Starting a career in the UK or in the USA – let the dream come true. But before you start writing your application, you should take a closer look at the most important details of British and American CVs. Because: Yes, there is a difference. It is not sufficient to simply translate your German CV into English. So what exactly makes the difference, you might well ask! There are differences concerning the structure, but also spelling style and content.

“CV” or “résumé”?

So let’s start by taking a look at the different terms that can be used for your application documents. In general “CV” (curriculum vitae) and “résumé” can be used equivalently, although you might find the word “résumé” is used more commonly in the USA.

The formats

Moreover, there are two common formats of CVs which are used in the United States of America and the United Kingdom: the chronological and the functional or skills-based.

Out of these two formats the chronological is the most traditional and most commonly used CV format both in the UK and the USA. It shows all your experience and education in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent one.

Employers might not be as familiar with the skills-based or functional CV. This format focuses on your personal skills, highlighting your skills by function rather than your experience or education, which should only be listed briefly. Skills-based CVs however can be useful if your experience is not obviously relevant, you’re looking to change career directions or you have a wide range of experience.

Personal details

If you are transferring your German CV into an English one, you will find differences in the “personal details” section. First of all you should not display a personal picture in any case, neither for the UK nor for the USA. Also do not include information relating to your sex, age, nationality, marital status, or health. If you have permission to work in the country you’re applying at, you might want to make this clear to employers.

It goes without saying that your name and contact details such as mobile phone number, current address, and e-mail address are very important and should be included in every CV, no matter if English or German.

Work experience

Concerning dates and timelines, you should always list the most recent event first and work your way backwards. This mostly concerns the sections education and work experience. Talking of work experience, you should definitely use action verbs to demonstrate your fields of activity. In addition it is always nice to see achievements in your CV, this effects the UK just as well as the US. When you show your personal achievements as part of your work experience, try to come up with some concrete figures, like the following example shows:

  • Directed a team of 60 undergraduates
  • Increased profits by 15%


Finally, when it comes to references, these are important for applications on both sides of the Atlantic.

In general references should be included for UK as well as for US CVs. Nevertheless there is a small difference. It is recommended not to include the last line “references available on request” for CVs in the USA. You should rather list your references on a separate sheet of paper. In the UK on the other hand “references on request” is accepted. If you prefer to name your referees straight away, it is common to do so at the end of your CV, mostly this will be on page number two. In both cases you should include your referees’ details such as their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Needless to say it is important to contact your referees prior to submitting their names to any potential employees.

If you’re thinking of starting a career abroad always remember to adapt your application documents to the regional habits. Also try to get as much information as possible on the general application process not only concerning documents such as CV or motivational letter, but also standard procedures in job interviews, for example.

For further questions concerning this topic arrange your personal appointment and visit us!

Brigitte Kuchenbecker

Brigitte arbeitet seit acht Jahren für das ZBP. Ihre Leidenschaften sind das Schreiben und die Personalarbeit – umso besser, dass sie als Chefredakteurin des Karrieremagazins und Autorin des Blogs beide Interessen vereinen kann. In ihrer Freizeit findet man sie in der Natur: beim Wandern, Klettern oder Garteln.

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