A very proper CV.
August 7, 2019 3:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm preparing a CV for a British government job. I'm used to the US job market. Is there anything I should be aware of?

Are there any cultural factors, especially for UK government jobs, that I should be aware of?

For example: in the US one knows to blow one's own horn on a CV/resume, in the most dignified of ways, of course. Would that be a negative to a UK person reviewing the document?
posted by Sheydem-tants to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Probably the number one cultural thing is don't include a photo! Yes blow your own horn in a dignified way, and unless it's an academic CV make sure it's a light two pages, preferably one and a half. Good luck! I've worked in the civil service so feel free to memail me if you like.
posted by london explorer girl at 3:55 AM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here is a page showing a quick summary of differences between US and UK CV formats. And here is another.

The items listed are all worth bearing in mind in terms of spelling, items to list and leave out etc. Personally I would try to seek out whoever is posting the vacancy and give them a call to ask this question from their perspective: this can help them to remember who you are and solve any potential problems which would be specific to whichever part of the government you are applying to.

Don't neglect a cover letter either - first of all are they asking for one (or anything else specific to the employer such as a form) I'd recommend "Ask a Boss' guide to writing a cover letter". Any cover letter needs to be a good match for your CV.
posted by rongorongo at 3:59 AM on August 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

In the general jobs market (I sometimes review CVs for software developer or PM roles) I'd say talking up your achievements is expected and normal. I don't know the US market norms, but definitely don't feel you have to minimize your achievements.

For the civil service roles I've seen there have usually been quite extensive guidance notes on what they want from applicants, sometimes that explicitly excludes sending a CV but it varies a lot.
posted by crocomancer at 4:47 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Don't mean to threadsit, but: do you put "Curriculum Vitae" as a heading as suggested by the first link in rongorongo's answer?
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:12 AM on August 7, 2019

When I was getting career advice leaving university in the UK - admittedly now 15+ years ago - I was told not to do that because the reader could be trusted to understand it was a CV and to start with your name. So my CVs always started with my name. But I guess that was before machines were reading most of them before a human first puts eyes on them so this may have changed.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:48 AM on August 7, 2019

In fact on reading both links I was advised, by career advisors and recruiters, to do a lot of things the first link advises against. And I never had a problem getting interviews based on those applications. Since then I've only gone through internal job transfers which seem to rely primarily on my proposal CV and a phone call so I may have outdated knowledge but just call them and make sure you provide what they are looking for.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:03 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Here is a page showing a quick summary of differences

yeah this article is immediately nonsense and/or out of date for saying "However, in the British résumé, it is compulsory to state your date of birth"! It is very much NOT compulsory! More info here. I have even read advice to leave out the years you attended university since it is trivial to make a decent guess at your age from that (i.e. in the UK most people will go to university age 18, so the start year of your university course minus 18 is likely your birth year).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:24 AM on August 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

You might well be linked to this already if you're applying, but this pdf has guidance for Civil Service applications and interviews. It refers to application forms rather than CVs but you'll hopefully find it useful. I found it via google so not quite sure of the context, but it seems to be on the Civil Service website so presumably reasonably current.

I went looking for it because I have a friend who's fairly senior in Whitehall and I remember her telling me how strict their interview procedures were in terms of following specifically competence-based criteria, so they weren't allowed to get into some idle side chat about how you spent a year travelling in a place they happen to know well, or how your hobby is growing exotic tomatoes, which they happen to love too - unless those things illustrated specific, relevant competencies.
posted by penguin pie at 7:52 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The most shocking difference I noticed between UK and U.S. CVs is that in the UK people often include information about their pre-university education whereas I find that unimaginable for anyone with a university degree in Northern America. That doesn’t mean you have to include your pre-university education or that it’s expected, but if you have some sort of fancy pre-university qualification (fancy school, valedictorian, exceptional AP/IB marks) that you think will help, it won’t necessarily seem out of place in the UK.
posted by grouse at 9:25 AM on August 7, 2019

do you put "Curriculum Vitae" as a heading as suggested by the first link in rongorongo's answer?

No. You call it a CV (eg in the filename) but generally speaking it has your name at the top as the heading and is obviously in a CV format.

This advice from askamanager reflects good CVs that I have seen as a hiring manager (UK Government), so I guess there aren't any substantive differences.

  • Unless you are applying for a very junior post I would expect it to be longer than 1 page. 2 pages is ideal.
  • Do not include your date of birth, or a photo.
  • You could include your nationality if it helps make it clear that you are entitled to work in the UK (or note that you have a work permit).
  • We don't use GPA for college/school, you could include it and note the British equivalent (eg GPA 3.8 which is equivalent to a 1:1) or you could leave it out completely, particularly if you are a few years beyond your first graduate job
  • To avoid age discrimination, some people remove the dates of their degree from their CV (as so many people complete university between 18 and 21 in the UK). It's also not unusual (but not super common) to truncate your experience leaving off early jobs unless the instructions say otherwise
  • Many people include their school exams as well as university degrees in the education section. But it's not compulsory to do so
  • Some government jobs ask for 'name blind' CVs. Read the instructions very carefully to see what you should remove.

posted by plonkee at 3:35 PM on August 7, 2019

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