English CV

5 Tips on how to write an English CV

Writing an English CV can be a daunting task if you’re not a native English speaker. We tend to postpone it until the last moment. By then setting up your English CV is consuming time that you rather would have spent on preparing your cover letter or job interview. Do you have any international career ambitions or you are looking for a job in a multinational company? You have to invest time in your English CV before you start the job hunt. Where to start? Here are a couple of tips to help you make the right impression with your English CV.


1. Don’t use Google translate, read job advertations and job descriptions

Most of the work on your English CV will go into the translation itself. You probably already have a great CV in your own local language and you want your English CV to be just as sharp. Be careful with using online translation tools like Google translate. A literal translation can result in weird sentences and awkward choice of words.

You can’t find the right words or the right tone? You can learn a lot from just reading English job adverts related to your field of business. Job adverts can give you a lot of insight into the common language recruiters use in your field of work. Don’t just read the job adverts you would apply to. Worldwide there are so many English job adverts in your field of work, use them as a source of information.


2. Stick with the standard format

The most common format for an English CV is as follows:

  • Personal details (or Contact details). Put your name, address, e-mail and telephone number here. Add your birth date, nationality and marital status when applying for a job in Europe.
  • Personal profile (or Objectives). Short summary of the key elements of your experience, qualifications, skills, personal characteristics and career objectives. (5 lines max)
  • Professional experience (or work experience, employment history): List of Job title, start and end date, company name, key responsibilities and achievements. Use reverse chronological order to sum up your experience. Try to keep the sentences short.
  • Education: Use reverse chronological order. Try to give a good indication of the academic level of your local education. The educational system in your country might not be common knowledge in other countries. Put your education before your professional experience if you are a graduate or starter.
  • Skills: Give an indication of skills like language skills, computer skills or other personal skills.
  • Extracurricular activities (or Awards / Publications): Use this section only if the information is relevant for the position you are applying to. Relevant activities can be voluntary work, activities that show leadership like coaching a team or positions that show expertise like being member of a commission.
  • Personal interests: Name hobbies, sports, cultural interests here. Be careful with interests that are irrelevant or could harm your application.


3. CV in EU, Resume in the US

How should you call your document? In English there are two terms possible; CV (short for Curriculum Vitae) or Resume. In Europe the general term is CV. In North America both are used, but the resume is the most common. Only for academic, scientific or research positions the term CV is used in North America. The American CV is longer and has a more detailed overview of information than a resume. The same applies for the academic positions in Europe. But most CVs in Europe are similar to the Resumes of North America.  Both documents should be brief and easy to read, max. 2 pages. In other parts of the world, like Australia, South-Africa and India the  terms CV and Resume are interchangeable. If you are looking for a job located in North America you can call your document a resume. For most other areas you can stick with naming it a CV.


4. Things to add or take off your English CV

Using your photo on your CV or Resume is getting more and more common and acceptable. However when applying for a job in the UK or USA it is better to remove your photo. Adding personal information like your birth date, nationality and marital status are normal on a European CV. But this is not standard information on the American Resume. But as a foreigner applying for an international position, you should always include your nationality on your CV or Resume.


5. When to use an English CV?

Obviously an English CV is necessary when applying for a job in a native English speaking country. When applying for any international position a English CV is often the best choice too. Always use your English CV when the job advert itself is in English, even for a position in your own country.  Needless to say that you should also sent your application in English when this is specifically requested in the job advert.



Carl Havermans

GoSumo is part of De Leydsche, based in the Netherlands. Besides designing cv templates we have been rewriting cv’s for our customers in the Netherlands and Belgium since 2013. In these 5 years of cv writing and designing we have rewritten cv’s for all professional levels, from graduates to top level managers.