The UK Curriculum Vitae vs The US Resume

By: Zach

Greetings once again from the UK! In this today’s edition of ‘Peer Into Your Career,’ we are going to take a look into the interesting similarities and differences of the British CV and the American Resume.


After exploring the Queen Mary Career Centre here on campus, I soon realized there is no such a document called a “resume,” or at least the use of one when applying for positions. Now it is important to note that in the US we do have two different forms of documents that can be used in the application process. The most popular being a resume of course and the other also being a CV (curriculum vitae). Before we dive into the main topic, let’s break down the differences between a resume and a CV in the United States.

Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

When applying for jobs in the US the most common document requested is a resume. Resumes are usually no longer then one page, two at the most if properly formatted. Their purpose is to inform the reader in a quick manner of the skills and qualifications you can bring to their organization. Resumes are meant to market one’s own ability, and show how you can separate yourself from the competition. The resume is meant to be a document that changes when applying for different positions. Highlighting the skills that correlate with that specific job. That means if there is more relevant information such as experience or education that may hold more “weight” in the eyes of the employer, it would be critical to use that information while complying to the proper format. In the US, a Curriculum Vitae, or CV, has a different purpose than a resume. Curriculum Vitae literally translates as “course of life” in Latin. These documents are a much more in-depth form of application that are usually two pages or longer. With the CV’s main focus on personal achievements, education, and accomplishments, it is more often requested from graduate school applications or job postings in professional fields (such as research or academia). In detail, the CV highlights one’s publications, awards, honors, projects, and education in order to give the reader a thorough look of one’s accomplished past. After learning a bit about these two application documents in the US, let’s hop the pond and take a look at how the Brits apply for jobs!

Pound It
Pound It

To find out more, I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and grabbed the magnifying glass! A trail of crumbs led me to the Queen Mary Career Centre, where I knew I would be able to ‘get the dirt!’ I approached the front desk and asked if I could see references for writing a resume. Easy enough, right? I was golden! After an awkward five second pause, the receptionist questioned, “. . . Ah, you must be American, right?” That was it, I was caught, and my cover was now blown!

Career office
Career Centre

She went on to explain to me that the two documents are used very similar in manner when applying for open positions, yet they were not one in the same. Here in the UK, CVs are the main document of application. Similarities that stay true between these documents in both countries is mostly found in the format. Just like in the US, CVs in the UK also emphasize descriptive information regarding education, achievements, and publications or projects. However, just like resumes in the States, CVs are also condensed to a two-page minimum, and it is highly recommended that you change this document to mold with the position you are applying for. If you have more relevant experience, one over the other, to the position you are applying for, and you believe it would be more important in the employers’ eyes, then you are suggested to switch the information out. After speaking with the receptionist at the Career Centre, she had made it clear that CVs in the UK are meant for personal marketing. When applying for positions, just like resumes, CVs are used to separate oneself from the competition and be a document that is truly a representation of one’s qualifications and accomplishments. Both in the US and in the UK, these documents are the compliment to a letter of application or letter of inquiry when applying. All-in-all, other than formatting, depth of contact, and most likely paper size, US resumes and UK CVs are very much alike! Remember if you are applying to a school or organization abroad that you research the local and proper forms of submitting your personal documents in order to be viewed in the best light! You can find those details for several countries on GoinGlobal, which can be found in GoldPASS.



Read Zach’s other posts

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