CV in a foreign language: Dos and Don’ts

Very often, we see posts and articles about horrible CVs, dos and don’ts, and so on. To be honest, I am not sure this is going to be any different, but I will try to make it not just a “let’s laugh about this” example. Instead, I want it to be useful to those who simply think that a CV is a template that one can simply put in Google translate and then use everywhere in the world. There is no denying that I chose this example because it is remarkably funny; nonetheless, it is also a great source of don’ts which can give useful hints to whomever is working on his personal résumé.

Let’s start with something basic: Your CV must be different from the rest to be noticeable, but that doesn’t mean putting a background that looks like a carpet. Please, leave a neutral background. I am for not wasting paper, but printing on both sides doesn’t look good. Especially because your personal description and your CV could fit in one page if you could get rid of all the useless and negative things you added, like in this case (pictures, logo, quote, and so on.) In English, a CV should have a short introduction about the person, what you normally include in a cover letter, but without printing another page; it just needs to be a short paragraph about yourself, to sell your skills without repeating what you will later say on the CV. It is not something used too often Italy, but it has to be included in the UK. In the example I show you, I am not sure what the first page is; it has contact details and pictures, but also the description, so it is a hybrid between a cover letter and a CV, because the real résumé is the second page.

Now, let’s focus on this masterpiece in two pages. I hope my signs and numbers make it easy to spot the points I will analyse. Page 1 offers already a good selection, some of which are repeated, with little variations, in page 2. Incidentally, yes, I am proud of the way I covered the two pictures and, particularly, the logo!


CV1_b1) Desired position. Nonetheless, you misspell it, at least once. I have to tell the truth: it is not that clear it is your dream job, as you will later say.

2) Logo of the school. It is a professional school, not a world-renowned one, not even know on a national level, and you have just studied there so, no matter how cool the logo is, why would you include it?

3) Your picture. It is a typical Italian thing, not shared by the British culture and, in general, by the English-speaking countries, and something very important to take into account when translating a CV. AS it is well known, translation it is never a matter of words only. For a CV, the goal is to be present the person as an integrated part of the population, sharing their culture, and ready to be part of their working force. This one shows all but that; not only one picture, but two, not white ones, but profile pictures Facebook style.

4) A quote?! Apart from the immediate WHY? Also a big don’t for the actual lack of quote: Where is it from? Who said it? What does that mean? Because it really seems like it has been a pedestrian translation again with no real meaning in English.

5) Contact details. Email (hidden by me, of course, as in the case of all the traceable details) is not the same on both pages, and it is worrisome, considering that it is as easy as his name and surname, and he still misspells it. Phone numbers: First, you don’t write “Cell”, which is not British; second, you don’t put the Italian one and then add the British one by hand, you just wait 10 more minutes to print the CVs, until you buy the SIM card. Of course, if you cannot spell your own email address, better to put all your contacts, just in case, but they will hardly call your Italian number anyway.

6) Coffee cocktails. Just coffee cocktails? Maybe you want to expand your range and put a comma between the two.

7) First reaction: What is that? Second reaction: This makes no sense. Third reaction: I look it up. I assume he means “fashion,” but I still am not sure.

8)Potpourri of misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and so on, including 8a and 8b. Important is not to misspell things you are supposed to be an expert on: You cannot write “coffee” in a different way every time. Moreover, how can you not capitalise the pronoun “I”? You are downgrading yourself in an awful way to my eyes!

9) The suspense. What happened after he passed his final exam? Is that his way to have me calling him for an interview? To make me wonder until I can’t resist anymore? Believe me, my life will go on.

10) The end of the road. I know in Italian we use the same word to sat last and latest, but in English, the last bar sounds too decisive, too strong. Baby, life goes on, you will have more bars in your life!

11) English knowledge. I would be careful in stating that, especially if you want to misspell the two words (should be three) immediately after “English,” one of them being exactly “knowledge,” because now I will have my doubts about your “excellent communication skills” of which you brag about in the following line.

12) I know it is up to everyone, but I could certainly think of a couple of ways to express that in a less ambiguous way, and this belle infidèle is not exactly famous for avoiding double entendres!

Now to PAGE 2


1) “Cel.” again? And spelled differently? I start thinking that you try different ways of writing stuff so one will be right. You know what? As I said, in your case, the choice is wrong anyway!

2) A picture again? And a Facebook one again? Don’t you think that two in the previous page were enough?

3) Extra, a whole world in a single word. Do you know what a non-Italian understands reading that? Nothing! When I explained to my colleague what that was, he said: ” That doesn’t exist here.” Exactly, that is typical of an illegal job market that still flourishes in Italy, especially in some sectors. The result obtained by writing that? If the receiver is Italian, as in my case, possibly discomfort for something shameful typical of our culture, or for having to explain that to someone else in the team; if the receiver is not Italian, he is going to discard that experience you are listing as something non relevant.

4) Beverage nervine. What exactly should that be? Because, you know, nervine gas is not exactly my idea of perfect ingredient for a cocktail!

5) Bar. That is commitment to your job, I is not capitalised, but Bar is!

6) Aspiring Bartender. So, are you telling me that you attended to a course to have a qualification as an Aspiring Bartender; not a Bartender, they taught you how to aspire, not how to be one? Am I right?

7) Dimploma. Are you glad that the spelling bee is not something that we do at school in Italy?

8) Scholastic. No doubt, English is scholastic, that is why it is taught, but what you mean is basic, or conversational, which sounds a lot more than in fact it is. I know from my own experience that what we call livello scolastico in Italy is nothing more and nothing less than a blur knowledge of what we should learn but we never learn of the foreign language. Defined by that, your level of English is a little more than my level of Arabic and Chinese. Oh, yes, I never studied Chinese or Arabic, not even for one day.

9) Flair. Again. Now, it is also one of my personal interests: I want to know what it is! And it is all capitalised, so it is his main interest, and no one knows what that means!

10) Music. I have skipping the interest in travelling, because if you ever start working for us, you better learn how to pray in Greek, as we say in Italian, because to have a day off is really hard, I let you imagine what kind of ordeal it is to have holidays to actual travel farther than zone 3 by tube! So, music, interesting… what do you mean? Do you play? Do you compose? Are you a DJ? Do you just press on the Spotify icon on your phone and listen to random stuff that the app adds to your selection because they say so?

I know, I have been really nasty, but it is important to understand that a CV is like a business card, at the beginning we have lame ones, we all make mistakes, and have typos, but we need reduce them to the very minimum, to show that we at least tried to proofread the whole. To ask someone for advice is not a bad idea either, because he can spot stuff that we missed because we read the page too many times. Moreover, don’t forget to adapt it to the job you are applying for, but also to the target culture, to avoid embarrassing details like the picture, especially if it is not professional at all.

Until next time for more tips and sarcasm!

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