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Preparing an American Resume When All You Know is the CV

by Fiona Christie on April 27, 2010

This guest post is contributed by Angela Martin, who writes on the topics of Jobs and Careers.  She welcomes your comments at her email is

When I studied abroad in Europe as an undergraduate, I forged several unforgettable friendships with people from all over the continent. We would often talk about cultural differences between Americans and Europeans, covering both the perceived differences and the more tangibly manifested ones. Since many of us were almost finished with university at the time, we were all in the process of preparing to look for jobs, and something that came up a few times was differences in the job search process. This was especially true of the CV (or resume, as is more commonly requested in North America).The following is a list of resume-writing tips for people more familiar with the British CV wishing to pursue careers in the United States.

1. Keep it short and simple.

While the British CV can be around two pages long or sometimes even more, the typical North American employer values brevity over painstaking detail. This is especially true if you are just beginning your career. The rule of thumb for American resumes is one page.

2. There is no standard resume format in U.S. Feel free to be creative, but don’t get cutesy.

From what my friends had told me, CV formats in Britain are fairly plain and simple. In the U.S., there is no such standard, hence you can play with wide variety of graphic designs, layouts, and fonts. Of course, eschew the kitsch and keep it professional and pleasing to the eye, but have fun with it, too. Perhaps the emphasis of looks over substance is not just an American stereotype after all.

3. Toss out your ISO A4 paper. Print your resume on US Letter Size paper instead.

Just like we are the only country that uses the English system of measurement, so too, are we the only country that has no idea what A4 even means. The measurements for “American” paper are 8 ½ x 11 inches (or rather, 215.9 mm × 279.4 mm)

4. Check out resume templates online to get a better idea of what employers are looking for in the U.S.

Even the most cursory search of the Internet will reveal millions of tips on resume-writing, so you won’t be at a loss for information. The amount of resume templates online can perhaps be a bit daunting, but choose one that you think will most likely fit what the employer wants based on your research of the position, the company, and its key players.

In the end, even though there are specific differences between the British CV and the American resume, you’ll find that these differences aren’t drastic, and as long as you are sensitive to what each potential individual employer may want-this is true of the interview and cover letter, as well as the resume–you’ll be sure to be successful in your job search.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fiona Christie May 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Interesting comments on this in “PhDs outside academia group” on Linked In. Useful ref to Harvard which has an excellent guide that includes a side-by-side comparison of how the same person might prepare a CV for academia and a resume for industry:


American Resume format January 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Simple and short but very informative. thanks am moving to US soon!


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