Curriculum Vitae: structure, content and the best action verbs

Curriculum Vitae is a monster word from the distant past – but still alive. In Germany the term is often translated as CV, in the USA it is shortened to CV. In any case, you come across the curriculum vitae much more frequently in North America and Great Britain. It differs in important details from both the American resume and the German resume. If you want to move to New York or London on business, you should know the differences …

Curriculum Vitae Definition

Curriculum Vitae is – as you have probably already suspected – Latin. Translated it means CV . For Teutonic tongues, the word is not a sure-fire success. The word is long, complicated and is therefore only used in exceptional cases in the personnel office. Why pronounce curriculum vitae when you can just say your CV? But you can quickly confuse something – especially if you are applying to an English-speaking country. In the English-speaking world, the term is much more common. Here the word combination Curriculum Vitae – or the abbreviation CV is used very much. Alternatives are Resume and Vita. There are differences between an English CV and a German CV as well as between CV and Resume. Curriculum Vitae means a curriculum vitae that fully reflects the applicant’s professional career. The resume is shorter and only represents the most important stages of the applicant. Both differ in their form relatively strongly from the German résumé. More on the characteristics of the CV later … Basically, the résumé is the most important part of the application. It contains the essential information and is therefore used by the HR manager as a basis for decision-making. And it is one of the must-have elements in the application documents – next to the cover letter and attachments such as certificates or work samples. What does that mean specifically for you as an applicant? Make sure you go out of your way in creating the resume.

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Curriculum Vitae Use

Which format do you choose when applying in the USA: Curriculum Vitae or Resume? The sector in which you are applying is particularly relevant. If you’re looking to hire in the private sector or a non-academic position, write a resume. The employer just wants to get a brief overview of you. Concise, hard facts, no running text! Delete all information that is not relevant to the position – even if it is a scientific publication. But if you want to go into research or pursue an academic career, then choose the Curriculum Vitae . The CV offers more space for your stations and services, and can even extend over two or three pages. You can list and describe any of your projects. In summary, the curriculum vitae can be useful for:

  • an application in an English-speaking country (USA, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa)
  • an international company worldwide
  • a German company that is looking for an English-speaking employee

Curriculum Vitae Content

If an employer requests a curriculum vitae, he usually asks for an English résumé. So you should not only speak English, but also pay attention to the formal differences – especially in international companies. This means that they don’t just translate your German résumé one-to-one when you apply to an English-speaking country. You should pay attention to these aspects:

  • Personal details

    Americans want to put a stop to possible discrimination when applying for an advance. You should therefore refrain from providing information on your age, gender, religion and nationality in your CV. Mind you, this is not a request, but a clear message! The same applies in Great Britain.

  • Photo

    Also do not stick the application photo in your curriculum vitae – nor anywhere else. No photos, more equal opportunities – that’s the equation of the Anglo-Saxons (both in the USA and in the UK).

  • Length

    The curriculum vitae is slightly longer than the German CV. It can consist of two to a maximum of three pages. The resume, on the other hand, is kept short. Not more than one page!

  • Structure

    The English résumé has long since established itself in Germany. So you don’t have to change anything in this regard. The last workstations come first. Then you work your way back to the past in reverse order. The current station first, the first station last.

  • References

    References are more important in the USA and Great Britain than we do. Why? Job references are not common there, so employers have to rely on other sources. So be sure to include references in your application. You should actively speak to the contact person beforehand. Do not be surprised if the employer of your choice calls a reference.

  • End

    The German application says handwritten signature for completeness and credibility. In the Anglo-Saxon cultural area you can omit the signature.

