Basic Business French 3 :
The curriculum vitae

© 2015, Greg Lessard

About this module

In the last module, we learned some of the basic terms from the world of work. To enter this world, you need to be hired, and one of the crucial steps in that is to present yourself well to a potential employer. In this module, we will look at one element of that presentation, the curriculum vitae or CV. Both terms are also used in French. In particular, we will focus on:

So let us begin to explore the CV in French.

About the CV

A CV is a structured document. One of the reasons for that is that those involved in hiring often see vast numbers of CVs, so anything that makes them easier to read is an advantage. You should also keep this in mind when producing your own CV. Your goals should be elegance (the most important things, presented in a way that makes them obvious) and brevity (just the essentials, not more than two pages, and preferably one). Your CV should also be in the language in which the job is advertised.

CVs can be divided into blocks, and each block has a certain structure that we will see below. To begin, let us look at a sample CV. Hover over the elements of it to see some information about each of them.

30, rue Montcalm
Sainte-Foy, Québec
Tél: 1 5xx 4567 (dom.); xxx yyy (cell.)
POSTE RECHERCHÉ: Adjointe administrative
2007-2011 Baccalauréat en sociologie, Université de Montréal
2011-2012 Formation supplémentaire en informatique, Collège Maisonneuve, Montréal
2012-2013 Stagiaire en administration, La ville de Montréal, Montréal (travail à temps partiel). Classement de documents.
2014-2015 Associée aux ventes, La Baie. Conseiller les clients et clientes, enregistrer les achats.
2013-2014 Assistante administrative, Les entreprises AAA, Montréal. Traitement de textes, classement de documents, organisation de réunions.
2009-2011 Aide aux personnes âgées, L'asile des vieux, Montréal. Visites et activités organisées, aide aux repas.
Langues: anglais (langue maternelle); français (parlé et écrit couramment); espagnol (lecture)
Informatique: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Développement de pages Web.
Scolaires: Bourse Saunders (meilleur projet de fin d'études en sociologie); Université de Montréal, 2014
Autres: Médaille de bronze en natation (concours provincial, Montréal, 2012)
Sports: natation, tennis de table, hockey
Culturels: lecture, scrabble

Addresses in French

Each language has its own set of rules for presenting addresses. Failure to follow them is an important problem to be avoided in a CV. To see some of the important differences between English and French, look at the following table. A number of them have abreviated forms, included here in parentheses.

French form English form Comments
30, avenue Tremblay 30 Tremblay Avenue English has no comma after the street number, but French does. French puts the kind of street before its name, but English puts it after. In French, street types are in lower case, but in English they start with a capital.
30, avenue Tremblay Ouest, app. 4 30 Tremblay Avenue West
Apartment 4
French spells "appartement", English "apartment".
30, avenue Tremblay
Appartement 4
Montréal (Québec) G1X 3F5
30 Tremblay Avenue
Apartment 4
Montreal, QC
G1X 3F5
Some place names are spelled differently in English and French. Don't forget to include accents where they are required in French. Notice also that the name of a Canadian province may be abbreviated to a two-letter code in English, but this tends not to be done in French, where the entire name is written out between parentheses.
rue street rue is almost always written in lower case in addresses.
avenue (av.) avenue avenue is also almost always written in lower case in addresses, except where it is part of the name itself, as in 3e Avenue.
boulevard (boul.) boulevard (blvd) boulevard is also almost always written in lower case in addresses, except where it is part of the name itself, as in 3° Boulevard.
3e Avenue Third Avenue French writes 2e, 3e and so on, English 2nd, 3rd. One exception in French: 1er before a masculine noun like 1er boulevard and 1ère before a feminine noun like 1ère rue.
tour Tower In addresses, tour is in lower case. In English, upper.
bureau (bur.) Office In French addresses, lowercase is used in addresses, as in 1250, chemin Sainte-Foy, bureau 101
Édifice Building In French addresses, Édifice is written before the name of the building, as in Édifice Tremblay whereas Building follows in English, as in Tremblay Building.
étage Floor In French addresses, lowercase is used in addresses, as in Édifice Tremblay, 6e étage
Succursale (Succ.) Station (Stn.) This is usually used to refer to postal substations, as in C. P. 6128, succ. Centre-ville.
place Place/Square place is also almost always written in lower case in addresses, except where it is part of the name itself, as in Place Royale.
Nord/Sud/Est/Ouest North/South/East/West Remember to include the French term in an address in a French speaking region, but the English term elsewhere.

A note on abreviations in French: there is a rule one whether to use the period or not. If the abbreviated form includes the last letter of the word. For example, we shorten Monsieur to M. (note the period), but we shorten Madame to Mme (note the absence of a period). Following this logic, we write boul., av. and so on.

Exploring addresses

Let us check how much you have remembered of what you have just read. Each of the following parts of addresses contains one or more errors. Try to find them, then mouse over the address to see the correct form.

