CV versus Résumé?

Published 2013-01-03 09:28:38

Job search - FotoliaAs an international expat you will need to find a job once you arrive in your new country (unless you are independently wealthy or have paid work already arranged before your leave). An important aspect of your job search is presenting your credentials in the manner that is acceptable to your new country. Depending on where you relocate, you may need to write either a résumé or a curriculum vitae (abbreviated as CV). In some cases, you may need both documents. You will also need to write a template cover letter that you can adapt to apply for different jobs. Writing a résumé or a CV often requires several hours, and the finished document must be absolutely error free.

What is a Résumé?

A résumé is a brief overview of your credentials and is viewed as a marketing or promotional document. A résumé typically has a heading at the top of the page that includes your name and contact information in bold type. Résumés are typically limited to a single page, although professionals with extensive experience may have a two-page résumé (with no heading on the second page). Photos are almost never included on a résumé, except for aspiring performers or models.

Conventional résumés are typically arranged in reverse chronological order. New college graduates usually list their education first, while seasoned mid-career professionals often list professional experience first. Some mid-career professionals or career changers may opt for a functional resume that focuses on specific skills utilized in various positions, often listed in bullet points, rather than a strict reverse-chronological listing of job titles and duties. A combination résumé includes bullet points detailing qualifications, like a functional résumé, along with a section including actual job titles, dates and companies listed in reverse chronological order.

What Is a CV?

A CV is a detailed document that includes all the information found on a résumé, but in much more detail. Like a conventional résumé, a CV includes a heading with contact information and information within each of its sections listed in reverse chronological order. However, unlike a conventional résumé, conventional CVs often run several pages long. For a seasoned professional who has an extensive publication history, a CV of more than 10 pages is not uncommon.

Typical sections present within a conventional CV include Professional Memberships, Research and Teaching Experience and Publications. A CV also often includes a personal section that includes hobbies, languages spoken, read, written or understood, as well as an indication of health. A CV may need to be written or translated into the native language of the country in which you wish to work.

A hybrid CV incorporates the features of a functional resume on the front page, with a somewhat abbreviated listing of relevant experience listed in reverse chronological order on subsequent pages. A hybrid CV often runs between three and eight pages, is usually written or translated into the native language of they country in which you wish to work, and typically does not include a photograph.

Hiring practices in some countries are subject to discrimination as there are few or no anti-discrimination laws. Job listings may specify that applicants must fall within a certain age range or state a preference for male or female candidates. As a result, many employers request or require applicants to submit either a full or a hybrid CV.

What to Use Around the World

The sections below contain information specific to particular regions of the world concerning on whether a résumé or a CV is expected of job candidates.


Employers in Africa tend to prefer candidates to submit a CV, although some international employers may prefer candidates to submit a résumé. The CV should include a similar level of detail as CVs for southern or Eastern Europe, including a photo. One exception is South Africa, where two types of CVs are commonly used: the brief profile or the comprehensive CV. A brief profile is a one page letter that functions as part of an initial job inquiry that includes your education and a chronological listing of your previous job experience. Your comprehensive CV should also be limited to one or two pages, although if you have extensive experience, you can include additional pages.


Many Asian cultures emphasize modesty; your CV should reflect this fact. Research the traditions of the particular country in which you wish to work and tailor your CV accordingly. For instance, in Hong Kong, you should limit your CV to one or two pages. CVs for employers in India should also be no more than two pages and should never include your place of birth, race or religion. On the other hand, your education section should include detailed information, including dates of attendance and course of study. On the other hand, in Japan, you may submit a Rirekisho, a traditional Japanese two-page CV that is much less structured and detailed than CVs in southern Europe or the Middle East. This should be handwritten, preferably in Japanese, with a photo.

Australia and New Zealand

Employers in Australia and New Zealand favor CVs that are no more than two pages long and list qualifications in reverse chronological order. However, employers in New Zealand are often receptive to functional CVs that emphasize skill sets rather than job titles. Employers in Australia are especially interested in evidence that you are capable of handling the duties of the job for which you are applying. Scannable paper and electronic CVs that contain keywords relevant to the position for which the CV is being submitted are important for job candidates in both countries. Job candidates for both countries should also include a list of references with contact information at the end of their CVs. Employers check references, so it's wise to give them a heads-up in advance. Cover letters are usually expected for paper and electronic CVs.

