has no idea if you are qualified for the job or what skills and experiences you have so most recruiters will begin skimming your CV for keywords and past job titles before they decide to put your CV in the maybe pile or the “no thank you pile”.
You can help the recruiter see your true potential in under 10 seconds by including a resume summary directly under the CV title.
Not to be confused with the outdated ” objective statement” which is about “what YOU want from the company”, a resume summary is about “what you can do for them”.
The key to a well written summary is to sell yourself and impress them in as few words as possible- 2 phrases or less. It should shout “Hey, I’m the person you’re looking for”.
If they like what they read, then like the newspaper example above, they will keep reading your CV which is exactly what you want.
One last thing. Hiring managers are busy people. The last thing they want is to be bogged down trying to decipher your fancy business jargon so make sure your summary is short, easy to read and focused on the particular needs of employers in your industry or targeted job. Obviously make sure the skills and experience you include on your CV support y our CV summary.
Here are a few ideas of what you can include in your resume summary.
Communication & Marketing Manager
More than 8 years experience in media planning, buying and strategies. Curious and passionate about web-marketing, and always up to date with the latest digital innovations.
The above example was taken from the French CV in the screenshot below.
Senior IT project/ Program manager
10 + years of on-budge project deliver including large-scale and global projects
CPA certification and 25 years of experience
Senior Technology Manager
Extensive expertise in R&D, Product Development & Quality Control
Normally located at or near the top of your CV is your name. The French take it a step further and include some additional details, very personal details that you would never see on a North American résumé or CV such as:
-Number of children and their ages
-Work permit (if you have one)
Some French experts say certain personal details, which could be used to discriminate against you should never be included while others say they should. Still others say you should only include them if they will improve your chances of getting an interview.
You’ll have to decide which personal details you are willing to divulge based on your unique set of circumstances but keep in mind that if you don’t include certain personal details on your CV, you may still be asked in an interview.
Below is an explanation of how and when to include your personal details on a CV in France.
Should you include a photo on your CV? It’s a question that gets asked a lot even by people in France and the answer is it depends.
It’s still common practice to include a professional looking photo on a CV in France and most if not all recruiters actually prefer that you do but it’s not always necessary.
So when should you include a photo on your CV?
Well if you’re photogenic, have a flattering, professional looking photo of yourself and feel confident that including your photo could improve your chances of getting called in for an interview than yes, I think you should include one.
If for whatever reason, you don’t want to include a photo, it may be fine for some situations to exclude it but this is where things get a little tricky.
For instance, employers hiring for customer facing positions such as sales reps or sales clerks will probably want to see a photo of you to make sure you are “well-groomed or presentable” in their eyes.
Whereas, if you are applying for an accountant position or some other position where you won’t see customers or clients, less weight may be put on the fact that you didn’t include a photo. But it depends on the person looking at your CV.
A friend of mine told me he knew a Blond hair, blue-eyed guy whose name sounded phonetically too close to a terrorists name so a recruiter suggested that he include a photo of himself so no one would discriminate against him based purely on his name.
If you look too old or look too young for the position you are applying for or if the employer doesn’t like a certain race they could discriminate against you. It’s hard to know but it can and does happen in France.
Ultimately you have to think strategically and perhaps create a version of your CV with and without a photo and test to see which one gets more call backs.
One thing is for sure. If you do include a photo, make sure it’s a flattering, high quality head shot about the size of a passport photo. No blurry vacation photos with the person standing next to you cropped out. Try to use natural lighting with a neutral background. It’s ok to smile but don’t overdo it and ladies take it easy on the jewellery. Source
Don’t use an extra-large font for your name. You don’t want to draw attention away from the headline of your CV.
In France it’s common to write your last name before your first name in formal situations, on forms, legal documents and some people even do so on their CV.
If you have a name which makes it hard to differentiate between your first and last name like Martin, Simon and Andre or have a foreign name which might be difficult for French people to decipher, write your family name in ALL CAPS, and first name in lower letters.
Example: I could write my name as Annie ANDRÉ or ANDRÉ Annie and a French hiring manager would look at either combination and understand André is my family name because it is in all caps.
