The English application: Curriculum vitae

Differences between the US and the UK

Paying attention to the minute differences between British and American curricula can ensure a successful application.


When you compose the CV, ensure the correct use of language as a distinction is made between American and British English. Use English according to the country where you are applying for a job. Differences lie in the vocabulary, the grammar and the spelling. For example, a lawyer in British English is the ‘solicitor’, but in American English, he is the ‘attorney’.

Small differences in spelling should not become pitfalls for you. In British English, one writes ‘programme’, but in American English, it is ‘program’. In American English, one says ‘analyze’, whereas in British English, one writes ‘analyse’.

With hindsight, one may add that the above distinction is getting blurred in many cases, as dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary now classify ‘realize’ as a primary British English spelling, while ‘realise’ appears as the word’s medieval, secondary spelling. The rule also applies to words like ‘dramatize’, ‘anatomize’ and all verbs ending in ‘-ize’. However, ‘analyse’ is an exception and so is ‘catalyse’. In American spelling convention, they are spelt ‘analyze’ and ‘catalyze’. We recommend consulting a good British English dictionary to clear confusion regarding this.


In terms of the title and the layout, there exist fundamental differences between CVs in British English and those in American English. In the UK, the document is called a CV (Curriculum Vitae) and the title is placed as a heading on the résumé. In the US, it is called ‘Personal Résumé’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’. The name depends on the job for which you are applying. Regardless of which kind of résumé you use for an application in the US, neither carries a headline. The résumé for a position in the private sector summarizes briefly the most important work-related activities for the job within one page. The detailed CV is used in the US when applying for academic professions and jobs in the field of research. The paper size in the US is the letter format; in the UK, the standard A4 format should be used.

Personal details

In the American CV, the prospective employer does not care about your date of birth. However, in the British résumé, it is compulsory to state your date of birth and, sometimes, even your nationality. But you should mention the latter, only if the information is important for the employer because of work visa issues or other such formalities; otherwise, nationality is not mentioned in the British résumé either.

Career objective or personal statement

In the American CV, the career objective or personal statement is part of the curriculum vitae, but not in the British CV.

Final grades

For an application in the UK, it is important to translate your grades into the British grading system. You can find online tables to help you with the translation.


In the American CV, it is important to include references. In the British CV, however, references are listed only if explicitly requested in the job description. Otherwise, it is sufficient to mention that references can be provided on request.


British and American CVs do not require a passport photo. But there is a crucial difference between the two countries in this respect: Your application is immediately rejected in the US if you choose to pass along a photo nevertheless. Anti-discrimination laws in the US are very sharp and your future employer may be unwilling to put himself in a position where he could be exposed to the accusation that he preferred you on the grounds of nationality, colour or religion.

In the UK, a photo lacks such far-reaching consequences. Nevertheless, you should not send any image without a corresponding request.

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