The #1 Change All Expats Need to Make to their Resumes

Posted on Nov 11, 2015 | 0 comments

The #1 Change All Expats Need to Make to their Resumes

After living overseas, expat resumes can often look a little fragmented. There are breaks in the work history, jobs that appear like they don’t fit in the career trajectory, and skills that are unique and often location-specific. Expat accompanying partners take jobs for a variety of reasons, not just because they will clearly help their careers grow. That being said, experiences outside of your home country are incredibly valuable in this global economy IF you know how to clearly explain how your time overseas will benefit your potential employer.


An easy way to make sure this is clear on your resume is to include a Key Qualifications section as the first section. You may already know that not all employers will read every single bullet on your resume. They will probably read your headers and maybe a few bullets under each one. But, if you have a key qualifications section, they will probably read it in its entirety. A key qualifications section is short and direct enough to be worth the employer’s time to read it.


Another reason this section is so important is because it serves as your introduction. You get the chance to define who you are instead of having the employer read your job titles and decide who you are. If you have a work history that doesn’t seem very logical, this is incredibly important. You don’t want the employer to read:


  • Mail Room Supervisor
  • Advertising Executive
  • Advertising Associate


Without a key qualifications summary, this looks strange. But with a key qualifications section, this can look more logical. Let’s say this person (the advertising turned mail room person) is heading back to their home country and wants to return to advertising. In this case, a key qualifications section could read something like:


“Advertising executive with over ten years of experience managing contracts for clients such as Unilever and Proctor & Gamble. While on sabbatical for three years, served the British Government while working at the High Commission while in Nairobi, Kenya. Able to effectively manage both UK and foreign employees and advocate for improved systems.”


As you can see, a key qualifications section is normally three or four phrases or sentences that quickly describes who you are. Imagine that you meet a potential employer at a cocktail party and they say, “Tell me who you are in 30 seconds or less.” What would you say that would convince them that they want to know more about you in an interview? This is exactly what you need to include in your key qualifications section.


Make sure to phrase this section in a way that’s relevant to the position you’re applying for. In the case of our example, had she decided to apply for other positions in a mail room (perhaps during another overseas assignment), her key qualifications section would look different. She’d want to highlight her experience in a mail room first and maybe even leave her advertising experience out unless she thinks that it is relevant to her ability to supervise a mail room. Here’s an example of what it could look like:


“Experienced mail room supervisor including three years at the British High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. Over ten years experience as a manager of both UK and Kenyan staff. Excels in roles that require attention to detail and exceptional organizational skills.”


In each of these examples, the candidate is presenting the facts that are relevant to the position to which she is applying. She is not presenting herself as an advertising executive when those are not the most relevant skills for the position.


In addition to the paragraph, some people also like to include a short (no more than four lines) bulleted list under the paragraph to further highlight key skills. When compiling this list, make sure to include your skills that are most relevant to the position and cross-check this with the job announcement to make sure you’re hitting on the points your potential employer is looking for.


With a key qualifications section, you get the chance to introduce yourself and pull out the most salient points from your resume. This puts you in control of how you’re perceived by your potential employer. And that’s always better for you!


Research country-specific CV, resume, and cover letter guidelines in Passport Career’s Country Portfolios – “Tools and Techniques” chapters.



Passport Career provides more detailed career information and extensive resources about networking, finding a job, internship, alternative career opportunities as well as information on writing CVs, cover letters and interviews. If your organization, embassy, university/college, library, or other institution would like access to our country portfolios (15,000+ pages of expert content for 80+ countries and 250+ cities) to share with your students, employees, spouses/partners, and others managing a national or international career transition, please contact us (or send email to: regarding a free, live, online demo and details on how to obtain a license to access Passport Career.

Anna Sparks, Expert Global Career Consultant

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