Feminine forms for job names

Before we look at the names for different jobs, it is important to look at an important issue that comes up in French : the question of how to designate jobs according to whether a man or a woman is doing the job. In French, this issue is often called la féminisation des titres.

Different francophone countries have different policies in this area, but Canada and Québec have taken a lead, so if you are working in a Canadian context, it will be important to be aware of policies and practices here. A good source of information on this is found on the Termium Plus site. We will summarize briefly here the main classes they outline, but you should consult the page itself for more detail.

The following table shows some of the main rules for distinguishing the sexes, with a comment on the difference. We have chosen many cognate forms, so the meaning of the terms should be clear. Where it isn't, the English equivalent is provided in parentheses. Begin by looking at the masculine and feminine forms and trying to guess the rule.

Masculine forms Feminine forms Comments
un pilote, un architecte une pilote, une architecte Same form for both genders.
un agent, un consultant une agente, une consultante Words ending in -t in the masculine often add -e in the feminine.
un député (a Member of Parliament), un employé une députée, une employée Words ending in in the masculine often add -e in the feminine.
un professionnel, un éléctricien une professionnelle, une éléctricienne Words ending in -l or -n in the masculine often double the final consonant and add -e in the feminine.
un ouvrier (a worker), un conseiller une ouvrière, une conseillère Words ending in -ier or -ier in the masculine often have a form in -ère in the feminine.
un assembleur, un camionneur (a trucker) une assembleuse, une camionneuse Words ending in -eur in the masculine, especially the names of trades, often have a form in -euse in the feminine.
un ingénieur (an engineer), un professeur une ingénieure, une professeure In Canada, words ending in -eur in the masculine, especially the names of professions, often have a form in -eure in the feminine. This usage is less current in France and Belgium.
un aviateur, un directeur une aviatrice, une directrice Words where the masculine ends in -teur sometimes have a feminine in -trice

A quiz on feminine forms

Using what you have seen in the last module, test your ability to come up with the appropriate feminine form for masculine job titles. In each case, you will see a masculine form. Try to quess the feminine then click to check your response. There are seven questions each time you take the quiz, but you can take it more than once with different questions.

Types of jobs

As you can imagine, the number of different professions is very large. A good guide through this complexity is the Classification nationale des professions (2011 version), built with the help of Statistics Canada. It is divided into nine general areas:

This classification is available in both French and English. Spend some time looking over it. Over the next modules, we will focus on the categories of Gestion, Affaires, finance et administration and Ventes et services.

Some common employment verbs

Look at the paragraph below, which describes the responsibilities of an office manager and the office staff he or she supervises. Begin by trying to understand its overall gist: use what you know and have seen about offices and pay attention to cognates.You will notice that it contains many verbs which describe the responsibilities of the various people in an office, including the supervisor and the office staff. Mouse over the passage to find the verbs (sometimes with their objects). When you hover over each verb, you will see its equivalent in English. Try to memorize as many of these as possible. (A translation of the entire passage is given at the end.)

Les superviseurs de commis de bureau et du personnel de soutien administratif exercent une partie ou l'ensemble des fonctions suivantes :

  • coordonner, répartir et réviser le travail des commis qui s'acquittent des tâches suivantes : faire du traitement de texte, faire de la tenue de dossiers et du classement; faire fonctionner des téléphones et des standards; faire de la saisie de données; faire de l'éditique et d'autres activités exigeant des compétences en travail de bureau et en administration;
  • établir les horaires et les procédures de travail, et coordonner les activités avec les autres services ou divisions;
  • résoudre les problèmes reliés au travail, et rédiger et présenter des rapports d'étapes et autres rapports;
  • former les employés à leurs tâches, aux règles de sécurité et aux politiques de l'entreprise;
  • commander des fournitures et du matériel;
  • assurer le bon fonctionnement de l'équipement et du matériel de bureau, et voir à leur entretien et à leur réparation;
  • exercer, au besoin, les mêmes fonctions que les personnes supervisées.

Source: Gouvernement du Canada


Supervisors in this unit group perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Co-ordinate, assign and review the work of clerks engaged in the following duties: word processing; record keeping and filing; operating telephones and switchboards; data entry; desktop publishing; and other activities involving general office and administrative skills
  • Establish work schedules and procedures and co-ordinate activities with other work units or departments
  • Resolve work-related problems and prepare and submit progress and other reports
  • Train workers in job duties, safety procedures and company policies
  • Requisition supplies and materials
  • Ensure smooth operation of office equipment and machinery, and arrange for maintenance and repair work. May perform the same duties as workers supervised.

