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Are all CV’s and resumés created equal?

Different countries use different terms, formats and practices for recruitment. Some use the term curriculum vitae or CV, while others use a resumé to summarise a potential candidate’s skills, experience and training. And to confuse matters more, a few use these terms interchangeably.  However, for the most part a CV is a different document to a resumé.

CV versus resumé?

It’s all in the detail. A CV is a detailed document including experience, personal details, qualifications and achievements and is usually two pages long, whereas a resumé is a one-page short summary of skills, qualifications and education. A CV is used in the UK, Europe and New Zealand, while Australia, the US, Canada and most Asian countries use a resumé. 

However, there are some fundamentals that are universally agreed upon whatever you call it:

  • Keep it concise – if it is a resumé keep it to one page, if a CV, no more than two pages, with relevant information and updated contact details.
  • Use the reverse chronological format – put your most recent experience, skills and education first.
  • Keep it neat and easy to read – use a professional font and a limited colour palette of one or two colours. Make sure the text is readable and either black or dark grey.

Straight forward? Yes, but there are also some ‘do’s and don’ts’ by region that you should be aware of. 

Here is a general overview of the big questions, but much like fashion, thinking and trends change over time, so make sure you do your research before applying.

Should you use a photo or not?

Even within countries, this is a controversial question. The UK, US, South Africa, Canada and Philippines say an emphatic no. The biggest reason for avoiding the photo is to prevent discrimination by age, religion, ethnicity, gender, or disability. 

While most European, Middle Eastern, Asian and African nations say yes to a photograph, but there are some things to think about:

  1. Make sure you use a professional photo
  2. Try to make it representative of the industry you work within – management, scientific and creative generally have a distinctive style
  3. Make sure the image is clear, and as it’s not a passport photo, remember to smile

Then there are nations such as New Zealand and Australia who are divided. While New Zealanders and Australians don’t generally include a photo on their CV’s, some human resource managers prefer it as they believe you are putting your best foot forward with a professional image. Recruiters within this region will look for your online profile, so you can offer them a professional image to balance what may appear on your social media profiles or to complement your professional LinkedIn profile.  However, there are no expectations to include your photo, so it is up to you.
What about referees on my CV or resumé?

In the UK, Australia and Europe the answer is no.  With a couple of good reasons why. Firstly, room is at a premium. Your CV or resumé is there to get you an interview, so include only the relevant information up front; referees are not needed until you have been through the selection process. The other debate is as you go through the selection process you may identify a referee who would better support your application, it would be difficult to put a name forward and then change it later. 

However, in other parts of the world recruiters see it differently. In the Philippines, recruiters believe it is important to have up to three referees on your resumé. While Canadian advice has been to only include your referees if they are high-profile figures, and again, New Zealand recruiters have a foot in both camps – it is up to the candidate’s discretion whether to include their referees’ details or not.  Once again, the universal consensus is whether you include your referee or not, make sure you have someone who is your professional champion, and who can talk about your skills, experience and work ethics. 

We know best practice changes over time, so if you are applying abroad, make sure you do a bit of research on what’s required for a great CV or resumé, and if you are applying in your home country make sure you stay ahead of the game and do your research there too. 

Canstaff is a specialised recruitment and labour hire across the UK, NZ, Australia, Europe and Canada in the construction, civil construction, engineering, manufacturing and logistics sectors. We’re here to help you do your business better by removing the risk, hassle and paperwork of having full time employees.

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