Use action words, avoid buzzwords

Formulate your curriculum vitae actively and positively. So-called Action Words can help. Here is a list of good Action Words for your curriculum vitae :

  • achieved
  • adapted
  • coached
  • communicated
  • decided
  • developed
  • exercised
  • facilitated
  • guided
  • improved
  • negotiated
  • organized
  • presented
  • resolved
  • supervised
  • trained
  • upgraded
  • validated
  • won

On the other hand, there are overused verbs that HR managers no longer hear or want to read. The buzzwords that you should avoid in the curriculum vitae include:

  • creative
  • experienced
  • dynamic
  • driven
  • hard worker
  • leadership
  • passionate
  • expert
  • focused
  • innovative
  • motivated
  • team player
  • strategic

Curriculum Vitae Structure

The content of the Curriculum Vitae from these elements:

  1. Personal Data

    Despite all efforts to ensure anti-discrimination: The Curriculum Vitae is of course not anonymous. You must include your full name, address, telephone number and email address in your CV. The name belongs in the first line, there is space for all other information below. Also make sure to write out umlauts, for example Thomas Mueller or Gerhard Schroeder or Diane Krueger. And with all the sense of humor that is said to be especially true of the British: Rely on a reputable e-mail address. So not something like [email protected] or [email protected]

  2. Personal Profile

    There are two or three sentences here that you describe in more detail. Your outstanding qualities or qualifications. Please no insubstantial blah blah, but meaningful three-line lines. However, this section is optional. Before you write nonsense, leave it out completely.

  3. Education / Academic Qualification

    At this point, you list your school education and training Of your degrees – in reverse chronological order. You can also accommodate advanced training ( Advanced Training ) here. If you have a university degree, you can name the work or dissertation and briefly outline the topic.

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  4. Work Experience

    In German one speaks of a professional career. You also list your workstations in reverse chronological order: the current or last station at the very beginning, the first at the end. You should try to avoid gaps, but you do not have to indicate every irrelevant point. Example: If you worked as a cashier during university, then only take up this position if you are applying in retail or sales. Otherwise, leave them out. The period of employment, the company name including internet link, the location and the exact job title are important. Successes or special projects can be added. A short version is sufficient if you are writing a US resume: In this case, just list two or three jobs relevant to the position – the most important job first. If the résumé is weighted according to skills, one also speaks of the functional resume. From the applicant’s point of view, the big advantage is that gaps in the résumé suddenly no longer play a role.

  5. Skills

    This is where this is the point so far unmentioned abilities. This can be language skills and IT skills. The driver’s license can also appear here, provided it is relevant to the desired position.

  6. Activities/Engagement

    Do you have special interests, Honorary positions and hobbies? These can be found here. But again only if they are related to the job. Or if you emphasize soft skills such as the ability to work in a team or leadership qualities. A team sport could, for example, indicate a strong team spirit. Be careful with extreme sports: There should be employers for whom paragliding or freestyle skiing are red rags due to the high risk of injury. Better to leave it out!

  7. References

    References in applications are also gaining importance in Germany. Above all, people trust the judgment of other people – that won’t change anytime soon. If you are applying in the US with your curriculum vitae, references are even more important. Please note: A Reference usually contains two people. They can provide information about their experiences with you – and they are often actually contacted. So in addition to the names, also include the phone numbers and email addresses. Before doing this, ask your reference provider whether they agree. And please only select those with whom you have a good relationship and whom you evaluate favorably.

Curriculum Vitae Tips

In the German curriculum vitae, you usually list the individual stations in bullet points. You can or should describe them in more detail in the curriculum vitae. You supplement the bullet points with running text and end it with a period at the end. Advantage: You can present yourself very well in this way. You can market and present yourself better. And that’s exactly what an application is all about. It is also about your tough skills. Try to work these out in the curriculum vitae in such a way that they convince the recipient. Your qualifications must match the requirements in the job description. It is important that you develop a feeling for which skills are mandatory requirements and which are optional requirements. The must-have requirements are mandatory. They have to appear in your curriculum vitae, otherwise, your application has little chance of success. The optional requirements, on the other hand, are not basic requirements, but increase your chances of being hired. It is not always easy to distinguish between mandatory and optional requirements. You can recognize mandatory requirements, for example, by these formulations:

  • You bring with you
  • We expect
  • Prerequisite is
  • Required are
  • … we assume

Optional requirements are not formulated so strictly. Here are a few examples:

  • Knowledge of …
  • Ideally …
  • Sufficient experience …
  • If you also bring along
  • We would also be pleased
  • Are helpful …

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