How to Write a CV in English
Whether you want to apply for a job in an English-speaking country or a job where English is required, you’re going to need an English CV. Preparing your CV in English doesn't have to be complicated. An English CV is not very different in terms of structure from most European CVs. We’re here to answer any burning questions you may have about the structure, content and qualifications.
Having an English CV can open multiple doors worldwide. Most major companies operate in English; by sending your CV in English, you understand it sufficiently for professional purposes.
The structure of an English CV
As with many CVs, a CV in English is typically two A4 pages in length. It’s also common practice to number the pages. When applying to a US company, your resume should not be longer than one A4 page in length.
Sections are usually structured in reverse chronological order, as follows:
Note that the ‘Work Experience’ and ‘Education’ sections can be swapped around, if you’ve just left education or you’re still a student.
It’s important to note that dates can be written in English in any of the following ways, depending on the country where the employer is located:
July 14, 2021 (US and Canada)
July 14th, 2021 (US)
14th July, 2021 (UK and Ireland)
14 July, 2021 (UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa)
What to include
While there are some differences between an English-style CV and an American resume, the following sections are usually included:
- Personal and contact information
- Personal statement
This is a brief, introductory statement of about six lines, where you highlight the skills, experience and achievements that are relevant to the role you’re applying for.
This part of your CV can also be called a ‘Career objective’; however, this is generally shorter and tends to focus on your career goals and ambitions.
- Work experience
Starting with your most recent position first, include start and end dates, the name of your employer, as well as a mix of your responsibilities and achievements.
Use bullet points and omit pronouns, rather than using ‘I’ sentences, e.g.
- Managed a team of 5 content creators to publish 10 blog posts on a monthly basis.
If you can quantify the results you achieved, whether you worked in sales or managed a project, even better.
As you can see from the sentence above, the simple past is used to describe roles. However, if you’re currently in a role, then you use the present tense or the present continuous tense:
- Proofread translations (present)
- Proofreading translations (present continuous)
Mention your degrees and diplomas, specifying the year, the institution and the location. You will need to include Anglo-Saxon equivalents for your qualifications to be understood.
If you’re applying for a job in academia or the courses you’ve taken are particularly relevant to the job you’re applying for, you may also want to include details about your course modules.
Other sections on an English CV
Training courses/professional development and internships are separate sections on an English CV.
While it’s not common to mention your hobbies and interests, it’s fine to mention them as long as they demonstrate relevant skills and/or experience. Including sections for the languages you speak (if applicable), a summary of your skills (soft and hard) as well as extracurricular activities (if you’re a student or recent graduate) is also a very good idea.
Should you include references?
Generally, it’s not necessary to mention references or even include the sentence ‘References available upon request’.
In the early stages of the process, most employers won’t require these.
However, if you live in South Africa, it’s usual to include your references in the ‘comprehensive CV’, the CV that follows a ‘brief profile’ (comparable to a one-page American resume), where you go into detail about your work experience, education and skills.
Also, in New Zealand, many employers will expect to see references on your CV, especially if most of your work experience is from overseas.
What to leave out
In many English-speaking countries such as the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa, including a photo is discouraged to protect yourself against discrimination.
There’s also no need to include personal details such as date of birth, place of birth, nationality, marital status or the number of children you have. However, in South Africa, you may need to include your identity number, but it’s best to check the job description or with the employer before sending such sensitive information.
Europass CV in English
If you’re applying for a job in Europe, you could also create a Europass CV directly. This is done on the Europass website.
Europass also offers the possibility to add all kinds of documents that make applying within Europe easier, such as the Europass Language Passport with which you indicate your language skills and various supplements that describe your education level.
Beware of spelling differences
Beware of spelling differences between British and American English. Here are the main differences:
- The English ‘CV’ is a ‘resume’ in US English.
- Verbs can take an ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ ending in British English, but are always spelt with ‘ize’ in American English, e.g. ‘organise’ vs. ‘organize’.
- Verbs that end in ‘yse’ in British English are always spelled ‘yze’ in American English, e.g. ‘analyze’.
Some nouns that end in ‘ence’ in British English end in ‘ense’ in American English, e.g. ‘licence’ vs. ‘license’.
Having a CV in English can increase your chances of getting a job and landing an interview. Rather than translating your CV word for word from your native language, try to create your CV in English yourself, using online dictionaries and with the help of sample CVs. You can then ask a native speaker or a professional translator to check your CV for wording, style and grammar.