Middle East

Like much of the world outside of North America and western Europe, the Middle East prefers very detailed CVs from job candidates. For instance, employers in the United Arab Emirates expect your CV to cover at least the last 15 years, and to cover no fewer than four pages. Photos are almost always mandatory. Employers also expect to see detailed personal information included in the contact section including age and marital status. Additionally, employers in the Middle East expect to see detailed information about your course of study and detailed information about your accomplishments included with each individual job listing. Beware that behavior that goes against Muslim law may result in negative feedback. For example, if you are unmarried and living with a romantic partner, this information should not be included. Always include a cover letter.

North America

A résumé is almost always expected. American or Canadian companies operating overseas also often require applicants to submit résumés. Many employers strongly prefer the reverse chronological format, although combination résumés are also acceptable. Functional résumés are often viewed with suspicion, although a good cover letter can overcome many employer misgivings. Increasingly, applications are submitted by email. Cover letters are expected. When submitting your application by email, use the body of your email message as an electronic cover letter. Never include a photo with your résumé unless you are applying for a job as a model or in the entertainment industry. Employers check references, so it's wise to give them a heads-up in advance.

An exception to the rule for North America's preference for résumés is in the area of academics or research. A full CV is often required in these fields in the United States and Canada. Photos, however, are still usually omitted.

Northern Europe

Northern European employers expect your résumé to be straightforward, with easy to read fonts (Times New Roman 12 pt. or Arial 10 pt.) and printed on standard, high quality paper. Always include a cover letter. Countries in northern and western Europe vary in whether they prefer a résumé or a CV. For instance, in Finland, many professionals use a résumé rather than a CV. Young professionals in particular usually stick to a single-page résumé. Photos are not usually required; however, attaching a scanned photo to your résumé may help it stand out from those of other candidates.

Western Europe

In the United Kingdom and continental Europe, a hybrid CV is usually expected for most positions. Include the following sections on your CV in the order listed: contact information, professional experience, education, diplomas or certificates, languages that you speak, read or write fluently, computer skills and work related personal interests. However, all information included should be to the point. For instance, German CVs may be shorter than in other areas of the world as they should be straightforward and direct. In France, a CV should be limited to no more than two pages.

Always include a cover letter. Many employers, except in the IT sector, may request you to write your cover letter by hand. This is for employers who wish to use graphology as a screening tool. Photos are usually not expected.

Southern and Eastern Europe

Employers in Southern and Eastern Europe usually expect to see a CV that includes detailed personal and professional information. For instance, the contact section on a CV for Spain should include - in addition to your name, address an phone number - your place and date of birth, marital status, gender and number of children. You should also include a recent photo. Explain any work gaps on your CV in your cover letter. In Portugal, the contact information section includes similar information as for a CV for Spain. In addition, it is often common to mention your religious affiliation and whether you have a valid driver's license. For Portuguese employers, your CV should be no more than four A4 format pages.

South America

South American employers strongly favor CVs over résumés, including a level of detail comparable to the detail included for CVs for Southern and Eastern Europe. Candidates are usually, but not always, expected to include photos with their CVs. For instance, for Argentina, your CV should include the following sections, with information in each section listed in reverse chronological order: personal details, education, extracurricular activities, professional experience, languages, computer skills, and a miscellaneous section for information such as military service.

Getting your CV to the right person is very important to ensure that your application receives prompt attention. This often involves doing some detective work to find contact information. Cover letters are also expected.

Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, you should check with a particular employer about on whether a résumé or a CV is expected before submitting application materials.

Researched by Audrey Henderson
-- freelance writer based in Chicago

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest WhatsApp Addthis

Work & Business

Author: EasyExpat
Editorial Team :)

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

More articles

- My Life Abroad -
A selection of expat stories

"A fun compulsive read!"
J. Matcham, Amazon

"I strongly advise people ready to live abroad to read this book!"
Patrice, Amazon