European CV vs. U.S. Resume & CV Differences

It’s important to understand that the CV acronym, which refers to the professional document more formally known as the curriculum vitae, and has a very different meaning in the United States than it does in Europe. In this article, we’re going to look at the European CV vs. the U.S. resume and CV, noting some of the big differences along the way.

A U.S. CV is often a detailed document used to apply to academic, medical, research, and teaching positions. It is much more comprehensive than a U.S. resume, which is almost always one page long. The U.S. resume is used by most American job seekers.

This can all get confusing because the European CV is not quite like either the U.S. CV or the American resume. Additionally, sometimes Europeans will refer to the European CV as a resume, but the document they are talking about is not really the same as a U.S. resume.

Before we look at the differences between these documents, keep in mind that we are using the term “European” in an intentionally generic sense to refer to the shared business norms among primarily Western European countries. We do not mean to imply that the CV is exactly the same across Europe or that European countries are culturally alike. The term “European” is being used for simplicity’s sake to present a snapshot of what CV expectations generally are like in this region.

Now, here are 5 of the differences that stand out the most when considering the European CV vs. U.S. resume vs. U.S. CV:

1. Length.
According to Expect Talent, a U.K.-based recruitment company, the “ideal length” for a European CV is 2 to 3 pages. This is the length an applicant will get if they use the EU administration’s Europass CV.

An American resume, on the other hand, is usually a single page document.  A U.S. CV starts at 3 pages—20 pages would not be inappropriate for a seasoned professional!

2. Paper size for printed versions.
The European CV should always be printed on ISO A4 paper, the standard paper size used for many different types of business correspondence in most of the world. ISO A4 paper measures about 8.27 × 11.69 inches.

The U.S. resume and U.S. CV, on the other hand, should always be printed on American “letter size” paper. In the U.S., “letter size” paper is 8.5 × 11 inches. The exception would be an American acting resume, which is always printed on, or attached to the back of, a professional 8” x 10” headshot.

3. Personal information.
It is acceptable, although increasingly optional, to include some personal information on a European CV.

According to Alison Doyle, author of Alison Doyle’s Job Search Guidebook, many European CVs start off with the following types of information.

  • Marital Status
  • Age
  • Number of children (ages optional)
  • Personal Interests

Nationality and gender are also commonly mentioned on a European CV.

On the other hand, sharing any type of personal information on a resume, CV, or cover letter is considered very unprofessional in the US. The one exception may be gender, since it’s not uncommon for a person with a gender-neutral name such as Jessie, Dominique, or Casey to put the “Mr.” or “Ms.” honorific on their resume or CV to indicate their gender. But, this is always optional.

Now, some American resumes and CVs still mention personal interests or hobbies, but this is usually considered outdated in today’s highly competitive job market, unless the applicant’s hobbies are exceptionally relevant to the position for which they are applying.

The EU administration’s suggested Europass CV format is designed so that an applicant can put their nationality and date of birth just below their contact information.

4. High school information.
A European CV is always expected to contain some secondary school information, even if the applicant has an advanced college degree. On the other hand, a U.S. CV does not contain this information.

A U.S. resume may contain this information, but only if the applicant has not completed any college courses. Even this is sometimes considered optional. When it is included, it’s usually just the basics, in a format like this:

  • High School Name, City, U.S. State (Year of Graduation)

On a European CV, the type of high school information included varies by country. On a U.K. CV, the focus is on A Levels and O Levels, which are tests taken in secondary school that cover proficiencies in specific subjects.

The EU administration’s recommended Europass CV format is intentionally flexible when it comes to this section.

5. Photo.
A European CV will, in some countries, contain a photo, usually a professional-looking headshot. However, the European administration’s recommended Europass CV format doesn’t include this, which may be a sign that it is being phased out.

A U.S. resume or U.S. CV will almost never include a photo. Acting resumes and modeling resumes are exceptions.

Final thoughts on the European CV vs. U.S. resume vs. U.S. CV…
This is all kind of like how “football” in the U.S. refers to a sport with a lot of passing, catching, and tackling, while “football” in Europe refers to what would be called “soccer” in the U.S., a sport with a lot of kicking and running where no one but the goalie touches the ball. An American could end up feeling very embarrassed if they went to watch a “football match” at a party in England wearing a National Football League jersey and matching sweatpants! It’s important not to assume that English words will have the same meaning across English-speaking countries.

Stay tuned, as our next articles will cover how to work with various types of CV and resume formats.


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