Most recruiters expect and want to see your age on your CV and many French people do include it but……
If you think you might be discriminated against because you are too old or too young for the job you are applying for, consider omitting your age. However, some recruiters say it’s futile to exclude your age because if an employer really wants to know how old you are, and they usually do, they’ll try to deduce your age based on the year you graduated or by looking through your work experience section.
Why not test out the waters and create one CV with your age and one without and see if one fares better than the other.
Just skip it
It used to be second nature to include your marital status on your CV in France but these days it’s more or less rare. Those that do include their marital status tend to be younger, under 25 and single which can work to your advantage in certain situations.
You may be discriminated against if you include the number of children you have on your CV.
There was once a time in France when people regularly included on their CV the ages and number of children they had but today it’s almost never included. Probably because employers discriminated against women fearing they would miss work due to a sick child.
For some it may be necessary to prove you have reliable transportation to get to work.
In France, it’s not uncommon for people under 25 to indicate whether or not they have a drivers permit called a “permis B”. Some people even go so far as to indicate they own a car ” voiture personnelle “.
If you live in a more rural area of France where a car is necessary to get to work it may be a good idea to indicate this however If you are applying for a job in Paris and live in Paris, you have access to the metro and won’t need to indicate if you have a permit to drive or not.
Obviously, if you don’t yet live in France, you won’t have a French drivers permit. Either way, you won’t be penalized if you leave this off your CV so just omit it.
The general consensus is, if you’re not French, you should include your nationality.
It can be to your advantage to include your nationality, especially in cases when your native language skills are essential job requirements.
If you’re not authorized to work in France, you won’t get as many responses from employers because of all the red tape a company has to go through to hire non EU and non French citizens who don’t already have the right to work in France. They not only have to sponsor your work visa but they usually have to attest that no French person is available for the job. Your chances of getting sponsored to work for a company increase depending on the industry.
( Coordonnées) or (Contact)
It’s very important that you include all your contact information correctly but if you don’t live in France, you’ll have some challenges in terms of how you list your address and phone number on your CV. You may also need to include links to some of your social media accounts or websites if they are pertinent to the job you are applying to.
There are 5 different contact details which you’ll need to consider including and they are:
-Website links such as to your portfolio, blog or online resume.
-Social media links
Always include your full address no abbreviations. If you live outside of France, here is what you should put in he address field on your CV.
Employers like it when a potential candidate lives nearby for obvious reasons but if you don’t live in France you should let the hiring manager know that you don’t live locally but are willing to relocate.
Here are a couple of examples of what you could put in lieu of your actual address.
Make sure to use your cover letter, which is called “une lettre de motivation” to explain in more detail your situation.
You can of course always include your foreign address and if you do make sure you use your full address (no abbreviations).
If you live outside of France, be sure to prefix your phone number with your country code.
Include the best pone number where a recruiter can contact you. I suggest a cell phone number rather than a landline. If you’re located outside of France, make sure you include your country code with a (+) followed by your phone number.
For example the country code for Canada and the US is 1 so if your phone number was 415-867-5309 you would put +1 in front of the number like this:
(+1) 415-867-5309 or this +1 415-867-5309
Always include a professional email address.
In this day and age, it’s pretty much a give-in that you need to include an email address on your CV. Just make sure to use a professional looking one.
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com are NOT PROFESSIONAL looking.
Only include links to your website, portfolio or blog if it’s pertinent to the job you are targeting.
If you have an online version of your resume, you can list that address.
Think twice before including your social media links, it could hurt your chances.
Include links to your social media accounts if you think it’s applicable. LinkedIn, YouTube etc. Never include Facebook or social media if you think employers won’t like what they see. For instance did you know you could tank your job search by posting too many selfies because you might look like a narcissist
Unless you are a new graduate, your professional experience is going to be the meat and potatoes of your CV and you will list this section towards the top of your CV before your education.
Be careful to list the most recent jobs and exclude the ones that are too old, or don’t demonstrate your ability to do the job you are applying to, especially if you think it will help keep your resume to 1 page.
If you don’t have enough professional experience, add your internships, volunteer work, student organizations, military service or awards.
Below are things for you to consider when writing this section of your CV.
Job Description / Your role
When describing your duties for each of your previous companies, don’t list every single duty and skill you learned at each job. The hiring manager is only interested in the duties that demonstrate you are well suited to do the job you are applying for.
