You have just six seconds to impress a recruiter with your CV with France being no exception to the golden rule. In the age of digital applications, recruiters and HR managers receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications daily. As such, you simply cannot afford to have a less-than-perfect CV. As a senior-level executive, HR will be even less forgiving if you do not tick all or most of the boxes of what is expected when handing in your application.
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Contact details in a French CV
Most of the obvious contact data is expected in the top part of your CV. These include:
- First name and family name. Family names are typically written in block capitals.
- Phone number
- Email address
If you think that they would play a significant part, you might want to include the following:
- Sex (especially if your name is ambiguous)
- A headshot
We advise against including information that is irrelevant to the recruiter:
- Marital status
- Parents’ professions
- Fax number
- Type of driving license
Depending on the job you apply for, you may want to adjust it. For instance, a regional manager might be expected to drive to perform their duties. In that case, a driving license might be a prerequisite for the position and should be mentioned in the résumé.
Education goes first in the French résumé
Unlike most countries, your education is expected BEFORE your professional experience. Just like most countries however, your education should be listed anti-chronologically. The information you should include is:
- Dates of the course (the year is enough)
- Name of the university/institution you attended
- Name of the degree you completed
The most common difficulty here is to convey relevant information that normally does not translate well. Do you put A-Levels or baccalauréat? High school diploma is rather clear, but would a French recruiter know what an Abitur is? My piece of advice on this: assume the recruiter is an idiot. Put yourself in their shoes: would you understand what 高校卒業程度認定 is? Always adapt your CV to your audience and make it as accessible as possible.
Regardless, your high school diploma is most likely irrelevant at this point of your career. Stick to tertiary education. And try to adjust the name of your diplomas, even if it means undertranslating. As long as it is clear, you’re in the green.
If you have a lot of experience, keep your education as short as possible.
Professional experience is vital in a French CV
The backbone of your CV: this is what the recruiter is most interested in and will peruse to assess whether you are worthy of staying in the mix for the further recruiting process.
Like for your education, you ought to ensure your latest experiences come first. You must include the following items:
- Dates of your activity
- Name of the company/institution you worked for
- A short list of the tasks and responsibilities you had
Definitely skip the summer jobs you had 30 years ago. Nobody cares about your skills at flipping burgers. The latest positions you had should be more detailed since they are more likely to interest the recruiter. You may want to make an exception if an older job had tasks that are closer those of the job you are applying for.
Try to drop some key facts and numbers. Numbers are an eye catcher. Mention how many people you managed. Boast about how much revenue you generated. Let slip how much of a budget you had at your disposal. Brag about the biggest deal you closed. Three words: KPI, KPI, KPI.
Skills in a French CV
There is a bunch of skills you probably want to add in this category
You are expected to speak English at this level of your career. Any other language is usually a plus, and sometimes an icebreaker if it’s something unusual. Be honest about your level, you might have to put your skills to the test. Avoid fictional languages; Klingon and Na’vi are of moderate use in the 2020s.
“IT skills” is a section that includes a broad range of talents, from using a Mac computer to advanced programming in Ruby. Think this one through and only mention what is relevant. If you are a whiz at using a specific CRM software required for a job of “Director of Customer Service”, make sure you state it. You probably, however, want to focus on the following section…
You can shine a lot more there – team management, project management, coaching, mentoring, start-up experience. You should have a lot to mention in here. Make sure you have good examples and anecdotes to illustrates your achievements.
Hobbies and interests in a French résumé
Childish? I would disagree. Hiring managers love to know how you spend your spare time. They are expected, so time to rack your brains. Do you like to “read, listen to music, travel?” Congratulations, your interests overlap with 99% of the other CVs. Be specific: if you like to read, then what kind of literature? Fiction or non-fiction? You stand out as an aficionado of Hungarian literature of the 18th century, not as someone who “likes to read.”
Note that references are usually not mentioned or asked for in France.
Let’s recap on your French CV
Now that you have the keys to ace your French CV, time to check you ticked all the miscellaneous boxes that are oh-so easy to miss:
- Your CV should not exceed 2 pages, 3 if you have more than 30 years of experience.
- Do not use preformatted CVs (like Europass)
- Make sure the file you use is named after you. How many CV.doc do you think HR receives?
- No Word file. Convert and send a PDF file.
- Avoid garish colors.
- Avoid creative layouts. Prefer simple elegance.
- Make sure you use the same font throughout the whole document.
- Proofread (the spellcheck will let you write “genital skills” instead of “digital skills”.)
- Use a recent, professional picture (headshot)
- Use today’s date.