Guide to Finding a Job Abroad

Many people make excuses why it would be too hard for them to move abroad.
I don't speak the language...
Visas are too hard to get...
I don't have enough money...

Possibly the most common complaint is the uncertainty of finding a job in another country. However, there are solutions to all of these problems. To conduct an international job search it takes a lot of research, hard work, flexibility, and commitment, but the leagues of expats living and working abroad can attest that it is possible.

Résumé versus CV

An important aspect of your job search is presenting your credentials in the manner that is acceptable to your new country. Depending on where you relocate, you may need to write either a résumé or a curriculum vitae (abbreviated as CV). In some cases, you may need both documents and it may need to be written or translated into the native language of the country in which you wish to work. In addition, you will also need to write a template cover letter that you can adapt to apply for different jobs. Writing a résumé or a CV often requires several hours, and the finished document must be absolutely error free.

A résumé is a brief overview of your credentials and is viewed as a marketing or promotional document. It typically includes a heading at the top of the page that includes your name and contact information in bold type, with information about your education, job experience, and skills listed below. A résumé is typically limited to a single page, although professionals with extensive experience may have a two-page résumé (with no heading on the second page). Photos are almost never included on a résumé, except for aspiring performers or models.

A CV is a detailed document that includes all the information found on a résumé, but in much more detail. A CV includes a heading with contact information and information within each of its sections listed in reverse chronological order. However, unlike a conventional résumé, conventional CVs often run several pages long. For a seasoned professional who has an extensive publication history, a CV of more than 10 pages is not uncommon.

Be aware that hiring practices in some countries are subject to discrimination as there are few or no anti-discrimination laws. Job listings may specify that applicants must fall within a certain age range, ethnicity, or state a preference for male or female candidates. This may be an unavoidable obstacle, so research the standards of the country in which you wish to move carefully.

Where should you use a CV or Résumé?

Employers in Africa tend to prefer candidates to submit a CV, although some international employers may prefer candidates to submit a résumé. The CV should include a similar level of detail as CVs for southern or Eastern Europe, including a photo. One exception is South Africa, where two types of CVs are commonly used: the brief profile or the comprehensive CV. A brief profile is a one page letter that functions as part of an initial job inquiry that includes your education and a chronological listing of your previous job experience. Your comprehensive CV should also be limited to one or two pages, although if you have extensive experience, you can include additional pages.

Many Asian cultures emphasize modesty; your CV should reflect this fact. Research the traditions of the particular country in which you wish to work and tailor your CV accordingly. For instance, in Hong Kong, you should limit your CV to one or two pages. CVs for employers in India should also be no more than two pages and should never include your place of birth, race or religion. On the other hand, your education section should include detailed information, including dates of attendance and course of study. On the other hand, in Japan, you may submit a Rirekisho, a traditional Japanese two-page CV that is much less structured and detailed than CVs in southern Europe or the Middle East. This should be handwritten, preferably in Japanese, with a photo.

Australia and New Zealand
Employers in Australia and New Zealand favor CVs that are no more than two pages long and list qualifications in reverse chronological order. However, employers in New Zealand are often receptive to functional CVs that emphasize skill sets rather than job titles. Scannable paper and electronic CVs that contain keywords relevant to the position for which the CV is being submitted are important for job candidates in both countries. Job candidates for both countries should also include a list of references with contact information at the end of their CVs. Employers check references, so it's wise to give them a heads-up in advance. Cover letters are usually expected for paper and electronic CVs.

Middle East
The Middle East prefers very detailed CVs from job candidates. For instance, employers in the United Arab Emirates expect your CV to cover at least the last 15 years, and to cover no fewer than four pages. Photos are almost always mandatory. Employers also expect to see detailed personal information included in the contact section including age and marital status. Additionally, employers in the Middle East expect to see detailed information about your course of study and detailed information about your accomplishments included with each individual job listing. Beware that behavior that goes against Muslim law may result in negative feedback. For example, if you are unmarried and living with a romantic partner, this information should not be included. Always include a cover letter.

North America
American or Canadian companies operating overseas also often require applicants to submit résumés. Many employers strongly prefer the reverse chronological format, although combination résumés are also acceptable. Functional résumés are often viewed with suspicion, although a good cover letter can overcome many employer misgivings. Increasingly, applications are submitted by email. Cover letters are expected. Never include a photo with your résumé unless you are applying for a job as a model or in the entertainment industry. Employers check references, so it's wise to give them a heads-up in advance.

An exception to the rule for North America's preference for résumés is in the area of academics or research. A full CV is often required in these fields in the United States and Canada. Photos, however, are still usually omitted.

Northern Europe
Northern European employers expect your résumé to be straightforward. Always include a cover letter. Countries in northern and western Europe vary in whether they prefer a résumé or a CV. For instance, in Finland, many professionals use a résumé rather than a CV. Young professionals in particular usually stick to a single-page résumé. Photos are not usually required; however, attaching a scanned photo to your résumé may help it stand out from those of other candidates.

Western Europe
In the United Kingdom and continental Europe, a hybrid CV is usually expected for most positions. Include the following sections on your CV in the order listed: contact information, professional experience, education, diplomas or certificates, languages that you speak, read or write fluently, computer skills and work related personal interests. However, all information included should be to the point. For instance, German CVs may be shorter than in other areas of the world as they should be straightforward and direct. In France, a CV should be limited to no more than two pages. Always include a cover letter. Many employers, except in the IT sector, may request you to write your cover letter by hand. This is for employers who wish to use graphology as a screening tool. Photos are usually not expected.

