If you live in Italy or any part of Europe, you probably use the term CV, but across “the pond” in the United States the moniker “résumé” is used, and the differences between a résumé and CV can be significant.
In America, most business professionals create succinct, one- to two-page “résumés”, and it’s rare for young people to even hear the term “CV” during their early employment years.
The basic guidelines for an English résumé state that one or two pages is the maximum allowed to market your experience and skills, but three pages is an acceptable length for technical résumés and executive level management résumés.
The U.S. Federal (public sector jobs) résumé is a different animal entirely — The Federal résumé must include additional information that is not typically requested in the private sector and if you don’t supply this information, your application could be rejected.
Additional pages of a résumé have contact information listed on the top of them. If a hiring manager accidentally separates the pages of a résumé, they will not become frustrated while trying to reorganize the pages and move on to the next résumé.
Career Field Considerations
In the United States, a sales or finance professional would never call his or her “course of life” a CV, even though in Italy and the EU it would be given that name. The title “résumé” is used for job search documents by persons seeking positions that range from administrative to executive level opportunities.
If you’re in any doubt about the manner in which to present your credentials (résumé or CV) to a potential employer, ask your colleagues for advice or invest a few dollars in a professional résumé writer. Countless studies have proven that résumé quality is the key to winning interviews. Learn the best methods to get your foot in the door and expedite your job search.
A résumé is not written in narrative language, as the use of personal pronouns (I, me, my, etc.) is awkward and most recruiters and hiring managers consider it incorrect.
The most common sections of an English résumé are:
- Header (unlabeled)
- Qualifications Summary
- Special Accomplishments (optional – usually listed under corresponding jobs in “Employment History”)
- Employment History
- Education & Continuing Professional Development
- Volunteer Work (optional – sometimes covered in “Employment History” to fill employment gaps)
- Memberships (optional)
- Technical Skills
An “Objective” statement is now considered passé, with the exception of résumés written for recent college graduates.
All information is presented in reverse chronological order so that the most recent, and often most pertinent, information is presented first. In the event you’re seeking a career change and your previous work history includes relevant experience and skills that you wish to highlight, those jobs should be moved to the top of “Employment History”, and the remaining work history labeled as “Other Experience” under a separate section, although this tactic is rarely utilized.
An English résumé almost always includes a “Qualifications Summary”, a critical element that compels hiring managers to continue reading a résumé. The qualifications summary content provides hiring managers with a brief, yet detailed synopsis of what you offer. Use this section to define you as a professional and highlight those areas most relevant to your experience and job target.
This is the perfect opportunity to include the different languages you speak.
Example: Trilingual with fluency in English and French and native fluency in Italian.
Again, work history is listed in reverse chronological order on an English résumé. After general employment information, such as company name, company location, job title, and employment dates, a succinct job summary is written to describe a job seeker’s overall role at the organization. Ideally, the most recent positions should carry more detailed job summaries, and it is often the case that positions held ten or more years ago will have just one or two bullet points of information or, no description at all. This ensures that the most relevant information is given priority. Senior job seekers often decide to limit their employment history to ten to fifteen years in order to avoid age discrimination and shorten the length of their résumé.
English résumés should be worded so job seekers come across as “achievers”, not a “doers”. Too many job descriptions are task-based and not results-based, meaning they tell what a job seeker did, instead of what they achieved. A great résumé helps the hiring manager envision the job seeker delivering similar achievements at his or her organization.
Task-Based: Consult with parents on student’s progress and /or needs.
Results-Based: Maximize student potential by keeping students and parents aware of progress and suggesting improvement methods.
Employers want to know about a job seeker’s previous contributions, and more importantly, they want to know how that person will make a significant difference at their company.
Bullets are used to emphasize special accomplishments under the job summary, but are limited in order to increase the impact to an employer. If hiring managers or recruiters see too many bullets, they might find it difficult to focus on the most important information. Although seemingly insignificant, visual impact of a résumé is the key to ensuring that a hiring manager reads it thoroughly.
Education & Continuing Professional Development
The education section is utilized to highlight college degrees, special training, seminars and any other academic achievements. It is unnecessary to include a high school diploma, unless that is the sole education history. Listing dates in this section is optional for more senior job seekers, again, to avoid age discrimination.
Volunteer Work & Memberships
Any volunteer work listed on an English résumé should be relevant to the job target. For example, a job seeker would only include “walk dogs for seniors” if he or she were searching for a position related to animal care or training. It would not be appropriate for a job seeker searching for an accountant position to list this type of volunteer work on his or her résumé. The same goes for memberships.
In this high-tech world, it is a colossal mistake to overlook the “Technical Skills” section, even for job seekers who see little relevance based on their career goal. Some sales professionals and high-level executives skip technical skills, to their detriment. At the very least, software proficiencies should be listed in this section. Recruiters and hiring managers will pay special attention to the technical skills listed for administrative and technical positions.
The most common technical areas listed for an IT professional are:
- Web Development
- Operating Systems
Résumés written for administrative professionals normally include a short paragraph that describes their technical skills vs. listing separate criteria.
Example: Highly proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook), Word Perfect, Lotus Notes, Cognos, Multiline Phone System, and all other essential office equipment.
Some items listed on a CV are considered unnecessary for English résumés. Not only can these items be viewed negatively by recruiters and hiring managers, but they usually prevent the ideal one- to two-page résumé.
The most common information listed on an English résumé in error is:
- Company Descriptions
- References (provide only when requested)
- Attached Recommendation Letters (provide only when requested)
As previously mentioned, the English résumé is a far more concise document than a CV and some sections that are important on the CV are often omitted completely. It is important to keep the résumé as concise as possible, abiding by the ideal one- to two-page format, and targeting specific roles and/or markets.
Remember that a résumé is a marketing tool and it’s the first impression a potential employer has of a job seeker. The ideal résumé design is airy and uncluttered, with the effective and strategic use of white space.
Sell your experience and skills on your résumé and then close the deal during your interview!
TRACI THOMPSON, ADMIN Resumes – Previous hiring manager with specialty in administration – Ten years experience as a manager in non-profit and corporate arenas with recruitment, interviewing, hiring, training, and supervising responsibilities – Member of National Resume Writers’ Association (NRWA) – Three years professional resume and CV writing experience specializing in IT and administration.