Verbs and nouns for business and administration

As the last section illustrated, much of the focus on business and administration is on getting things done. This is often represented by a verb, as in acheter. Below, we will see a list of verbs like this. But it is also important to recognize that French, like English, has ways of turning verbs into nouns, to talk about the action of doing something, or the person who does it. So, for example, we can talk of un achat, or un acheteur. A number of suffixes like -tion and -ment are often used to make nouns of action, and the suffix -eur (or -euse/-trice for the feminine) are often used to name the people who typically perform actions.

The following table gives some examples of common French verbs (based on a Swiss manpower source) and their corresponding nouns, added here. Try to guess their meaning then mouse over the words to see their equivalent in English. Try to memorize as many of these as possible. In some cases, you will notice a resemblance with the words in English (remember cognates from the first module), but pay attention to cases where words have a similar form but different meanings. For example, the French verb affecter can mean 'affect' like in English, but it is also used as equivalent to the English word assign, as in assigning someone to a task.

Exploring a CV

You now have a model for a CV and some of the language used in a typical CV in French. The examples below include sections from a variety of CVs created by the Université de Sherbrooke. Look at each section and answer the comprehension questions below.

Représentant des ventes Affaires Plus, Sherbrooke
Septembre 2004 à février 2006 accroître l’investissement publicitaire Internet;
  faire des recommandations et conseiller les clients;
  développer et mettre en application des stratégies de ventes créatives.

Comprehension questions

  1. Is this a man or a woman?
  2. Answer

    A man: représentant, not représentante.

  3. What is the person trying to do with Internet advertising?
  4. Answer

    He is trying to increase (accroître) investment.

  5. What is the relationship with customers?
  6. Answer

    The goal is to counsel customers (conseiller les clients) and to make recommendations.

  7. What personality trait is shown by this entry?
  8. Answer

    Creativity: mettre en application des stratégies de ventes créatives.

Directeur marketing Maximus, Granby
Janvier à novembre 2006 élaborer et proposer à la direction générale la politique commerciale de l'entreprise;
  déterminer les orientations stratégiques, les objectifs à atteindre et les moyens à mettre en place, après analyse et évaluation des différentes composantes du marché;
  animer, coordonner et contrôler les activités de conception et de mise en œuvre nécessaires au développement des biens ou des services proposés par l'entreprise.

Comprehension questions

  1. How long did the person hold their position?
  2. Answer

    Less than a year: Janvier à novembre 2006.

  3. What role does the person play with respect to the market?
  4. Answer

    He analyses it: après analyse et évaluation des différentes composantes du marché.

  5. Who does he make recommendations to?
  6. Answer

    To senior management: la direction générale.

  7. What role does he play with respect to the development of new products and services?
  8. Answer

    He coordinates and verifies (animer, coordonner et contrôler) the creation and the putting into practice (les activités de conception et de mise en œuvre) of new products and services.

As you can see, mastering the basic vocabulary (verbs and nouns) of business activities is crucial both to read a CV and to produce an effective one.

Reading passages

Probably the best way of learning a language in detail is to read. You now know enough that you can begin to attempt this. Spend some time reading the following CV (source: the Swiss manpower office). It has been divided into sections. Try to understand each section using the strategies we have seen: look for cognates, use your background knowledge, look for verbs and nouns that describe actions and people. Don't be discouraged if you don't recognize everything: these are still early days. Just try to get a broad sense of the meaning. Once you feel that you've got as far as you can, mouse over the line which reads Translation to see the text in English and compare the two.

A CV header


Name: Charlotte Oboulot. This is a pun on au boulot (at work). The CV includes the street address, the telephone at work (T:) and at home (M:) as well as the email. It also includes the date of birth, the nationality (Suisse) and the marital status: unmarried (Célibataire).

Objective: to occupy a position of assistant to the director for an international corporation

Description of past work experience


2009-2011 Administrative Assistant
  ABC Company, Lausanne
  preparation of documentation for customers
  organization of meetings and seminars
  translation of documents from English to French
2007-2009 Commercial Assistant
  DEF International, Nyon
  management of teleophone calls
  following up on billing
  filing and archiving
  organisation of meetings and seminars
  preparation of PowerPoint presentations

Description of education


2007 Diploma from the Goethe Institute, level B2
  International House, Berlin
  preparation of documentation for customers
2006 Bachelor of Arts
  University of Lausanne (major in English, minor in French and social science)
2002 Equivalent to college diploma in modern languages
  Regional College, Lausanne

Description of language and computer skills

French Mother tongue
English Advanced level (C1)
German Intermediate level (B2)


Word, Excel, PowerPoint Very good knowledge
Access, Photoshop Good level of understanding

Summing up

You should now feel comfortable with the following concepts:

  1. how to write addresses in French
  2. the most common terms found on a CV in French
  3. words for the names of occupations and those who perform them, both men and women
  4. verbs in French for different activities
  5. how to extract information from a CV.

You have also had the opportunity to take some informal quizzes to test your knowledge, and you have dealt with some short reading passages. Together, these things will have prepared you for the next step, the covering letter.