Southern and Eastern Europe
Employers in Southern and Eastern Europe usually expect to see a CV that includes detailed personal and professional information. For instance, the contact section on a CV for Spain should include - in addition to your name, address an phone number - your place and date of birth, marital status, gender and number of children. You should also include a recent photo. Explain any work gaps on your CV in your cover letter. In Portugal, the contact information section includes similar information as for a CV for Spain. In addition, it is often common to mention your religious affiliation and whether you have a valid driver's license. For Portuguese employers, your CV should be no more than four A4 format pages.

South America
South American employers strongly favor CVs. Candidates are usually, but not always, expected to include photos with their CVs. For instance, for Argentina, your CV should include the following sections, with information in each section listed in reverse chronological order: personal details, education, extracurricular activities, professional experience, languages, computer skills, and a miscellaneous section for information such as military service. Getting your CV to the right person is very important to ensure that your application receives prompt attention. This often involves doing some detective work to find contact information. Cover letters are also expected.

International Job Search Strategies

It's true that finding a job abroad can be a challenge, but it is far from impossible. Here are some methods for conducting your search.

Internet Resources

International job boards, employment agencies and national agencies can all be found online. These can help you locate available positions, average salaries, and desirable skill sets. Sites will also allow you to post your resume so international employers can search for you. Use keywords like "international job listings" or "job title" and "country" to find pertinent positions.

EasyExpat international job listings are also a great resource for finding a job abroad. Also try


Another possibility is to enlist with a clearinghouse that matches candidates with available jobs. Such services also often take care of obtaining necessary work permits for their clients. The jobs that are available are often service oriented jobs, and you may be required to pay a fee, but if you are more concerned with living in a particular country than with the type of work you do, such services are a viable option.

Social Networking

Social networking platforms like LinkedIn or Xing represent a rich resource for international job listings. Take advantage of the job search function to search for job leads in countries where you want to work, or for companies for which you would like to work. Join groups within the social networking platform that include international job listings, as well as discussion boards. Reach out to your connections within LinkedIn for introductions to company officers at companies that interest you.

Popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter can also help you reach out to contacts and find work. People you know may know of positions you are eligible for, or put you in contact with people who do.

College and University Listings

If you attended classes at a college or university, that should be one of the first places you look for international job opportunities. Many college and university career offices have job listings that are searchable by region as well as by type of work and required experience levels that are exclusively available to their students and alumni. You may also be able to make connections with alumni who are working abroad. They can refer you to possible leads within their companies or in the country.

Personal Contacts

Many people find that people they already know are a resource for finding jobs abroad. Your personal contacts abroad, as well as people living in the same country as you, may have surprising contacts. The more you can expand your network and spread the word, the better your chances of finding a position. Let people know what you are looking for, and what you can offer.

Alternative Paths to Working Abroad

Working Holiday Visa

A working holiday visa can be a great way for a young person to begin their career abroad. The program was initiated by Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and most countries in the developed world participate in the program. A notable exception is the United States of America, whose citizens are often excluded from working holiday programs as a result. In addition, depending on your home country and the country or countries in which you wish to work, there may be quotas on the number of working holiday visas issued. Age limits vary, but a majority of programs specify that citizens must be between the ages of 18 and 30.

If you obtain a working holiday visa for a country within the Schengen Area of Europe, you are also permitted to travel freely within the region for up to 90 days without obtaining a separate visa during the time that your working holiday visa is valid. Working holiday visa holders in many participating countries are often permitted to study at university while they are in their host countries. Working holiday visa holders who wish to work in other countries as well as their original host countries are often able to do so without returning to their home countries, as long as they initiate their applications while their original holiday visas are valid.

Each country has specific requirements for working holiday visas. However, all working holiday programs require applicants to have a valid passport for their home countries. If you are living in another country at the time of your application, you will probably need to present a valid resident permit for that country as well. You will also need to set aside sufficient funds to cover your expenses while you look for work, unless you have arranged a job offer before your arrival in the host country.

Teaching English Abroad

If you a native English speaker (or are fluent), a position as an English teacher or tutor may provide the opportunity to visit countries worldwide and be paid for the privilege. You may teach in a public or private classroom, or as a tutor providing one-on-one instruction. If you're interested in teaching English in Asia, you may find that competition is less stiff and requirements are less stringent. By contrast, many western Europeans learn English in school, so finding an English teaching position may be extremely challenging. Some people are able to find work with few qualifications, but it is best to have a university degree and certification. Certification commonly includes Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Working as an independent tutor is another option. It means more independence and usually higher pay per hour, but it also means finding your own clients. You may place ads in business newspapers or bulletin boards. Posting notices on expat oriented websites is another option. A university degree in education along with extensive experience in teaching English will make it easier for you to find private clients.

Volunteer Organizations

If you're willing to work for minimal wages, many volunteer abroad organizations provide workers with room and board. Some also provide a living stipend either during your volunteer assignment or after you've completed your work. Available work assignments vary from manual labor to highly skilled professional duties.

Create Your Own Job

If you are self-employed or work in the growing field as a digital nomad, you are already prepared to become geographically independent. If you think you are prepared to work for yourself, the opportunities are endless. Evaluate your talents, and if there is a market for them. Create a business plan, research your visa options as a freelancer or independent contractor, and then just do it!

Visas and Work Permits

The last thing to consider is one of the most important. You must have a proper work and residence permit to succeed overseas. If you have a job offer in hand, your employer usually sponsors your visa application. Otherwise, you must initiate your own application process to obtain a work permit for your new country. Research your options well before your move to avoid a situation that is truly impossible.

If you are married or living with a partner, you must also consider the effect an overseas move may have on your relationship. The "trailing spouse" may be allowed to accompany his or her spouse to an overseas assignment, but may not be legally allowed to work. Evaluate whether that is an acceptable situation for you family.

To research your options, read or download the complete country guides.