Write a phrase or two describing your job role and keep sentence structure short and concise. Use industry standard keywords when you can, the hiring managers will be looking for those and if your CV lands in a searchable database, it will help your CV pop up on more searches.
In some cases you may be able to exclude your job description all together.
If you held the same position or performed the same duties from job to job, why bother writing out the same thing under each job?
Instead use the “skills & competencies” section to highlight your, and group your competencies and domain skills. Doing so no only makes i easier for hiring managers to digest your CV in one sitting, it also helps keep your CV to one page which hiring managers love.
In some cases you may need to write a more elaborate job description.
On the other hand, if your experience matches the position you are applying for and you want to call attention to it, you can opt to write out your tasks, achievements or responsibilities in more detail.
Don’t forget to include other pertinent information such as industry, company name, city, country and dates.
France does not use the same date format as the US. If you want to put the complete date for anything make sure you use this format- DD/MM/YEAR.
Do you know what a BAC, BTS or a License is? Probably not because the education system in France is very different from the Anglo-Saxon systems. French recruiters may be equally clueless about the degree, diploma or training you received in your home country.
In order to make your level of education clear to French employers, you need to find the closest French equivalent degree or training to yours and list that on your CV along with the original name of your degree.
It can be confusing to find the equivalent French degree, so I created a chart comparing a few degrees from several English-speaking countries. Use it as a guide not as gospel. In other words do your own research because there is a lot of gray area.
If I have a 4 year bachelors degree from UC Santa Cruz and graduated in 2001, I could write my education like this on my CV:
License en Economie- (BAC + 4),
2001, University of California Santa Cruz
Bachelors Degree in Economics
Although not required, most recruiters agree that including a skills section on your CV can be powerful because it can help employers QUICKLY ascertain your domain skills and competencies which can give you a leg up over other applicants.
This isn’t a dumping ground for every skill you’ve ever learned at every job. Employers only want to see those core skills and competencies as they relate to the job you are applying for.
If you have a lot of different skills, I suggest organizing them into domain groups or categories which will make it easier for employers to skim your skills.
For example “Sales”, “Marketing,” “Writing,”. Under each domain heading, you would then list the skills associated with it.
Your applying for a job in France and you’re not French. Of course you should state your French language level.
The language section is usually towards the bottom of the CV however if language skills are an important requirements of the job, consider calling attention to it by mentioning it in your title or resume summary at the top of your CV or pushing the language skills section up higher on your resume.
Be sure to also indicate your native language and any other languages you speak along with the level at which you speak.
When you describe the level at which you speak -try to be as specific as possible and never EXAGGERATE your language skills because it’s just too easy to verify.
You can use the CEFR system or self evaluate your language skills.
a- Use CEFR system (CECRL)
If you have taken a French test like the DELF, DILF, DALF, TCF or the TEF, than you know that student language level results are divided into six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. This system is called CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference).
Using the standardized CEFR system will make it immediately understood at what level you speak. Don’t forget to include your mother tongue and state that it is your native language.
b- Self evaluate
If you have not taken an official French language assessment test, you can self evaluate your French language level by guessing or take one of the many Free online French tests which will give you a ball park of your language proficiency.
Where to test your language skills online for Free
(Below is a text version of the cheat sheet above with French translation in parenthesis)
Here is an example of how you can describe your language level on your CV.
Anglais: Langue Maternelle
Français: Courant (niveau C1)
Allemagne: Scolaire (niveau A1)
In this day and age, it can be important to show you have certain software and computer skills. No need to list everything, just the skills that are important for the job you are applying for. And don’t forget to mention the Microsoft office suite or any other program known by the company or the industry like SAP or Oracle for example.
In addition to listing the software and computer skills that relate to the job you are applying for, you can also demonstrate your level of expertise either through written words or visually.
Using visuals looks great but is not appropriate for all industries. For example a graphic artist might be able to get away with visually showing his or her skill using pretty graphics but an accountant might not.
Another thing to note is that some companies might have an internal database that scans resumes for keywords. Showing your skill level visually will not be scannable so make sure you also have an all text version of your CV on hand.
