Translating a Resume

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When you’re looking for a job, you want to put your best foot forward.  Getting your resume “just right” is enough of a challenge in English. However, if you’re looking for a job overseas, cultural differences can add a layer of complexity to the task that a simple, word-for-word translation can’t solve.

For example, when writer Jesse Newman of The Australian had his carefully tweaked resume translated into Chinese, native Chinese speakers were quick to let him know that his message was getting lost in translation. Newman explains:

“As a character-based system, Chinese focuses on key words to an extent that would be impossible in English. As a result, even in something as functional as a DVD player manual, basic Chinese sentences can seem like abstract poetry. In contrast, English, weighed down with the grammar of a dozen root languages, seems clunky and overly specific, full of wandering prose and repeated information when written down in the Chinese hanzi.”

Uh-oh. So, what can you do to keep your translated resume out of the reject pile?  First, obviously, don’t just rely on a direct translation. You need to work with someone who understands the business culture in the country where you are applying, and who is willing to work with you to make sure your resume  will project the image you’re looking for. You want your resume to get the coveted “second look,” but not because the entire office is laughing at it.

Then, try to talk with other people from the country you’d like to move to to see what else you can do to give your resume an edge. For example, Mr.  Newman ended up adding a picture to his, since Chinese managers look at appearance when they evaluate potential hires.

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