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Writing French CVs and Cover Letters: Our Top Tips

Are you looking for a job in France? Starting a job application can be daunting, especially in a foreign language! Here is our guide to writing CVs and Cover Letters in French. Let us know how you get on.

French CVs

Although the required content is largely similar, the style of a French CV is quite different than that in the UK. French CVs are a lot shorter and should be no more than one side of A4. Also, whilst English CVs tend to be descriptive, focusing on key skills and knowledge, French CVs are brief, concisely outlining your professional and academic experience.

Here’s a run-down of sections you should include:

1. Coordonnées

In this section, you need to provide some basic details about yourself:

  1. ‘Adresse email’ (email address)

  2. ‘Téléphone’ (phone number) n.b. make sure to provide the dial code for your country e.g. +44 for England

  3. Adresse (address)

You will also need to put your marital status (état civil, which in most instances will be ‘célibataire’ or ‘non-marrié’ if you have a partner.

2. Langues

In this section, you need to state the languages you speak and at what level. It is important to be honest in this section as recruiters will be able to check your level in an interview. You will need to map your language level to the French Equivalent:

3. Informatique

This is where you need to list software and technology that you can use. This is especially useful if you are going into roles that are more creative.

4. Expérience Professionnelle

You now need to list the professional experience that you have. Don’t worry if you’ve never had a job before; this can include voluntary work, uni societies, or anything that will add to your CV. We recommend listing each experience in the following format:

Date Job Title Company Brief description of the role.

Unlike with English CVs, you should not write a list of skills that you acquired during your role as in France, this comes across as boastful.

5. Formation

Similarly to ‘Expérience Professionelle’, this section is for you to briefly outline your level of studies. We recommend using the following structure:

Date Qualification Institution Description of classes taken and grades.

When listing your grades and qualification, you must use the French equivalents:

Cover Letters

With your CV all ready to go, you now need to write a ‘lettre de motivation’ - or in other words, a cover letter. This should be tailored to the job you’re applying for and you should aim to show why you are suitable for the role as well as the skills and expertise you could bring. Again, this should be no more than one side of A4. While the tone and style of a ‘lettre de motivation’ are largely the same as in English, there are a couple of things you should know.

1. Opening and closing a ‘lettre de motivation’

A ‘lettre de motivation’ uses a ‘registre soutenu’ - the high level of formality - and this needs to be reflected in your opening. You should start your letter with ‘Monsieur/ Madame + surname’. If you do not know the name of the hiring manager, you should use ‘Monsieur, Madame,’. Similarly, you need to use a very formal tone when ending your letter. You should say ‘Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur/ Madame XXX (or Monsieur, Madame if unknown), l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.’.

2. Useful phrases that you can add

Here are a couple of expressions and phrases you can use in your ‘lettre de motivation’ to help you express to describe yourself:

  • To say ‘I’m a university student at XX studying’, say ‘je suis étudiant en Licence de (subject) à la Université de XXXX

  • To say ‘I take courses in’ you need to use the verb suivre e.g. Je suis des cours de traduction (I take papers in translation)

  • When talking about software that you’ve can use, use the verb ‘maitriser’, for example ‘Je maitrise Office 365’ (I can use Office 365)

  • To describe your language level, use the phrase ‘j’ai une pratique XXXX (language level) de’, for instance ‘après avoir passé quelques mois en Espagne, j’ai une pratique courante de l’espagnol’ (After spending several months in Spain, I can fluently speak Spanish).

We hope that these tips will help you write your CV and Cover Letter in French. Good Luck!

About The Author: Arun is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and is currently pursuing a BA in Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Spanish ab initio) at the University of Cambridge. He speaks English, Spanish and French.


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