Looking for a job in an international company? You will most likely need an excellent CV, written in English of course, to get a job interview. In this article, we will look at how to write a CV in English that is sure to impress recruiters.
Writing a CV in French vs. writing a CV in English: what are the differences?
If you have a good-looking French Curriculum Vitae, you might just be tempted to translate it into English. By doing so, you will probably save time, but you will get little feedback from the companies you apply to. Indeed, there are several differences between the English Curriculum Vitae (or résumé in American English) and the French one that make this valuable document difficult to transpose from one language to the other.
To catch the eye of recruiters, you will need a CV that is specially designed for applications to Anglo-Saxon organisations.
1. The header of the curriculum vitae limit yourself to the bare minimum.
In French CVs, it is common to indicate certain personal data such as age, gender, or marital status.
This information is superfluous in an English CV. Your “personal details” should be limited to the following elements:
- first name (Marie) ; surname (Smith);
- postal address;
- telephone number and e-mail address.
Also, avoid adding a photo, unless explicitly requested.
2. The length of the CV
In France, we are used to strictly limiting our CVs to one page. In Anglo-Saxon countries, you can have a 2-page CV. Be careful! It is better to limit yourself to one page if you can. Two-page CVs are best for people with extensive professional experience, or if it is consistent with the layout of your document.
3. The sections of an English Curriculum Vitae
What are the different headings to be included in your English CV and in what order? It all depends on what you want to focus on.
If you are a recent graduate, you can for example start with the “Education” section and indicate your most important academic qualifications.
Continue with the “Professional Experience” section, indicating your different jobs from the most recent to the oldest.
You may want to add a “Volunteer Experience” section if you do or have done volunteer work.
We also advise you to include a “Skills” or “Core Competencies” section to indicate your skills relevant to the job (IT, foreign languages, specific know-how, etc.).
Finally, if you wish and if it is relevant, you can mention your interests and other additional information in a “Miscellaneous” or “Additional Information” section, but this is optional.
4. The content of the sections of your CV
Here are some valuable tips to keep in mind, with regard to content of your CV in English:
- use the past tense to talk about your past experiences, and the present tense for your current position;
- use action verbs;
- do not use personal pronouns,
- use bullet points instead of long sentences.
5. Formatting your English CV
Unless you are aiming for a creative position, we recommend that you keep the layout of your English CV simple.
If possible, avoid using bright colours, symbols such as stars or other pictograms to indicate the level of your skills. For foreign languages, you can indicate your CEFR level when applying to a European company. Otherwise, you can use the following statements:
– full professional proficiency;
– working proficiency;
– limited working proficiency;
– elementary proficiency.
The perfect English CV according to Harvard
Harvard University’s career office provides its students with a complete guide to writing impeccable CVs and cover letters. You can read the full document here.
Here are the main points (in addition to the tips already mentioned in this article):
- tailor your CV to the job and its requirements;
- use facts to detail your experiences;
- get rid of typos;
- be concise, precise and make your CV easy to read;
- opt or a clear and well-spaced layout.
If you have to remember only 3 things to write your CV in English, it would be to:
- keep your experiences concise and factual;
- not hesitate to show your successes and your involvement by using action verbs;
- opt for a well-spaced and minimalist layout.
The next step after sending an impeccable CV will undoubtedly be the job interview in English!
Our native-speaking trainers can guide and coach you in English in your job search preparation! All of this is done remotely with 1to1 and videoconferencing courses.