Caitlin Ahern

English communication in Graz, Austria

CV and Résumé DON’Ts

There is a lot of sexism in Austria. And racism, and xenophobia, and, heck probably a bit of ageism as well. This is true in the U.S., and most, if not all 193 countries of the world. But there is one place you can find a window onto all of these -isms, and it’s called the Austrian CV template, or “Lebenslauf”.

The first thing you see is a picture.

Putting your picture on your résumé in the U.S. is so verboten that I can only assume your poor CV would be ripped into pieces by any HR representative. Now, LinkedIn profiles may be changing that, but the prevailing assumption in the U.S. is that providing a picture offers so many different paths to discrimination: based on sex, race, age, or just a hairstyle that wouldn’t gel well (pun intended!) with the office atmosphere.

Then you list your personal information. Here is an excerpt I downloaded from “The Perfect CV” from one of the top career sites,


Karina Karrierefrau, B.A.
Hauptplatz 1
1010 Wien

Geburtsdatum: 1. Juni 1982
Staatsbürgerschaft: Österreich
Familienstand: ledig

Telefon: +43 665 987 65 43

Where do I begin? After the address, we have the date of birth. In a country with such generous maternity leave, I have heard of at least one company that is (unofficially of course) not going to hire any woman under 45 years of age for fear that she, too, will have to be replaced while on leave.

Then there is the country of citizenship. There are very few jobs for which you must be an actual citizen (such as working in a government office). For the rest, you simply need a valid work permit, whether as a citizen of another EU country or a third country. Still, I never thought much about this until I saw this post from Brazen Careerist:

DON’T tell an employer something the company doesn’t need to know. This includes information about your country of origin, culture, race or nationality. You also don’t need to reveal your citizenship status.


Now I realize – of course, your citizenship status is just another way to discriminate against someone. If you’re applying for a job in a foreign country then hopefully you have done your homework regarding work permits, and employers can probably assume that their applicants are legal to work while reviewing their applications, and confirm the details once they’ve picked the best candidate.

Then, my favorite part, marital status.’s sample just says “single,” though most CVs urge you to write the number of children you have, as well. Oh, let me count the ways this can lead to discrimination! First of all, why would this ever be relevant? Then there is the same issue with children, especially for women applicants. Do you have too many children to focus on your job? Are you married without children, meaning you may be starting a family sometime soon? Are you in a relationship and may move one day due to your partner’s job? Are you single – in which case, why haven’t you settled down yet? Who knows what an employer might be thinking when looking at this part of your résumé, but it’s none of his/her business.

I was going over English-language CVs in a business English class last year, and there was one particularly bright student in the class. She was so hardworking, interested in the world around her, and eager to get a new job with more responsibility and higher pay. As I looked over her shoulder I saw her listing: age 21, unmarried, 2 children. I urged her to take all that out, as it is nobody’s business and could potentially hurt her chances. Hopefully I am too pessimistic and employers out there don’t pay any attention to this information. But anecdotal evidence leads me to believe otherwise…

I’d love to hear about your experiences with CVs, and any other differences you find alarming. Answer in the comments below!


3 comments on “CV and Résumé DON’Ts

  1. msgrewe
    June 3, 2013

    Caitlin, thanks for posting this and breaking it down! When I worked at Firmen as a teenager/young adult in Germany, I would occasionally hear offensive “zwischen uns” banter among colleagues when applications came in the mail. Though I was much younger then, I was “Americanized” enough to know there was something very wrong. Later I learned that there are laws about these things in the US and could better understand how asking for this kind of information can be extremely problematic. I wonder if Austria and Germany follow the same Lebenslauf templates. Danke und LG aus NY!

  2. caitahern
    June 4, 2013

    Hi Maria! That’s a good question – I would assume it’s a bit different in Germany but I’ll look into it. But even the Europass has your birthday and country of citizenship on it.

    I had a very nice job interview once in which, just while chatting, the interview asked me, “How would your husband feel about you being away so much?” (as the job would have involved a lot of commuting). I even started to answer, before I realized, wait a second, that is completely uncalled for! I think he was just being conversational and soon realized that it wasn’t his business and backtracked. Still, I feel like the damage had been done.

    Another friend of mine was straight-out asked when she was planning to have kids. (Though that was for a job at a foreign embassy, not Austrian people!) Needless to say she is not working there!

  3. Pingback: Upcoming Workshop: Write your CV (Lebenslauf) in English! | Caitlin Ahern

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This entry was posted on June 3, 2013 by in Living Abroad and tagged , , , .
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