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WORKING IN NORWAY

The dos and don’ts of writing a killer CV to impress Norwegian recruiters

Composing a great CV is a crucial part of securing a job in Norway, and there are some essential things you absolutely need to do to grab employers' attention as well as a few habits you should avoid, working life expert Karin Ellis writes for The Local.

Somebody in a work meeting.
These are the essential things you need to know about writing a CV in Norway. Pictured are people in a work meeting. Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Karin Ellis is the founder of Ellis Culture, a company delivering intercultural training. Her courses explain the cultural traits, expectations, social norms and hidden codes of Norwegian workplaces and the labour market. She also conducts free seminars for immigrants in Norway. In addition, she has written several books, among them are ‘Working with Norwegians’ and ‘Applying for jobs in Norway’. In this article, she shares her tips for writing your CV with The Local.

Make sure your CV is properly adapted for Norwegian recruiters

The most important thing you need to know when writing a CV in Norway is to include the information that Norwegian employers expect to find. 

You need to adapt your CV to have the proper focus and content that Norwegian recruiters look for. Therefore, I would suggest that you search the internet for Norwegian templates. 

Templates developed in other countries tend to compress a lot of information very densely onto one page. As a result, there is usually not enough space for all the info a Norwegian employer would expect to find in the CV.

In Norway, the most important part of the CV is usually called ‘key qualifications’, which is like a management summary of your education, skills, experience and interpersonal (soft) skills. As a minimum, you should tailor your key qualifications and work experience to showcase that you are the right candidate for the job.

Research shows that recruiters spend only a few seconds reading a CV before deciding whether it is worth their time reading the rest. So, your ‘key qualifications’ at the start of your CV really needs to be targeted towards the requirements in the job advert to retain their interest and make them want to read the rest of the CV.

Other examples of information frequently missing in foreign templates is personal information such as birth date, home address, marital status, interests/hobbies, and references. Norwegian employers also want to get an impression of the human being behind the professional skills.

It is crucial you tailor your CV for each job you apply for so that it resonates as much as possible with the requirements in the job advert. 

Layout and design

In Norway, we typically prefer CVs with a clear timeline, and they should be a bit “airy” with some white space. In many cases, a two-page CV will be an appropriate length. 

Some people believe they will stand out from the crowd by having a very colourful or glossy CV. But unless you are applying for a job as a designer or similar, it is more important to have the right content and focus, rather than a glossy design. 

The employer might otherwise think that you are a person who will prioritise superficial things over what really matters to them.

Photo or no photo? 

Whether you include a photo in your CV or not is up to you. It is less common to have a photo in a CV for academia and public sector jobs, such as with municipalities and public services. In the private industry, it is more common to have a picture, especially if the job is customer facing. 

If you decide to include a photo, make sure it is neutral and preferably with a white background. A bit like a passport photo, but with a friendly smile. A picture of you skiing may make you look unprofessional and probably won’t endear you to recruiters, even if you think it makes you look more Norwegian.

There’s no “I” in team

If you focus on your achievements and results rather than your work experience, it could be perceived as bragging, which should be avoided – unless you are applying for a job in a very competitive environment. 

If you want to list your achievements in your CV, make sure that you write about them in a matter-of-fact manner, after first describing what responsibilities you had and what you actually did. The negative effect of focusing on your achievements could be even stronger if it is done in a way that gives the impression that you are taking credit for the work of others. 

You could therefore consider replacing “I” with “we” to show that the achievements were a team effort, as doing this would also portray you as a good team player.

Norsk eller engelsk ?

I suggest that you write your CV in English. even if the job advert is in Norwegian, until your Norwegian skills are at an intermediate level (B1/B2). 

If you submit a CV that somebody else has translated for you before you have reached this level, the employer may feel that you are trying to deceive them by pretending that your Norwegian skills are better than they really are.

The essential do’s and don’ts of putting together a CV

Do:

  1. Tailor your CV for each position/company to show that you meet as many of the requirements in the job advert as possible.
  2. Make the content and focus suitable for the Norwegian job market by including the information Norwegian employers expect to find.
  3. Include transferable competence and interpersonal (soft) skills in the ‘key qualifications’ section of your CV. The employer wants to get a multidimensional impression of you to find out how you will collaborate with others.
  4. Focus on work experience rather than achievements to give the recruiters a clear picture of what you have done in your past.

