While plenty of guides and professional services for CV writing and design are available online, little information is available about regional variations as you move southwards to land a job.
From cultural differences to legal restrictions, many aspects affect how your CV should be laid out, written and presented to maximize your chances of landing your desired position.
You might have noticed the contrast between the conciseness of American job applications compared to the wordy, lengthy hoja de vida that is typical south of the equator.
This is partly due to a highly ornamental language variation that we call ‘formal Spanish’. For example, in my experience as a professional translator I often observe that official texts translated from English can be up to 30% lengthier when translated into Spanish.
However, an eye-tracking study suggests recruiters spend only six seconds considering an individual resume. Recruiters are busy people all over the world and it’s better to keep the conciseness of the American CV when applying to Spanish-speaking employers.
The conciseness of the American résumé works in your favor on two fronts: first, it sets you apart from local competition; and second, it is objectively easier on the eyes, allowing recruiters to skim through and understand your experience and education, even if they are non-fluent English speakers.
In the Anglophone world, strict anti-discrimination laws have led employers to prefer CVs with no photos on them, unless your image is essential to the job—such as acting or modelling. Strangely, this convention didn’t keep LinkedIn from emphasizing the importance of pictures.
In this regard, Latin America is an entirely different world: google “foto para tu CV” and you will come up with info on how your photo ought to be, not whether you should have one or not. Needless to say, it is your choice after all; but including your photo when applying with a LatAm company cannot hurt. Leave it out if the prospective employer is based in the US or Europe.
Related to these differences, other elements frequently found in CVs in Latin America are details of your personal life: marital status, age, personal ID number (cedula), personal contacts—the kinds that make foreigners hot and bothered. Feel free to leave these out as they won’t amplify or diminish your suitability for a role with any respectable employer.
A frequent question job seekers have is whether or not to send their CV in Spanish when applying for a position at a LatAm-based company. A rule of thumb could be: only if you speak the language fluently and it is a specific requirement for the position.
If you do not speak the language, prospective employers would still consider you for an English-speaking position, or simply find that you do not fulfill the language requirements.
His advice went straight to the point: “In the US, a lot of companies still ask for a CV and cover letter. Also, candidates usually add their college GPA and their volunteer work. I don’t see companies in LATAM asking for this type of information,” Gama Filho shares.
Higher education and relevant experience, important for recruiters everywhere, are even more so in LatAm countries. To let the CV speak for itself, without a cover letter, can be daunting for an expat-to-be.
Furthermore, it is no secret that previous international experience can make or break your application, as it tells of additional skills and a broader outlook that makes you fit to work in an international environment.
Even if it’s the first time that you have worked abroad, make sure to display your multicultural skills: “LATAM companies like to see international experiences such as high school or an internship,” says Gama Filho.
While many large companies go through painstakingly strict reference verification processes, many smaller companies—both in LatAm and the US—would see it as a barrier if the references didn’t speak Spanish. At times, this could drive them to discard a CV in favor of similarly qualified prospects with references that are easier to reach and converse with.
Giving priority to bilingual references with clear location and commercial or cultural ties to the region in order to improve your chances of success.