building a CV for moving overseas

CV vs. resume: what’s the difference and how to build one

If you want a job in the U.K., forget everything you’ve been told about resumes. Well, almost everything. And while you’re at it, forget the word resume altogether. Every single job/internship/scholarship/placement I have applied for in the United Kingdom wants one thing and one thing only: the coveted CV.

What’s a CV you ask? It stands for curriculum vitae. You can translate that classy Latin term into what I like to call an all-encompassing resume.

So what’s the big deal and the big difference if it’s basically a resume? Everything.

Useless Resume Advice

But first, here’s the (now useless) advice that’s been drilled into us from day one about what any resume should be:

  • “It must be only one page. Any longer, and they’ll throw it away.”
  • “Tailor it exactly to the job… nothing extra, just relevant experience.”
  • “One page ONLY.”
  • “Do not add any personal information. A recruiter will not care about your personal life.”
  • “It is a given that you are proficient in Microsoft Office programs. Do not waste space on this, as you only have one page.
  • Older professors: “It’s up to you if you want an objective statement, but it can be taken out if you’re out of room.”
  • Younger professors: “Skip the objective statement. Use the rest of your resume to highlight your skills.”
  • “Keep your tone professional.”
  • “Never, and I mean never, go over one page.”

Basically, the shorter and more efficient you are, the better. Makes sense in a fast-paced culture where the average recruiter spends a whopping 6 seconds deciding if you are fit or unfit for a job.

Cue another culture shock, this time in the form of a CV.

Ah, a CV. It’s like your track record, the condensed file of your entire professional life, and a long-form resume all in one. Beautiful really, except when you’re hit head on by the train that is the difference between your perfectly manicured resume and the expansiveness of a CV.

Page One: The Basics

For starters, you need a summary statement. Not an objective statement (i.e. “I am looking to be hired as the Project Manager for Company X”) but a full-blown description of why you’re awesome. More on that here. So forget the ease of leaving it out to “save space” and instead rummage your brain for some way to sound confident and qualified while not cocky or arrogant. If you’re from the Midwest (like I am) good luck to ya, my friend.

Here’s mine:

A creative yet detail-oriented individual with proven leadership and customer service skills, looking to secure a position in the hospitality and tourism industry whilst expanding my overseas experience. Capable of collaborating on, or leading, projects as a team member or individual to achieve results. Highly self-motivated, outgoing, and bright, with a strong commitment to continual personal and professional development.

Here’s another one that’s better than mine:

Project Manager with 10+ years experience specializing in web production, education publications, public outreach and consumer packaging. Professional, creative, flexible with proven analytical skills. Adept at researching and crafting award winning marketing campaigns for a wide variety of clients and products.

Then you can take a breather and use most of the same information from your resume for the rest of that page. My education section remains at the top (as a recent grad) followed by my most recent employer and so on. I basically copied and pasted my resume in for the first page of my CV, added the summary, tweaked a few things, and moved on.

I’ve seen CV’s that use full sentences, but I would still recommend the S.T.A.R. approach in bullet-point format taught in the U.S. for a succinct and easy-to-navigate look.

Page Two: Overview

Now for the second page struggle. Though I have been involved in extracurriculars throughout my life, I knew it was not worth it to detail out “took notes as secretary of my freshman dorm hall government.”

So, I searched and I read and I asked my English friends to send me their CVs and their parents’ CVs to compare.What I learned:

  • CVs in the U.K., though still professional, are less formal. The point is to allow a recruiter to get to know a bit of your personality.
  • I am suddenly allowed, nay, required to have a section detailing my personal hobbies and interests.
  • Apparently, it is also still acceptable to list out computer skills.
  • Though frequently left off of U.S. resumes, most CV examples I stumbled included a “References available on request.”

And then I started what became the first of over 10 versions since then.

Page Two: Formatting

Personally, I chose to format my second page in a different way. Instead of highlighting specific roles I’ve held, I used a skills-based format. Though taboo in the U.S. to combine the two, it has worked perfectly to really bring out what I believe are my best professional experiences (page one) and my personal strengths (page two).

When it finally came to the hobbies/interests section, I struggled on whether or not to include this. After all, I am American, and I was born-and-raised believing a recruiter does not give a rat’s bums about me personally, just about my performance ability.

After several discussions with my English friends on this issue, my boyfriend explained it to me like this: “Tons of people are qualified for the job… what a hiring manager really wants is to get to know you and decide if they’ll actually like working with you. If you both play piano or spend your free time reading then you automatically have common ground and something to get you started in an interview.” Alas, the purpose of the second half of the second page.

Mine is very short (four to five lines max) and many CVs I’ve seen don’t go much over that in their interests sections. Honestly now that I’ve done it, I couldn’t be happier that someone looking to hire me knows more than my name and my past employers when we enter an interview.

Final thoughts:

  • Double check spelling. Triple check spelling. Change your Microsoft Word to correct spelling with U.K. English (yes, you can do this). Do not submit a CV that says “organized” instead of “organised” and save everyone the headache of wondering if you’ll assimilate to a new culture.
  • In the U.K. it is not generally “references” that are available but “referees.” Goodness knows why, but make the simple switch and thank yourself when you are offered an interview.

Though not an expert, my current CV landed me three interviews for internships in the travel and event industry that led to two offers for full-time internship positions.

If you doubt it, my referees are available upon request.

Read more CV tips and tricks in the duly-named article here. What is your best CV (or resume) advice? Share it in a comment!

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