How to Create a ‘No Nonsense’ International CV
Why are CVs so important? When applying for a job your CV is the way you sell yourself to a company. However, knowing what to put on you CV and how to format it can be confusing, especially when applying for jobs internationally.
Not every country expects the same thing out of a CV, so you need to do your research and think carefully about format, presentation, structure, language and content. You can easily find examples of acceptable format and content on the internet by searching for CV criteria and styling norms per country.
However, no matter the country the key to a successful CV is to make sure it is easy to understand, short, clear, simple, and contains all of your relevant skills and experience. Likewise, it is important to make sure you don’t include any information which is irrelevant. You want your CV to attract an employer and not distract them from key information.
This is a step-by-step guide of how to create CVs which are ‘no nonsense’ and mainly focus on the CV conventions for the UK/USA, which are the same for the majority of English speaking countries. These conventions also work as a good framework to edit from for a majority of international countries/companies. However, I will also mention a few tips for mainland EU CVs.
Format, Style, Presentation
Though it is often thought that the content of your CV is the most important, I find that to be untrue, especially when you think about the fact that sometimes thousands of CVs are sent to companies for some job postings. If your CV is not formatted correctly, looks cluttered, has an inappropriate style for the country or an all-around distracting and unclear presentation your CV will be skipped over no matter how good you think the content is or how qualified you think you are for the job.
Length: A typical CV length is 2 pages no matter the country. If you are just beginning your career and are light on experience there are different things you can include to pad out your CV and to focus on your goals and academic achievements. Similarly, if you have wealth of experience and find 2 pages limiting there are things you can, and probably should, leave out to reduce the length to 2 pages.
Format and style: Although many countries have different expectations about the ways a CV should be formatted, there are many similarities and many of the changes you would need to make are down to organisation. Most countries/companies expect you to create a CV in reverse chronological order. However, it is always a good idea to check the format expectations for any country/company you are applying for.
For mainland Europe there is a programme called Europass. This program was designed to facilitate ease of application when applying for jobs across much of the EU. Twenty-five countries have signed up to this programme. However, it is important to note that many companies expect a normal CV personalised for the job you are applying for and that the Europass is not standard for higher level positions or top companies, especially within the UK. For further information on the programme please refer to the Europass website.
Though there are many differences from country to country most of the English speaking world, and definitely the US and UK, follow the same formatting conventions: They expect things to be listed in reverse chronological order and grouped by work experience, followed by education, and then skills/languages. However, if you are recently out of school and you want to draw focus on your academic achievements, you could have education as your first heading followed by work experience if that area is lacking.
Presentation: Once you know the style of the CV you need to write, there are many things to consider when formatting your CV, including: spacing/margins, font, headers, and colour.
In general, no matter the country, there are a few presentation guidelines you should always follow:
- As far as margins go, you should try to stick to the normal setting of around 2.5cm. If you need a little bit of extra space you can decrease the margins slightly, but never go below 1.27cm. Anything smaller than that and you CV will look too cluttered and be too difficult to read. There should be plenty of white space on your CV, not only in the margins but also between sections to make the CV look organised.
- Font size and style is also important. The size of your font for the main body of the CV should be between 10 or 12 pt. If you go smaller than 10, you look like you’re trying to squeeze too much onto the page and haven’t done proper editing. If you go larger than 12, you look like you’re trying to make up for content with size. As far as headings go, you should generally use between 14 and 18pt size. However, for your name you could go as large as around 36pt. Though the standard is around 24-28.
- The style of Font you choose should get a lot of thought. The standard choices are Arial and Times New Roman; however, it is perfectly acceptable to venture outside those two as long as they remain professional looking. Using a different font could even help your CV stand out visually. Other acceptable fonts include: Calibri, Verdana, and Helvetica. These fonts are especially useful as they were designed to be easily read on a screen.
- The use of colour should be kept to a minimum. If you choose to add a little bit of colour, I recommend only using it for your name and possibly contact details. Try to stick to rather dark primary colours.
- The use of italics should be kept to an absolute minimum, as too much of it can be difficult to read.
- For headings it is better to put the words in bold and a larger font than to underline. You should make sure that you have proper spacing between sections. You can also make certain key words in the body bold to draw attention to them.
- When using bullet points, make sure they are all the same style and size.
- The most important thing is consistency in style and format throughout the CV.
- Finally, I recommend converting your CV to PDF before sending it. This ensures that all of that careful formatting you’ve done hasn’t been changed by the time it reaches the company and that it will print easily.