Photoshop, Powerpoint, Excel
Powerpoint: Good knowledge
French employers won’t care if you exclude this section from your CV however including it can work to your advantage and set you apart from the other candidates if you know how to do it strategically
It may seem irrelevant and unprofessional to include your hobbies and interests on your CV, especially if you are from North America but in France it’s not seen as something silly. Most job seekers in France actually do include this section on their CV and you should to if you can.
Although French employers won’t care if you exclude this section, including your extracurricular activities might be the thing which will catch employers’ attention, help you stand out from other candidates and land you an interview.
When, what and how to include hobbies and interests on your CV
First of all, the hobbies and interests section is not a catch all category where you dump any and all of your hobbies like yachting and pressing flowers. What use would that information be to a hiring manager?
Think strategically-do a little research and emphasize those hobbies and interests outside of work that have enabled you to develop useful skills in life that also align with the job you are targeting, a specific industry or particular company’s work culture.
What your hobbies and interests might say about you.
Not all will apply. Certain hobbies and interests will demonstrate different qualities and strengths which might match the qualities needed to perform a certain job or work in a certain industry.
For example, if an advertised job states that they are looking for someone who is “an outgoing team player”, you would not list stamp collecting as your hobby which is more of an individualistic and introverted hobby but instead you might list any team sports you participate in.
There are too many examples of hobbies that you could include on your CV but here is a short list of what certain hobbies and interests might say about you.
Try to list a range of hobbies and interests.
You should also try to provide a range of activities that show you have a variety of traits. If you do, you’ll show that you are flexible enough to be comfortable in different situations and you’ll be more relatable to a range of different people.
Don’t mention these hobbies and interests.
Don’t mention any religious affiliations or political affiliations unless they will help you get the job. Don’t mention expensive hobbies like yachting. Don’t mention any controversial associations like being a member of a pro abortion or pro gun group.
You now know all the parts of a CV for the French job market however there are a few things you need to know before you start writing it.
It’s a question that gets asked all the time and something you should keep in mind as you create your CV. The general consensus is a French CV should usually be 1 page and never ever be more than 2 pages. Not even if you’re the CEO of a company with 40 years experience.
Remember when I said the 20 things which you can include on your CV could be included in one of the 9 section. Well you don’t actually need to include all 9 sections- some can be combined.
For example: “Language skills” and “Computer skills ” could be combined into one section and you could rename it “Language and Computer skills”. (see screenshot above).
Work history should always be its own section.
Whether you combine sections or not is up to you. A lot will depend on the design, the structure and format you decide to use.
What goes where?
After your personal details, contact info and headline, you should organize each section by order of importance in terms of how they support your career objectives and your experience -with the most important and most supportive items towards the top.
If you are a seasoned bilingual financial analyst applying for a similar job in France than lead with your work experience followed by your languages.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
If you don’t speak much French, you’ll mostly likely find yourself restricted to searching for jobs posted in English. By all means apply to those jobs posted in English using an English version of your CV. Just make sure your CV conforms to French best practices (which I covered in this article).
But even if you only plan on applying to jobs in France which are posted in English, be prepared o have your CV translated to French in case any of the companies you apply to ask for a French version of your CV. This might happen if the hiring manager wants to show your CV to other decision makers in the company who don’t speak English or prefer to read in French.
If you speak or read passable French, you’ll open yourself up to many more job opportunities because you’ll be able to apply for jobs which are posted in French. In this case, you will definitely need to submit a translated version of your CV to job which are posted in French.
It’s essential that you create and save your CV so that it prints correctly onto A4 size paper which is the standard letter size in France and most of Europe. If you don’t, and you send them your CV saved as an 8.5 x 11 document, the words on your CV may run off the sides or print to the very edges. A4 paper is not as wide as US letter size. (see images below for a side by side comparison of the two).
In France, both PDF and Word formats are accepted for submission of a CV but pay attention to the job post to see if they specify any preferences.
I prefer to send PDF’s if the ad has no specifications because what you see is what you get whereas word docs have the potential to look different on different computers.
Don’t forget to name your CV document something useful and clear so that recruiters will recognize it by its name on their hard drive.
Instead of “resume.pdf” or “annie.pdf”, name your CV something more meaningful like:
Check out this infographic: I like visual aids so I created this Infographic using Pépé Le Pew’s CV as an example. It summarizes some of the finer points in this article.
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