Similar to the UK, your CV should be around two pages in length. French employers also usually prefer staff to be conversant with the language so it is advisable to have your CV proofread by a native French speaker.
While UK CVs do not include age or marital status French CVs often do, together with nationality. Often employers will also expect to see a photograph of the candidate. Again, this is the exception rather than the norm in the UK.
CVs in France avoid career objectives but do include a ‘projet professional‘. The latter is a brief description of your past achievements together with your career goals over the next five years or so.
French employers take candidates’ educational backgrounds seriously so place your academic qualifications near the beginning of your CV. It may also be helpful to indicate the French equivalents. Linguistic ability is usually included with education and this will be on the radar of employers, particularly for British candidates, who are often assumed to speak only English. When describing your competency with other languages, you should indicate your reading, writing and speaking levels.
Professional experience can follow next with a paragraph for each company, including the dates, organisation name, location, job title, place within the hierarchy of the company, responsibilities and achievements. As with UK CVs try to include facts and figures to provide substance to the content.
This is probably the least important part of your CV but can be useful in making you more rounded as a person. Try to describe your interests in a way that will highlight your strengths. For example:
I enjoy participating in charity fun runs and have successfully raised £1,000 for XYZ Health over the previous three years.
When deciding on which interests to include bear in mind that French employers often discuss these with candidates so be prepared to talk about anything you include.
It is also worth sending a cover letter (lettre de motivation), preferably handwritten, to accompany your CV. As with anything handwritten, take your time writing it and make sure that your script is legible. If your handwriting is as bad as mine it may even be worth asking someone else to write the cover letter for you.
Surprisingly, many French companies were still using graphology (the assessment of an individual’s personality through handwriting analysis) as part of the selection process, up until quite recently. However this is less common now.
The format of the cover letter is much the same as its UK counterpart, with a few points to note. Your contact details should go on the top left-hand side – remembering to include the international code with your telephone number. The name of the recipient and the company’s address go underneath, followed by the subject of the letter and any reference. The body of the letter goes next with your signature at the end on the bottom right-hand side.