Advice for Chinese Job Hunters And Recent Graduates - How To Improve Your English Language Resume

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The word “resumé” is mainly used in American English. Originally, it is a French word meaning “summarised”. It is not the same word as the English verb “resume” (/’rezju:m/). As such, you should write it with the acute accent on the final letter: “é” and you should pronounce it /’rez-ju:-mei/.

In British English we normally use the letters “CV” to mean a resumé. CV stands for ‘curriculum vitae', which are words from the ancient language Latin, meaning “outline of my life”. People usually say the letters CV rather than saying the Latin words.

8 Tips That Are Guaranteed
To Help You Make A Better Impression
In Your English Language Resumé:

1. Why are you writing a version of your resumé in English? Because you want to show that you can use English, right?

The number one thing that is going to make a poor impression is bad English.

Here are the main areas to think about:
a) Capitalisation.
b) Punctuation.
c) Spacing.
d) Grammar and tenses.
e) Subject-verb agreement.
f) Word choice and word forms.
g) Spelling.

If you don’t know what the above mean, it’s quite likely you’re making a lot of mistakes already!

2. This simple piece of advice deserves a number all to itself:

Do NOT rely on a computer, Kingsoft dictionary, or software of any kind to “translate” Chinese into English.

The result is a horrible, horrible abomination of English that will send your resumé flying straight into the company recycling bin.

3. Even if you are a very advanced English user, you are going to make mistakes, because English isn’t your first language.

Make sure you ask a native English speaker to check your resume.

I guarantee the proof-reader will make changes, even if you have checked it a hundred times, and they will be able to suggest some improvements of wording to make your language “sound” more smooth or impressive.

4. When you are composing your English version resumé, don’t simply translate your Chinese version.

Here’s one basic example: in your Chinese resumé you might write a date period as “2002/09—2004/07” but to an English language reader that looks weird. You should write: “September 2002 – July 2004”.

Another example: in your Chinese resumé, you may list your family name separately from your given names (e. g. “Family Name: Li;… Given Name: George”), and you probably also list your gender (“male” / “female”). That’s not necessary in English, because your first name will tell us whether you’re a boy or girl (how many boys do you know called Susan?). And there’s no sense in separating your family name from your given names: just put them side by side: George Li.

There are a lot of more complicated ways that translation will lead to problems, so let me repeat: get a native speaker to proof-read your resumé.

5. Be careful about choosing an English name when applying for jobs. This is especially important if your potential employer is from a western country.

Don’t choose ‘cute’ names like “Bobo”, “Fifi”, or “Lala” unless you think that is the sort of image you want to project.

Similarly, don’t invent names, e. g. “Gindrom” or “Brinty” – in English you are supposed to use names that already exist. And don’t choose things as your name, e. g. “Mountain”, “Pencil”, “Apple”, or “Email” – that just sounds stupid in English. I

would also recommend avoiding animal names such as “Tiger” and “Eagle” unless you are particularly confident about that.

Finally, make sure you have one, consistent spelling for your name, and make sure you know the correct English way to pronounce your name, e. g. “Lily” has a short ‘i’ (not /i:/ as in “Lisa”) and if your name’s “Vivian” or “Jonathan” make sure you know how to pronounce ‘v’ and ‘th’.

As with all my points of advice – you’d do best to ask for honest advice from a native English speaker.

6. On an English language resumé, you’re probably going to say something about your English level.

Beware: “fluent” is a very vague word, and probably suggests to an employer that you are close to perfect… unlikely!

It’s better to use an actual qualification to show your language ability, or at least statement of your English level using one of the following words:

a) Elementary (- means you can understand a little but can’t really use English effectively)
b) Lower Intermediate (- means you can undersand a wide range of simple English and express yourself in simple ways) Most high school graduates in China are at either elementary or lower intermediate level in their oral English.
c) Mid Intermediate (- means you can follow a native speaker’s speech in normal situations, and can express yourself in some quite full ways)
d) Upper Intermediate (- means you can watch English movies or listen to English radio and follow the meaning; you can express yourself in most situations, although your language is still not accurate)
e) Advanced (- means you can express yourself in a complete way in virtually every situation, although your language often shows limitations, especially of vocabulary)
f) Proficient (- means you can use English to the almost same practical standard as a normally-educated native speaker)

7. Formatting…

You must format your CV so that it looks good, is easy to read quickly, and highlights the most important information that you want to communicate.

It’s impossible to explain in plain words how to do this well. It’s like asking what makes a famous painting impressive… you just have to see it.

So go online to Google or wherever and search for the words “resume formatting examples” and look at some examples of good and bad resumés. Remember, your resumé is your personal advert, and you’re competing for attention with a whole pile of other resumés. If your resumé is hard to read or ugly it will just get tossed in the bin.

Not being good with computers is no longer an excuse. It’s 2005: wake up and smell the coffee. I doubt there are any jobs you can apply for out there, except possibly serving fries in McDonald’s, where IT skills - and in particular, word processing skills – are not a major advantage. If you don’t know how to use Microsoft Word to format fonts, bullets, tables, borders, and graphics, LEARN! ASAP!

8. Writing in the English language? Think about English culture!

In English we like our statements to be measured and perhaps a little understated.

Do you really want to fill your resumé with things like…:
”I feel happy!”
”I am the best!”
”I will surprise you!”
”I had a good relationship with everyone and never received criticism!”

When applying for jobs in any culture, it’s important to show balance and self-awareness. To my (English) ears the above examples simply show that you love yourself and have no idea of what impression you make on other people.

HOWEVER, don’t fill your English resumé with weak words, for example:
”interesting” (- surely the most boring word in the English language !)

If you don’t know what other words to use… use a thesaurus! Did you know Microsoft Word has a free thesaurus? Right click on any word and select “synonyms” at the bottom of the context menu.

-Did You Know?-

In most other countries outside China, you should send your resumé with a “cover letter”. This is a formal letter introducing yourself and explaining why you want to get an interview for this position. Obviously, in a letter you can include a lot more self-description and “advertising” for yourself than you can in the simple, factual format of a resumé.

Since it seems to be the norm not to include cover letters when emailing resumés to employers in China, perhaps you can help yourself stand out from the crowd by providing one…?

If you choose not to, you have to put a bit more effort into self-advertising in the text of your resumé, especially in your “personal statement” or “objective statement” at the top of your page.

Author: George Baily (UK). ESL Teacher, Shenzhen, China.

Preparing for an English language job interview? For free articles and course information for learners in China, visit

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