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Ask the expert: How to write the perfect French CV

If you want to work in France you will probably need a French CV - and the format might be different to what you're used to. We spoke to a recruitment expert to find out how to write one properly.

We have put together a guide to writing the perfect French CV.
We have put together a guide to writing the perfect French CV. (Photo by SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

If you are applying for a job with a French business, chances are you will have to submit a CV. 

Obviously this should be written in French, and there are some thing things required to make it attractive to a French employer. 

“It sounds obvious but for most jobs, you will need to write your CV in perfect French, without errors,” said Antoine Lecoq, managing director of Page Group, a recruitment agency with dozens of branches in France. 

If you can do that, then as a foreigner in France, you might even have certain advantages on the job market. 

What information do I need?

A lot of the information you should include on a CV is obvious, and the same in more or less every country around the world: contact details, education and training, work experience, skills, languages, contact details etc. 

But there are some key differences too. For example, you are expected to list your address on the CV. 

  • Appear ready to work in France

Lecoq explained that if you don’t currently live in France but are applying for a job here, you should list a French postal address (of a friend or family member for example) and French telephone number.  

“Employers need to understand if they have someone ready to work quickly or not. If the CV is written in French, has a French address, or explains that you can come to France easily, that will make it easier,” he said. 

He said that foreigners in France should specify on their CV whether they have the right to work here (through an existing visa or carte de séjour) or will need their future employer to sponsor a work permit or visa. There is no need to specify your nationality unless it is relevant to the job

Outside of the CV writing progress, those applying for high level jobs should switch their LinkedIn page into French and connect with other French people. 

“You should really push the social networks,” said Lecoq. 

  • Photo

Until recently, it was commonplace to include a photo on CVs in France, but this is beginning to change. 

“By tradition, there have often been photos. I think if there isn’t a photo, it won’t stop you from getting a job, but if you do choose to have one, make sure it is professional – not a snapshot of you in the garden or on holiday,” said Lecoq. 

Other pieces of information traditionally included in French CVs but now increasingly left out are marital status and date of birth. You are not obliged to include these details. 

What should the CV look like? 

Once completed your CV should look something like this;

A French CV

An example of the French CV format. (Source: The Local)

From top to bottom, the sections should appear as following: name, education and training, key skills, professional experience. Within each of these sections, relevant qualifications should be listed newest to oldest. 

“If your experiences don’t follow any kind of chronology, your CV will not be readable to a French employer,” said Lecoq, who also insisted that the order of the sections is not too important – as long as the information is clear. 

“When you are junior, you emphasise your education closer to the top, but once you have 15-20 years of experience, you can put education at the end,” he said. 

You can make use of a sidebar to include other relevant information like contact details (which can also be listed clearly at the top if you prefer), languages, IT skills, volunteering experience and hobbies. 

Ideally, your CV should be no longer than one page but for some executive management positions, two or three pages would be considered appropriate. In either case, keep your language clear, ordered and succinct. 

There are plenty of websites online where you can get find French CV templates for free. Just search for ‘cv français à télécharger’. 

Lettre de motivation 

Many jobs will require you to send a lettre de motivation, explaining why you are applying for the job. 

The Page Group, of which Page Personnel is a part, have listed a number of tips for acing this. 

It is important to write a snappy introduction – your future employer will judge you based on the first few lines. Mention the name of the job position you are applying for and what grabbed your attention in the job advertisement. 

Explain why you are well qualified for the job, giving examples of when you have proved you have the required skills. 

Avoid repeating yourself or simply re-write your CV in paragraph format. 

Avoid waffling – keep your letter clear, concise and to the point. 

Job interviews 

Should you be asked to interview for the position, it is best to practice answering standard job interview questions in French beforehand. 

You will likely be asked about your motivation for applying to the position, past experience and any gaps in your CV. 

In France, unlike in many anglophone countries, many employers are suspicious of candidates who have changed sector repeatedly through their career. 

“French employers will try to understand the coherence of someone’s professional journeys. In the interview, you must be prepared to explain that orally,” said Lecoq. 

Other tips 

It may be worth submitting your CV to a recruitment agency such as the Page Group

“In some anglophone countries, 80-90 percent of recruitment is outsourced, meaning that you have to go through recruitment agencies. It is not the case in France. Here you can send applications directly to businesses themselves, but it helps if you also go through recruitment agencies,” he said. 

“The particular interest for foreigners in applying via a recruitment agency is that you can be accompanied in your job search. You will have feedback on how to frame your previous experience and how to re-do your CV.” 

Besides getting the professionals involved, there are some other simple steps you can take to increase your odds of getting your dream job. 

  • Ask a native French speaker to check your spelling and grammar before submitting your CV
  • Don’t lie – you will likely be rumbled and humiliated during your job interview;
  • Don’t list references – instead, put a note indicating that these are available on request: des références peuvent être fournies sur demande
  • Learn French. 

Key vocabulary 

Postuler à un emploi – to apply for a job

Faire acte de candidature à un emploi – to apply for a job

Un CV – a CV (pronounced say-vay) 

Une lettre de motivation – a cover letter

Une candidature – an application 

Une candidature à un stage – an application for an internship 

État civil et coordonnées – personal and contact details

Expérience professionnelle – professional experience

Éducation – education

Formation – training 

Centres d’intérêt – hobbies

Baccalauréat – the high-school leavers qualification, roughly equivalent to A-levels or SATs

Licence de/d’ – Bachelor’s degree in

Master de/d’ – Master degree in 

Doctorat de/d’ – Doctorate/PHD in 

Langue maternelle – native language

Courant – fluent

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CULTURE

Miss France contestants to get employment contracts for the first time

For the first time in the history of the contest, the 29 Miss France finalists will get proper employment contracts, the organisers have announced.

Miss France contestants to get employment contracts for the first time
The winner of Miss France goes on to compete in Miss Universe. Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP

The announcement that Miss France finalists will get employment contracts comes as the contest organisers are being sued in the Labour Court by the feminist group Osez le féminisme, which contends that the ‘sexist’ nature of the competition breaches France’s strict labour laws.

Now Alexia Laroche-Joubert, president of the Miss France company, has announced that all 29 finalists will have valid work contracts, which comes with its own protections under labour laws, for the competition final and ceremony.

However it did not appear that the contract would cover the weeks of preparation for the show, and she gave no specifics on the type of contract, merely saying they would have “legal consequences”.

Although many younger French people regard the Miss France contest as an embarrassing anachronism, the event remains hugely popular, covered in detail by almost all French newspapers while the final is screened on terrestrial TV on Saturday night, regularly drawing audiences of more than 7 million people.

READ ALSO ‘Old fashioned and embarrassing’ – has Miss France contest had its day?

As well as looking pretty and appearing committed to world peace, the Miss France candidates also have to take a test on the history and geography of France. If you fancy your testing your knowledge of France, you can find the quiz HERE.

The final of this year’s contest will be held in Caen on Saturday, December 11th with 29 finalists representing the pre-2016 regions of France and the French overseas territories. 

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