In the UK the words ‘CV’ and ‘cv’ are interchangeable and both have the same meaning. The CV is a shortened form of the term ‘curriculum vitae’ or ‘path of life’, while ‘cv’ is a French word meaning a summary. It is in the USA that a real distinction is made between the two terms. If you are applying for jobs in the US or are based in the States and coming to Europe it becomes more important to understand the differences in meaning and tailor your career document accordingly.
A UK career history document is almost always referred to as a curriculum vitae (CV). In the UK a CV/cv is an overview of the person’s experience and is generally 2 – 4 pages in length. Senior candidates will be at the upper end of this scale and more junior applicants will be closer to 2 pages or sometimes less. The CV will often form the basis of the interview discussion and it should be reasonably comprehensive.
US organizations may ask for either CV or cv but will have very different documents in mind. A cv is a short career overview, highlighting credentials and achievements and comprising 1 – 2 pages. The objective is often just to secure an interview and is by far the most common format used. This is comparable with a European CV.
An American CV however, is a more complete description of a person’s career, including educational details, publications from their field, presentations, awards, recognitions, affiliations etc. When candidates use the CV format it is mainly for positions within academia, science or research. For all other roles the cv is used, hence why it is the most frequent type of career document.
American cvs are formatted using the narrower, legal type page (8.5″ x 11″), while UK CVs will entail reformatting to the A4 size (12′ x 8.625′). It is worth setting the margins at the outset to ensure the final document looks suitably professional.
British CVs include contact details such as telephone numbers, email and home addresses. Candidates often also include a short description of hobbies or personal interests.
Candidates writing a cv for an American audience will have to contend with many differences – one of more obvious ones being the date format used. When listing dates on a UK CV, the correct format is day/month/year (i.e. 30/04/95). On an American version the correct format is month/day/year (i.e. 11/30/98). For simplicity’s sake, when listing dates of employment it may be easier to only list the month and year (i.e. 05/11).
Differences in Spelling
Variations between US and UK English have evolved and therefore it is important to tailor your spelling to your audience. For example, American spelling often uses the letter ‘z’ rather than ‘s’ (organization / organisation) and frequently drops the ‘u’ (labor, color). With this in mind it may be sensible to have your document checked by a native speaker.