Top tips for writing your expat CV
Whether you are abroad in the UK for a short period of time or you are a permanent expatriate (like me!), something proactive to do before seeking employment in your new home is to change your American resume into a British CV.
CV is short for Curriculum Vitae. It is basically like a resume in the sense that it is what you submit to potential employers to show your experiences and references. The difference is that a CV includes a bit more information than what we include in a resume.
I’ve heard of some expats just keeping their resume the same and only changing some spelling or date formatting. That’s one option.
I, on the other hand, definitely wanted to change my resume into a CV to show my potential employers that I could easily adapt to different things in my environment, even if it was something as simple as changing around a word document to fit their standards.
So if you are looking for some advice on how to change a resume into a CV, hopefully my experience can help you!
I will admit that it was hard to “de-Americanize” the resume so that potential employers in the UK would understand it. Some things were definitely very tricky!
Resumes are typically one page so that an employer can quickly look over the key details of the applicant. Turning that into a CV was a bit like bulking up a high school essay that you didn’t do much research on (we’ve all been there, right??).
In my first attempt in doing this, my new and improved CV ended up being about 3-4 pages long. I felt so proud and accomplished when I sent it to my husband to proof read and look over.
“Actually”, he said, “it should only be about 2 pages.” (Gahhhh. I just couldn’t win!)
So don’t make my mistake and bulk up your CV too much! Our goal is to be able to submit a well written CV that doesn’t resemble a novel!
Before I start with actual content, I should note that it would be in your best interest to change the paper size from the American 8.5″ by 11″ sized paper to A4 instead. It is the standard in the UK and will make your CV easier to print out or submit online.
At the top of the page, I obviously have my full name, address, e-mail address (a professional one, not your old high school account that you get all of your Groupon deals on), and mobile number.
Unlike my American resume, I added a “Personal Statement” to my CV. It’s up to you if you want to include where you were born and/or why you’re residing in a new country. I decided it was definitely worth it to briefly explain where I grew up, where I went to university, how I ended up in England, my legal right to work in England, and how I now wish to utilize my skills in my new home.
The “Education” section is what I found the most difficult. In other CVs I have looked at, the person included their GCSEs and A-Levels. Well, America doesn’t really have either of those equivalencies. And resumes in general don’t even have a hefty education section. So this was the part of the process that was the hardest to translate from resume to CV.
I decided to include my SAT scores for the 3 sections of the test: mathematics, critical reading, and writing. It took a lot of Googling and comparing sites to determine what my SAT numeric score meant on a GCSE scale.
I would definitely take the time to research this. Even if you don’t think a potential employer will take the time to see how accurate your estimates are, you never know!
I also included my university grade point average (GPA). This helped me determine which level of degree I would have received on the UK standards. (1st, 2:1, 2:2, etc.)
Again, I would do plenty of research and compare different sites before assuming certain scores on the UK standard.
The “Employment History” was the easiest to translate from resume to CV. The only difference was that in my CV I used 1-2 sentences to state important duties/accomplishments for each job (in order to save space) as opposed to my resume where I used bullet points instead. Along with that I included the dates that I worked there and the city, state, and country (as opposed to the full address). Easy enough!
Another thing that I included in my CV that was never in my resume was a “Key Skills” section. This included technical skills (such as certain computer programs or organization skills) and personal skills (such as being a natural leader or have good communication skills). Be able to back up these claims! They may bring it up during an interview. Don’t actually put that you are “good at taking initiative” if you can’t give a current work anecdote.
A “Personal Interests” section can be added if need to add a bit more content to your CV or if you want to show you’re very passionate about a hobby. For example, I briefly explained running and writing as two keen interests of mine. Who knows, it might be an ice breaker during an interview! (But like I said above, CVs are only meant to be 2 pages of A4 paper. Don’t add a personal interests section if you’re scraping by for room.)
Finally, I stated in the “References” section to contact me if there were any questions about obtaining my USA references. I would recommend contacting old bosses or managers and have them email you a professional reference that you can print out and bring with you to interviews. I think it helped me in my job hunt because it showed I was trying to be accommodating to the interviewer.
(One last tip: make sure all dates are in day/month/year format and that you spell words in British English. Obviously, do as I say, not as I do! I know this whole post is written like an American. But I’m not trying to impress British employers here!)
CVs are formatted in different ways, just like resumes! It’s not meant to look the same as everyone else’s. Cater your CV to your strengths just like you would with a resume.
Hopefully these tips will help you to take the first steps in the UK job hunt! Good luck!
If you like reading about expat experiences or wants more tips and advice, check out my blog called Running Across the Pond!