What is the right language for your resume?
Some days ago, I found myself strenuously arguing for my view about the language that should be used when drawing a professional profile. My view is the following: whether we’re talking about a CV or a covering letter, your documents should be written in Italian first. Italy has its own culture and language; it hasn’t been colonised by the UK or US yet, as other countries have been, so we should stick to Italian.
Nevertheless, producing another CV in a different language might be appropriate in the following cases:
The job advert you’re responding to is in a specific language, e.g. English. This requires that your CV, covering letter and any further document be written in English.
During an interview with a head hunter, you’re made an offer and you’re asked to provide a CV in English (or another language) for the selection process to be started.
The company has its headquarter in a different country, and the person or department you’re applying to is based in that country; in this case, you should use that country’s language or English, which is recognised as the language of business.
In short, you should respond to a job advert in the same language it’s written in, as a matter of politeness if nothing else. Moreover, even though we’re in Europe and the business world mainly uses English as a lingua franca, English should not necessarily be considered the standard language for job applications. For example, try to picture the effect a letter written in English might have on a French company!
Writing a CV in a different language is not a matter of vocabulary only
Each country has its own rules and customs. Knowing them from the outside isn’t easy, so if you plan to find a job in a country other than Italy you’d better spend some time in that country and build a network there. You should also gather information on how job selections are usually carried out, but this can be preliminarily done from home through the Internet. Let me give you a couple of examples:
- The Europass CV is a well-known CV format: it’s not, however, the preferred format in Italy, and I doubt it is in any other European country.
- In the UK, a CV should not only focus on the roles you’ve covered but also on your achievements. While such a format would also be appropriate to the Italian market, it’s not so widespread yet.
- In German-speaking countries, providing evidence for everything you list on your CV is standard practice: mentioning your studies and titles, for instance, is not enough; this should be supplemented by producing all the relevant certificates and qualifications. It’s also advisable to translate all your references in German and attach them to your application.
- Switzerland presents a variety of cases: in the German and French areas, which host many multinational company, English is the most common language; it’s used throughout the selection process, during the interview and in the work environment. In German Switzerland, however, you should definitely have full mastery of German in order to apply to top-rank positions in leading companies.
- The US is a world apart. Dates are not necessary and pictures should be avoided, along with all information that might somehow prejudice the recruiters’ judgement or otherwise come into conflict with the country’s strict equal opportunities law.
Finally, let me spend a couple of words on the professional CV writing services that are available on the net. They’re generally offered by agencies based in English-speaking countries, so they usually write in English and focus on the formats required in the UK or US. My advice is to avoid resorting to such services: make the effort to write your own CV or look for agencies that offer services tailored to the country of your choice.
Article by Cristina Gianotti
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Easy Milano is the online publication for the international community of Milan. We offer practical tips, key information and essential insights about living and working in Italy. Easy Milano has been assisting English speaking expats in Milan since 1999.
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