Now that you’ve found your dream job in France, how do you get shortlisted with that perfect CV?
It’s important to remember that every country has its own CV standards to abide to. This may impact the structure, length, and general format among other things. Depending on the industry type, even the tone that is expected from a potential candidate will differ. For example, a CV for the U.S. market would look different from the UK market.
Given that applying for a job is a relatively important task. Being prepared and following clear steps to maximise your chances to get that job is crucial. So let’s explore these important steps to help you nail that perfect CV for the French job market.
Let’s start with the basics.
Before you begin, it’s important to note that a resume is referred to as a “CV” in France. Whilst you may think this is a minor detail, it’s crucial to know the difference, because a resume in French merely refers to a ‘summary’.
As such, when sending your CV to a prospective employer, make sure to include your name and the word CV in the title.
Whilst summarising your experience might not be an easy task, French employers will expect you to master this skill. A golden rule of thumb when writing a CV is to keep it to one page. If all your information is not fitting within one page, then you can go up to two pages (maximum).
The most common structure for a French CV is the following:
- Work experience
This may sound surprising but in France, employers prefer to see rigorously detailed information about their potential candidate. In terms of personal information, include your name, your address, your phone number as well as your date of birth (or age) and your marital status.
A good tip is to put your first name in capital letters. In France, it’s quite common to have surnames that are also first names, such as Robert or Martin. In this case, highlighting your first name makes it easy to tell the difference.
In today’s world, speaking more than one language can give you a competitive advantage. So don’t shy away from including the list of languages you’re proficient at.
Just like other parts of the world, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are also now widely used in France. Originally, these tools were mostly used by larger job listing websites receiving hundreds of CVs per day.
But now, even smaller companies are using them to help narrow down the quality of their candidates. Keeping that in mind, the formatting of your CV should be kept simple, clean, and easy to read.
Most importantly, include keywords that will help you stand out in the tracking system. For example, if the employer has mentioned ‘multitasking’ as one of the skills they’re looking for, then make sure to include that in your CV.
Additional tips to consider when writing and formatting:
- use easy-to-read fonts such as arial or calibri,
- avoid icons or emojis (which can interfere with the tracking)
- and avoid highly creative formats
It helps to know the preferred file type of a recruiter or prospective employer. Most times, this will be mentioned in the job description or the platform you use to apply.
Although a PDF file is often the safest option, most ATSs are not compatible with this file format. So if you are applying through a recruiting platform, it may be best to submit a Word document.
Alternatively, if you know the person who is hiring and / or sending it to an email address, then PDF is the way to go.
7 essential steps to drafting the perfect French resume
1. Personal & Contact Details
Otherwise known as “Informations Personelles” in French.
As briefly mentioned above, in France, personal and contact details are expected to be more detailed. In addition to the usual first and last name, ensure you have included:
- your postal and email address,
- your age (or date of birth),
- your marital status
- and a corporate portrait, if requested.
Don’t forget that the picture should reflect who you are as a professional, this means that a passport-sized headshot is recommended rather than a selfie.
Though these extra details are expected on a typical French CV, if you feel uncomfortable displaying them, then you can choose not to include it.
We are big advocates of using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn or Viadeo. LinkedIn just started getting popular in France, and is being vastly used by many professionals across different industries. So if you have an account with either or (which we highly encourage), make sure to have your personal details up to date and include most of your information on there.
And last but not least, if you live abroad, don’t forget to mention your country code with your mobile number. These small details make a huge difference.
2. Professional Project or Personal Summary
Otherwise known as “Introduction / Projet professionnel” in French.
This section should be kept fairly short (3 – 4 sentences maximum) and highlight your goals.
A personal summary should sum up your CV highlighting the reasons why the hiring manager should hire you. In this section, you can get creative and ensure to include keywords that are used in the job description (with moderation).
A personal summary is always tailored according to the position and company you are applying for.
3. Education, Training & Certifications
Also known as “Formation” in French.
This section of your CV will vary, depending on where you’re at in your career. However, it’s important to know that in France, your academic background is taken very seriously.
Hence, we encourage you to emphasise your academic achievements including any qualifications, certifications, awards or training courses, in reverse chronological order.
Knowing that every country has its own academic and gradation system, it is worth sharing the French equivalent. Again, every detail counts!
4. Employment History
Also known as “Expérience Professionnelle” in French.
For your employment history, follow a chronological order, starting with your most recent position (same format as most countries).
Include a job title, start date, and end date of your time in that position, company’s name, and location.
Expand your work history by highlighting responsibilities for individual jobs. Please note, if it’s not relevant, then don’t include it. Remember, we don’t want the CV to exceed more than two pages.
Saying that, you should consider mentioning your top 2 – 3 achievements at each of your jobs to help your CV stand out.
Also known as “Compétences” in French
In this section, you’ll want to mention any skills that could be relevant to the job you are applying for. This could be technical, soft skills or even languages.
We often witness candidates showcase their language proficiency in a form of rating (with icons or in other creative ways), which isn’t compatible with an ATS tool. We recommend that you use words to describe your language proficiency such as Conversant, Proficient, Fluent, Bilingual or Native.
Also known as “centres d’intérêts” in French.
Hobbies are personal. Choose to highlight hobbies that define you but that you can easily speak about during interviews. Put forward anything that you believe may support your application and that you can ideally link to professional skills.
Keep it brief without going too much in detail. As it is, most interviewers tend to ask details about your career experience, interests and other achievements in detail during the interview,
Although you may be used to listing out references on a CV, in France this isn’t mandatory. You can provide them upon request instead.
We know for a fact that applying for a job can be daunting. On one hand, we want to showcase all of our attributes and experiences aligning to the job to catch the recruiter’s eye . But on the other hand, we have to abide by their particular standards which may feel challenging.
Luckily, with enough preparation work, by following our recommendations as well as asking someone (ideally French speaking) to review, you should have all you need to put your best foot forward. Good luck!