6 Universal CV rules

May 03 2019 , 0 Comments


With more people learning English and applying for international posts and companies hiring more foreign workers, you would think writing a CV would be the same all over the world. However, it’s not only international applicants who have to do their due diligence, English-speakers aren’t exempt. If you’re from the UK, your CV might not meet the requirements of a US résumé.


So, let’s dissect the differences between CVs and résumés and find out what the universal rules are, no matter the location.


Luckily today there isn’t much difference between a CV and résumé, but it wasn’t always that way.  A Curriculum Vitae actually means ‘the course of one’s life’ vs. a résumé which means ‘to sum up’. The digital age has changed the way CVs are used and both are now expected to be short and concise with the aim being to cover basic info, your experience, skillset and career milestones.


Read on for some of the universal rules you can follow no matter where you are from or where you are applying to.



Cover the basics

You would think this is a no-brainer, but some countries insist on disclosing your gender and marital status and including an image in your CV. However, this can be seen as discrimination in many parts of the world.


At the very minimum for all countries you will need to state your name, where you live and illustrate your right to work if you’re from another country. You’ll also need to supply contact details, but an email address is sufficient. If you were to progress to a phone interview, then this will be arranged via email beforehand.



Simplify the design unless you’re in the creative industry

A universal CV-must is to keep the design streamlined, clean and simple.


If you are applying for a role within the creative industry, then you might need an online portfolio and you could be more creative with how you sell yourself. However, whether your CV has a design element or not, it shouldn’t distract from what you are trying to say.



Include a personal statement

Some countries take this section more seriously than others. If you choose to omit this then it should be for good reason. Would leaving off a highlights section harm you? It might.


If you see the personal statement section as your personal motto or tagline then it will help you create something that is short and succinct. Sum up who are you, what you’ve been doing all this time in your career history and what your ideal next challenge is. Take the opportunity to entice the reader into finding out more about you.



Be mindful of the education section

In the UK, education comes at the bottom and some take a view of listing off all the education they’ve ever had. Well it’s not the same in other parts of the world.  


In the US, for example, you only really mention your top degree as it’s assumed if you have a PHD then you’ve completed your school leaving exams. It’s also not always a good idea to list degrees, courses or diplomas that have no relevance whatsoever to the job. Sometimes it shows dedication and commitment but if you can’t find a way to link it to the role then the assumption is to leave it off. On the other hand, some European countries want specifics about your high school career.


So, it’s essential to mention your education history and preferably in rank order with the highest degree first. In an entry-level job, education will be given much more prominence than if you’ve been working for a couple of years as your experience will then come first.  



Quantify accomplishments

It’s important to talk about and upsell your accomplishments. Everything on your CV should point in the direction to how you overhauled, achieved or rebuilt something. Some countries shy away from bragging while others feel it’s a must to include on your CV.


Either way, positive increases in numbers and percent’s is favoured and understood all over the world. There is no harm in illustrating what your day to day duties have involved but it’s even more important to show how you’ve improved something. And the best way to illustrate that is through numbers. So, don’t leave off powerful stats that you’ve worked hard to achieve. 


Did you increase turnover by x amount? Double production output? Or overhaul the way your team works? Mention it!



Give more than one example for areas you’re an expert

Unless you’re applying for an entry-level job then it’s assumed you will need to illustrate your skillset to match the role. Christopher D. Lee, talks about the ‘rule of three’, the magic number, for proving a point. If you say you have a particular skill, then he recommends backing this up with three examples. One or two might be seen as a coincidence by the employer but three is confirmation you’re an expert. This can come from a mix of education, experience and accomplishment, so don’t shy away from bragging about how successful in an area you’ve been.


Follow our universal rules to build the majority of your CV and research more about what is required or considered the norm in the location you’re applying in.


This post was brought to you by Kaplan International English, offering English languages courses in 38 destinations around the world.

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