When applying for jobs in Scandinavia, you should do as the Nordic people and provide information in the format expected by local HR people. Naturally, the CV’s primary intention is to describe what you have done in past. Similarly to a cover letter, the CV should match the job. Consequently, your prioritised qualifications should be relevant to the requirements listed in the job posting. Therefore, it is also a good idea to prepare and explore the company you want to work for, so you can adapt your CV more efficiently to each specific job. It is generally a good idea to include a photo in the CV.
Although the Scandinavians are good at English, you should send your CV and cover letter written in the respective language unless otherwise requested. The CV should be short and neatly presented, one to maximum two pages.
In Scandinavia, it is common to write a CV in two different variations, known as the chronological CV and the competence CV.
The chronological CV
The “chronological CV” is the most commonly employed as the majority of employers are familiar with the structure. Thereby it is easy for the reader to form a general idea of the applicant. The structure is based on years and dates – giving employers a quick impression of your career. You should list recent activities first, also known as the reverse chronological order, as these will be of particular interest to the employer.
- Personal information: Name, address, email and phone number. Most people also mention their age/date of birth; however, it is also possible to omit this element if you, for tactical reasons, feel it would market you best. Here you can also mention your marital status and children, but that can also be saved for the concluding paragraph. Note: Swedish CVs does not include information about marital status and children, instead this is put in the cover letter.
- Personal profile: Short description of relevant professional and personal skills. Here you could beneficially make use of power keywords and action verbs.
- Work experience: Places of employment and description of your main tasks.
- Education: Write your formal education and a little bit about your thesis and key projects. If you don’t have a whole lot of work experience, you could consider having this part before your work experience.
- Courses: Supplementary courses besides your higher education.
- Languages: Remember to indicate your mother tongue and level of proficiency in the local language. List your level of written and oral aptitude in each language. You should also mention if you have attended or currently are attending language courses.
- IT-skills: Indicate your level of proficiency, e.g. “beginner”, “proficient user”, “advanced user”.
- Private-life: You can mention what you do in your leisure time, marital status, community work and other important activities. These details help paint a more rounded view of who you are. The elements portrayed can help break the ice during the more informal part of the interview. Read Graduateland’s article on how to integrate extracurricular activities in your CV, to ensure that you utilise this part most effectively.
- References: Close your CV with “References available on request”. You should avoid sending references with your CV unless you are specifically asked to provide them. In Swedish CVs however, this differs quite significantly. Some provide both name and number to their former employer while some don’t even mention references. A quite general point of view amongst Swedish employers, however, is that including references help support applicants case of getting hired.
The competence CV
In the “competence CV”, selected skills that match those that are deemed important in the job posting are brought into focus. The advantage of such a CV is that you unite your experiences under competencies the company in question believes is significant for the position. The disadvantage is that the reader can have difficulties interpreting in which positions these competencies have been utilised. This type of CV is often ideal if you are a recent graduate and do not have a lot of work experience. You don’t necessarily need to relate the skills gained to previous work within organisations – you can also connect it to your study experiences. The CV is structured as follows:
- Personal data: Similarly to the chronological CV, you should initially present your personal information.
- Brief summary: In 4-6 sentences, it can be a good idea to describe the main thread in your work life.
- Competences: Select 4-5 competencies you hold that match those that are described as important for the position in question. The competencies are assembled under headlines such as “communication” and “personnel management”. Describe your experience under each of these competencies. Remember to compose yourself and keep it short!
- Follow the format of the chronological CV: After your competencies, you should list your work experience, education, courses, languages, IT skills and private life etc. This should be done exactly as in the chronological CV. Yet, you should not go into a lengthy description about your previous work experience, as the choice of utilising a skills-based CV entails a prioritisation of the competencies and abstaining from elaborating too much on your previous places of employment.