How to Get Hired Abroad: The Jobbatical Job Application Formula

by Maria Magdaleena Lamp June 07, 2018

We all know that finding a job abroad gets competitive. To give you a leg up in the job application process, I did some digging through our data and team Jobbatical’s collective wealth of experience. Here are my (shocking?) findings and the job seeking tips I distilled from them.

1. Make your CV easy to read.

The first people to see your CV need to be able to easily scan it for the most important information—that is to say, whether you qualify for the job. Jobbatical’s talent sourcing team screens so many CVs from all around the world that they’ve seen every mistake in the book. According to them, here are the basic elements your resume absolutely needs:

  • Your full name with a brief summary of who you are. Your tagline should be the first thing they see. A TL;DR of your professional persona, if you will.
  • Work experience first, education and certificates second.
    As Roberto Orrù from our talent sourcing team put it, “Many people first mention their education, which sports team they support, what they ate yesterday, and only then their job experience.” Bring your experience to the top so they can see your accomplishments.
  • A clear and thorough work history. To expand on the above, recruiters and resume screeners want to see what you’ve actually achieved and what skills/tools you used to get it done. Our talent sourcing team suggests this format for listing your work history:

Pro tip: Using a different color heading to separate sections makes your CV easy to follow.

2. Customize your application.

A lot of job seeking advice out there emphasizes the importance of tailoring your job application to the company you’re applying to, making sure they know you’re a fan.

I wanted to find patterns in how successful applicants write their cover letters, so I separately analyzed a random sample of 40 successful job applications for developer roles and a batch of 40 non-developer roles (mainly marketers and salespeople).

What happened next actually did shock me a little bit.

This kid used one weird trick to get hired. Recruiters hate him. (Poor kid.)

Your cover letter matters. Or does it?


Turns out that it really depends who you ask. Most successful applicants tailor their cover letters to mention the company, ranging from a casual name drop to impassioned essays about why they’d love to work with that particular business.

Most, but not all—and not as many as I had expected.

62% of the successful tech cover letters I analyzed were customized to the company, while 76% of sales and marketing hires customized theirs. These being the people who ended up with the job, I was surprised to see how many made no mention of the company at all.

You don’t have to write the company a love letter, but it doesn’t hurt.

Cover letter length also varied considerably. For tech roles, the average cover letter length for winning applications was 130.9 words, ranging from 19 (!) to 368 words (with a median of 103). By contrast, the average word count for non-tech roles was 234.5 (median 177), ranging from 35 to 941 (!).

Thanks, data! You’ve told me what I already knew: we are all individuals! Still, it’s safe to say that successful cover letters tend to be customized and developers’ successful cover letters tend to be shorter than marketers’. (It’s something!)

Pro tip: Tailor-made cover letters matter more to some companies than others. Do your research. Look for clues in their job description (e.g. “Tell us about your motivations” is a good indicator that they won’t be impressed by a generic boilerplate cover letter.)

Grammar and spelling matter too… Or do they?

Once again, it depends who you ask. The evidence from my sample applications suggests that imperfect English isn’t a dealbreaker in international hiring, where English is not a native language for most parties. Of course, your English still has to be good enough to communicate clearly, but (unless you’re an editor or writer) it doesn’t have to be impeccable.

Why do grammar and spelling seem to matter less than I’d always assumed? Countless articles and blog posts all over the internet tell us that faulty English is among the top-tier sins of job hunting.

Rather than attribute this discrepancy to less discerning employers, I’ll chalk this one up to

a) better recruiting priorities and

b) non-native English speakers doing the hiring.

Which, frankly, is great news for everyone except the grammar sticklers.

I’m starting group therapy sessions for grammar sticklers who just found out that everything they thought they knew about applying for jobs was wrong.

3. Be good at what you do.

It turns out that you can get a job with an imperfect application, if you’re just that good. But please, don’t take this to mean that no effort at all is required. You never know what kind of talent you’re up against, so is it really worth the risk?

While it’s not very clearly reflected in this data, further research at Jobbatical has shown that a vast majority of recruiters do care about your cover letter—a lot. So don’t take the risk. There are some seriously kickass jobs on the line. Be good at what you do, put in the effort, and follow the formula:

Oops, I totally forgot to factor job interviews into this very scientific formula. But no worries, this post has you covered.

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