The Difference Between a U.S. and an International Resume

resume and cv differences

Are you searching for your dream job? Maybe you’re even ready to move outside of the United States for the right job. If so, you’re not alone. According to American Citizens Abroad, up to 10 million American citizens live and work abroad.

If you’re ready to join them, then the first thing you’ll need to do is get a job. And the first step in getting a job is creating a stellar resume.

You might be thinking “no problem, I have my resume all set.” But not so fast. There are differences between a U.S. resume and an international resume that you should know about. 

Should You Submit a Resume or a CV?

Although the terms resume and CV (curriculum vitae) are often used interchangeably, there are important differences. Some countries will only accept resumes, while others will only accept CVs. Understanding which countries accept CVs and which countries accept resumes can greatly improve your chances of landing an interview. 

Which Countries Prefer Resumes?

resume and cv differences

Employers in Canada and Australia will accept a resume similar to what you’ve created for U.S. employment. In fact, discrimination laws in those countries prevent them from asking for a CV, which as a rule, contains more personal information.

However, you’ll want to be sure to include your country of birth, all languages spoken, and your Visa status on any resume going to a foreign employer.

A typical resume for the U.S., Canada, and Australia is usually no more than two pages long and lists your work and education experience as well as your accomplishments and career highlights. With a resume, you’re really trying to sell yourself to your employer using impactful language.

Your resume should also be peppered with keywords and phrases from the job description to increase the chances that your resume will sail through any Applicant Tracking System that’s in place. 

Which Countries Prefer CVs? 

Employers in New Zealand, Asia, the European Union, the United Kingdom, South America, and Africa will require applicants to provide a CV.

A CV is expected to be longer than a resume, about 3 to 8 pages long. It’s a detailed account of a person’s work experience, education, awards, publications, teaching, or research experience. Generally speaking, it’s more comprehensive than a resume and be less “salesy” in tone.

In addition, many employers will require that your CV include personal information such as marital status, birth date, gender, and maiden name (if applicable). Countries in the European Union, South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia also consider a headshot to be an important part of your CV.

Tips for Writing International Resumes or CVs

resume and cv differences

Truth be told, every country has their own rules, regulations, and preferences for how they want foreigners to apply for employment. For example, research reported by the reveals that in Germany, two-thirds of resumes or CVs submitted without photos fall through the cracks. On the other hand, employers in the United Kingdom no longer require photos.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when seeking employment in other parts of the world. 


British CVs tend to be longer than those seen in the U.S. or countries that are part of the European Union. They should include basic personal information, employment history, your academic background, any special skills, languages spoken, and references.

However, don’t include your references’ contact information. Data protection laws in the UK prohibit giving out others’ contact information without consent. 


Resumes in Asia are usually more personal in nature, and will include your age, gender, marital status, hobbies, nationality, and visa status. Asian companies will also expect you to include a professional photo with your resume or CV.

Be sure to submit two copies of your CV, one in English and one in the native language of that country written by a professional translator. Even if you can’t speak the native language of the country, mentioning that you’ve visited the area or are aware of local customs will be appreciated.

Spanish-speaking countries

resume and cv differences

CVs in Spain, Mexico, South American countries, and other Spanish-speaking countries contain much of the same information as British CVs. However, companies in those countries are very interested in your language abilities. That information should be prominently displayed on page 1 of your CV.


Russian resumes are quite similar to resumes in the European Union. They should be one to two pages in length and include all the basic information you would see in a typical resume.

One common expectation in Russia is that you place your educational background before your work history. Putting work history first will look odd to Russian employers. Do include an English version of your resume and another translated into Russian. Do not include references or a photograph of yourself unless specifically requested.

South Africa

South African employers expect to receive two different types of CV from each job applicant—a brief CV and a comprehensive CV. When you first apply for a job you’ll send your brief CV, which is a one-page document that includes your personal information as well as educational background and work history.

If the employer expresses interest, then you’ll send them comprehensive CV at their request. This includes much of the same information from the brief CV and goes into more detail about your skills, accomplishments, and results achieved at previous employers.

While most South African countries accept CVs written in English, you should know that there are 11 different languages spoken in the country. If the company requires a translated CV, then make sure you know which language they want.

Do You Need a Cover Letter with Your International Resume?

resume and cv differences

The short answer is yes. No matter what country you’re sending your resume or CV to, always include a cover letter. A cover letter addressed to a foreign employer is similar to a cover letter you would typically send to a U.S.-based employer.

The cover letter should be no more than two or three paragraphs. The purpose of an international cover letter is to summarize the best points from your CV or resume and demonstrate that you have knowledge about the company you’re applying to.

Use active and dynamic language that shows your personality and compels the reader to review your resume or CV.

The closing paragraph should invite the employer to contact you for an interview.

U.S. Resumes and International Resumes are Not the Same 

When it comes to U.S. and international resumes and CVs, there are major differences you need to be aware of as a job applicant. Many of those differences are listed above, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re serious about finding employment abroad, then take some time to research the culture and customs of the country you want to work in. Search for resume examples from the country online.

In addition, you’ll want to work with a professional resume service who can ensure your resume meets the cultural and legal standards of the country you want to work in.

When it comes time to translate your resume, hire a professional translator who has experience in your field. Don’t just ask a friend who may speak the language to handle the translation. They may not know how to accurately translate the specific terms and phrases specific to your industry.

Finally, be sure to update your passport. While that’s not a requirement for applying to a job in a foreign country. If you get called for an interview, then you want to be ready to jump on the next airplane and land that job!

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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