CV questions & answers
7. Since I’m not a native speaker, should I copy CV samples from job search sites or my computer so that the English is perfect?
Curriculum vitae (CV) is the term used in Great Britain and South Africa while résumé (or colloquially, resume) is used in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Both terms refer to a short (1-2 page) document that summarizes your skills, education, experience and accomplishments and is sent to potential business employers to secure a permanent position or an internship. On this site, we use the term ‘CV’ for both CV and résumé.
An academic CV in Great Britain or CV in the United States (confused yet?) is a longer, more detailed document that is used for academic, research or scientific positions. (See Academic CVs – guidelines and samples)
A prospective employer or institution may be looking at hundreds (or in the case of popular companies like Google, thousands) of CVs. Companies can’t interview hundreds of people so they look for ways to reduce the number to a manageable few. The purpose of a CV is to make you stand out from the other applicants and keep you from being eliminated.
Most major corporations and an increasing number of smaller companies use computers to match qualifications with job requirements to limit the number of candidates. For tips on how to develop a CV that will make it past the computer and reach a human, click on Creating scannable CVs.
Jobline has a section on the differences between German CVs and CVs used in English speaking countries. See Converting your German CV to get more information.
There is no one correct format. We recommend using reverse chronological order (See step-by-step suide to creating a CV) because this common format is the easiest for hiring managers to scan quickly and find information. It also allows you to highlight your most relevant skills and experience. A CV for a marketing position, for example, could have a short list of your marketing experience at the top under the heading, ‘Key Marketing Skills and Experience’.
It’s more effective to create a master CV and then customize the ‘Key Skills and Experience’ section. Check your ‘Experience’ section to make sure your examples are the strongest and most relevant for the position and company. Generally, using one all-purpose CV won’t save you time because employers quickly reject applicants who don’t care enough to tailor their application.
As a rule of thumb write one page if you don’t have lot of experience and not more than two pages tops. If you can’t fit everything in, you are probably including more than the employer is interested in knowing. Remember, business writing is concise and to the point. Select what is most relevant for the position. Don’t try to reduce the length by using smaller margins or type and less white space.
CVs for scientific fields, research and academic positions and graduate work in those areas are generally longer and more detailed. See Academic CVs.
7. Since I’m not a native speaker, should I copy CV samples from job search sites on my computer so that the English is perfect?
No! They all look the same and employers recognize those over-used phrases. Get all the help you need and ask a native speaker for feedback, but write your CV and cover letter yourself. No one can tell your story as convincingly as you can.
Employers are generally tolerant of minor grammatical errors from non-native speakers. However, CVs containing mistakes that proofreading and spell checking would have found indicate carelessness and are rejected.
Use ‘Experience’ as the heading for that section so you can include paid and non-paid experience and activities. All are equally valuable for acquiring relevant skills. The employer cares more about the skills you have than where you acquired them.
First - a positive first impression. Busy hiring managers and admissions officers often spend less than 30 seconds before deciding whether to read on or reject an applicant.
- Is your CV concise, organized and easy to read?
- Is the summary of your relevant skills and experience near the top?
- Does it highlight your accomplishments and show some understanding of the requirements of the position?