Don’t:

  1. Mass-produce a “one size fits all” CV. The recruiter will realise that you have not made an effort and put this down to a lack of motivation of working for them.
  2. Submit a CV without also including a tailored application letter where you explain your motivation for the job and how you would transfer your skills, experience and interpersonal qualities to this particular position.
  3. Exaggerate, oversell, or tell lies. This may create suspicion and distrust among Norwegian recruiters. If the employer suspects or finds that you have been insincere, they will not trust anything else coming from you. Therefore, even if you get away with it and land the job, it will not lead to an ideal start in your new job. 

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WORKING IN NORWAY

Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don’t need it for work

It's certainly possible to get a job in Norway without knowing the local language, but not making an effort with Norwegian could be holding you back at work and in your social life. 

Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don't need it for work

There are plenty of English-speaking roles in Norway, making it possible to get a job without learning the local language. 

“In Norway, many companies will accept English speaking candidates without any Norwegian skills. Examples are high-tech, and research companies, academia, hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and startups,” Karin Ellis, author and founder of Ellis Culture, which specialises in explaining the social norms and unwritten rules of the job market in Norway, told The Local. 

Now maybe is a better time than any to secure a job without language skills in Norway. Employers are struggling to attract qualified candidates and post job adverts in English to reach a bigger audience. 

READ MORE: Record job vacancies in Norway

However, not getting to grips with the local lingo can hold back foreigners in the long run, even if they secure a job that doesn’t require any Norwegian language skills. 

“It is very important that immigrant workers make an effort to learn Norwegian, even when they work for an English-speaking company. Until you speak the native language, you will never be fully accepted in the workplace or society,” Ellis said

The working life expert added that language-related conflicts could be common in workplaces, and even workers in highly-skilled companies may be reluctant to speak English. Additionally, not making an effort with the language, in the long run, could make it harder for you to gel with your coworkers. 

“Not making an effort to learn the language could negatively impact your relationships with your coworkers because they may reduce their contact with you. Even if they speak English with you in the workplace, it is quite likely that they will prefer to socialise with Norwegian speakers,” Ellis explained.  

Even if you only intend on working in Norway for a short while, it may be worth trying to get to grips with the language in case you have a change of heart and decide to stay in the country. 

“Immigrant workers who start on a temporary contract in an English-speaking workplace often stay in Norway much longer than originally planned. Then, several years later, when they decide to change jobs, they regret not learning Norwegian from the start. At that point, no employer will be impressed by the fact that they have not bothered to learn Norwegian,” Ellis said. 

On the flip side, learning Norwegian could help give your career in the country a welcome leg-up. 

“Learning Norwegian could boost your career because you will be able to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues on a deeper level and avoid misunderstandings. When employers select candidates, they emphasise people skills and the ability to collaborate,” the working life expert said. 

READ MORE: The dos and don’ts of writing a killer CV to impress Norwegian recruiters

Even just being able to engage in small talk in the native language could help your career prospects and put you in contention for promotions, according to Ellis. This is because chit-chat can help highlight your ability to communicate and work well with others. 

“To be a good leader in Norway, you need to contribute to a good working environment by taking an interest in your colleagues, supporting and sharing information with them. All of this is easier if you speak the language, as you are then showing that you have taken the step to become part of the Norwegian community and understand the culture,” Ellis said. 

 Taking the time to sharpen your language skills can also help you outside of work and help you make more friends. 

“Learning Norwegian will make it easier for you to get Norwegian friends simply by speaking with them in their language and understanding their jokes. You will then start to share experiences, news and perspectives with Norwegians. This will give you more common topics and interests for conversation and discussion, whether it is during the lunch break at work or at a private party,” Ellis said. 

What do The Local’s readers think? 

In a previous survey, The Local’s readers were asked whether they thought that foreign residents could speak Norwegian was important. 

The majority, 60 percent, said they thought it was, while 40 percent said it wasn’t. 

“I am a native English speaker working in Norway for a large international company. However, all internal meetings and documentation are in Norwegian. This demands that even international companies require Norwegian knowledge,” one reader, Susan, told our survey. 

Susan wasn’t alone in sharing her thoughts that learning the language was crucial. 

“Well, in many industries these days, it doesn’t matter much anymore as the working language is English. However, socially it is better to learn and is also very much appreciated by the Norwegians,” Arjen told the survey. 

READ ALSO: Tips for finding an English-speaking job in Norway

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