Man Filling out Tax Form

Hi Alyssa!

Me, my sister and our friend have just, in the last couple of weeks, finally decided to change our lives and move to the U.K., and have booked our flights for September. We have no real future plans, but are getting super bored here in the city (Vancouver) and are basically just going to see where life will take us!

I had one quick question about applying for jobs (and sorry if I missed this somewhere else on your blog) but when you are creating a CV, is there anything in particular that you would recommend we include/not include on it? In terms of the format, is it basically the same as a resume and can we just use our resume in a different format?

Or, in your opinion, what is the biggest difference between a CV and resume? All three of us also have different education levels (some with no post-secondary, and some with degrees) I’ve done some research, but thought it would be better to check in with you on it, given your first-hand experience 😉

THANK YOU for making our dreams to travel and live abroad so much more real and doable!!

— C & Co.

Hi C & Co,
Thank you so much for all of your kind words. It really motivates me to continue writing and helping people when I get the pleasure to read stories like yours!

To your question: I do have some experience with it and I would have said that a CV is not that much different! Just to be sure, I consulted David Hunt, Business Development & Operations Director at Antal International Network.

According to David, North American resumes tend to be quite short – usually about one page, even from those with more experience.

“In the UK two or three pages is more typical. This isn’t an excuse to waffle or fill with banality. For a graduate level role I’d suggest two pages are enough and it needn’t be two full (packed) pages,” he wrote in an email.

Alyssa James, CV, Resume, Twesume
My “Twesume” – posted on Twitter

I kept my CV down to one page (though there was an extra page with links to writing samples) because of the jobs I was applying for. I also made mine quite creative because I was looking for work in marketing and I wanted to stand out. My partner (who is from London) had very little work experience when he came back from Martinique, but has a two page CV. In his case, he was looking for graduate jobs in trading.

I’ve also noticed that people write a short statement about themselves, which differs slightly from the Objective you might see on a resume at home.

David recommends “A short paragraph on your personal attributes and ambitions, two to four sentences, and this should be tailored to the specific role or company you are applying to.”

I’ve also heard recruiters say that they find the American attitude towards personal statements (‘I’ve been working towards this my whole life and I’m amazing’) to just sound like BS. David suggests using engaging and positive words, but avoiding hyperbole.

For your education: employers are quite aware of GPA grading systems so you can put your qualifications – if they’re good.

David says, “Comparing North American and UK qualifications can be difficult. Companies here will of course recognise and respect names of many learning institutions such as MIT, Harvard, UCLA, etc. but won’t have a good feel for the level of any qualification.” He recommends contacting NARIC, a government agency that helps translate qualifications to UK equivalence. I only think this is necessary if the role you’re applying for calls for very specific qualification.

Furthermore, education appears further down in a UK CV, after the profile and work experience, which should be in reverse chronological order). That being said, if you have particularly impressive credentials, I would include it at the top. I went to the University of Toronto, which many people are familiar with and wrote my GPA with the UK equivalent for jobs that required a minimum university grade. Grades in the UK are marked as 1st class (like a 4.0), 2.1 (two-one, or second class honours), 2.2 (two-two, or second class), 3rd, and so on.

My partner also included his GCSE and A-level grades when he applied for graduate schemes. Obviously, if you don’t have them you needn’t worry, though they may ask for your transcripts.

For the last part of your question, I asked David how employers regard international degrees and work experience.

He told me that they both are respected, especially when gained in English speaking countries. “In the UK, education is valued, but work experience and life experience are higly valued too. So people who have ‘got off their butt’ so to speak and worked in summer breaks, done internships, travelled, worked in a family business are also valued as an indication of work ethic, ambition and maturity.”

Obviously, your experience should be relevant to the job you’re applying for. Don’t think that because you worked as a recruiter for two years in Canada means you can easily get into marketing in London, for example. It could happen, but you’ll have to have a really good story and find an employer willing to ‘take a punt’ on you. You’ll also likely start again at entry-level.

One of my colleagues worked in recruitment before moving over to our agency, but she had a relevant Masters and had a highly desirable skill for digital marketers: native German.

One last tip, if you really want your CV to look British (besides including British spelling and an address and phone number in the UK), change the paper size. In the UK, the standard paper size is A4 – this is slightly less wide and a couple centimetres longer than our standard 8 ½” x 11″ paper.

It will be noticeable when they print out your CV or will affect the formatting when opened on their computers.

I hope that answers all of your questions and isn’t too much to take in! Read through a few CVs online, and take the suggestion from the last question – send your CV to recruiters and ask their advice. They’re usually the ones between you and your dream job in the UK!

TL;DR: They’re not that different depending on your industry, but formatting has an effect on how “British” it looks.

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5 thoughts on “Reader Question # 2: Is a British CV different from a North American resume?”

  1. Hey!
    From the time I decided to apply for my YMS visa back in July, to now, having been in the UK for nearly three weeks, I visit your website and your various posts regarding your experiences and advice about 2-3 times a week! I wanted to just say thank you for being so thorough, keeping all your information updated and being so willing to help. There are sooooo many things I wouldn’t have known I had to do, like apply for an NI number and register with the NHS, if it wasn’t for you. As far as I’ve looked I don’t even remember seeing any of that information on any official websites. Anyways! Thanks a million, you’ve helped make a really crazy process super easy and painless. You’re amazing! Best of luck with everything you choose to do in the future.

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