Tips on How to Write a UK Resume (Also Referred to as a CV)

by Lis McGuire


If you’re applying for a job in the UK for the first time, you might be a bit confused about whether you’re meant to send a resume or CV with your application.

In the US, a resume is a one- to two-page document designed to show a potential employer what skills and qualifications you would bring to their organisation. The aim of your resume is to help you stand out from the crowd and market your suitability. Resumes are widely used for most job applications and we would expect you to tweak the content, depending on the position for which you’re applying.

CVs in the US are much meatier documents than a resume. A CV can run from three to twenty pages, depending on how far into your career you are. Curriculum Vitae (‘CV’ for short) means ‘course of life’ in Latin and covers a detailed look at your achievements; this might include published articles, membership of professional bodies, qualifications, affiliations, projects and much more.

In the US, you would normally expect to submit a CV for graduate school applications or professional careers in research or academia.

A UK Resume or CV

In the UK, we tend to use the terms ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ interchangeably to refer to the same document.

A UK CV more closely resembles a US resume in its length and content. A CV is typically a two-page document that provides descriptive information about your education, achievements, skills, publications and projects. Like a resume in the US, it’s a tool to help you stand out from other job applicants and should be changed to reflect your suitability for a specific job.

Below, we’ve put together our top seven tips for writing a resume in the UK:

  1. Keep it Brief and Relevant

    CVs in the UK are usually one to two pages in length - any longer and you’re in danger of your CV being eliminated without even being read.

    The interviewer will be looking for you to have read and understood the vacancy and will want to read a targeted CV that demonstrates your suitability for this role. Think about using keywords from the job advertisement to make sure your CV turns up in Applicant Tracking Systems.

  2. Use the Right Paper Size

    It’s usual to present your CV in the UK on A4 paper (8.27” x 11.69”), whereas US resumes tend to be printed on letter size paper (8.5” x 11”).

  3. Include Relevant Personal Information

    In the past, one major difference between a resume in the UK and in the US was the inclusion of personal information at the top of the document. UK CVs have traditionally included information such as your marital status, gender and nationality, whereas it’s very rare for resumes in the US to include any personal information at all.

    These days, it’s best practice to omit this information from UK CVs too, especially because of rules about equality and to protect people against discrimination. With so much else to fit on to the two pages, stick with what is directly relevant to your application by asking ‘So what?’ about every bit of information you include. Find out if your CV passes the ‘So what?’ test by reading our recent blog on the subject.

    Keep your personal information to your name, email address, contact phone number, and potentially a Skype handle and/or your LinkedIn URL, and you should be fine.

  4. Include Your High School Education

    In the UK, CVs tend to include a bit of information about an applicant’s secondary education, including qualifications, especially if they left school less than five years ago. In the US, the only time high school is mentioned is if the applicant did not attend college.

    You may want to mention where you went to high school, and any relevant qualifications, on your CV to be on the safe side. Of course, if you’re much further into your career and short on space, you may want to forego your high school education to talk about graduate and vocational qualifications.

  5. Know When to Mention Your Hobbies and Personal Interests

    Again, it’s rare for resumes in the US to include a ‘hobbies and personal interests’ section but this has been a mainstay of UK CVs until recently.

    Our advice when writing a CV for a job in the UK is to only include your hobbies or personal interests if they are particularly relevant to your job application or if they will help you to stand out from the crowd, perhaps because you spend your spare time doing something skilled or unusual.

  6. Use the UK Date Format

    In the UK, dates are written using the day/month/year format, e.g. 27/07/14, instead of the month/day/year format favoured in the US. To avoid confusion, you may just want to list dates in terms of months and years, e.g. 07/14.

  7. Check Your Spelling

    When you’re applying for a job in the UK, we’d recommend using UK spellings. For example, opt for ‘organise’ instead of ‘organize’ and ‘labour’ instead of ‘labor’.

    If you know a native speaker, you might want to consider asking them to read through your CV to spot the British vs. American spellings.

The Essentials of an Interview-Winning CV

As with writing a resume for a job in the US, it’s important to stay focused on the job for which you’re applying. What are the essential skills, qualifications and experience highlighted in the job description? Does your CV reflect your suitability? Have you used the keywords from the job ad?

Break your CV up into clear headings and corresponding sections, such as an opening statement, key skills, experience, education and professional training. Be selective and only include information that’s relevant to your application. Make sure your CV is well presented and that you’ve checked the content for consistency and to ensure it’s error free.

Get these points right and whichever side of the pond you’re on, you stand a good chance of sending out an interview-winning CV.

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