Writing your CV: differences between the Italian and the English version

After starting my Master in HR for ISTUD Business School, I came across many cultural gaps, mostly because I moved here from an education prevalently conducted with the American system for my high school and with the British system for my Bachelors. Such cultural gaps, which I have not encountered before, surprised me, one of which was the structuring of the Curriculum Vitae, as I always thought it had a global structure.

To commence, I may start by saying that, the knowledge of the English language, whether it being for personal, study or work-related issues, just by its self could be beneficial. Curriculum tend to have a higher reliability for many different reasons, for which some will be listed below:

  1. Getting the message through, a strong aspect of Communication. Most foreign language speakers have a good knowledge of the English language. In most cases, when people from different origins are put together and need to communicate, they commonly use the English language, hence being called “the language of communication”. Communication and traveling become much easier.
  2. It is a benefit that allows to push your career further. Opportunities are immediately available when having a good knowledge of the english language. It may enable a more challenging position, career-wise, specially when communicating with foreign clients and business partners.
    Most managers are required to have a strong english knowledge.
  3. Knowledge becomes more accessible. English is widely recognised as the international language of science. Most subjects , for example computer or health are better explained in English. When researching in english – most reliably on the Web – allows unlimited access to knowledge.
  4. Art is more commonly enjoyed. Having a strong knowledge of the english language is like having an oyster card to the world. Most film industry uses the english language, knowing the english language means you will no longer have to rely on dubbed or subtitled versions.

Furthermore, when compared to the Chinese language, the english language is much easier to learn and to use, as it is based on the alphabet. Knowing a second or a third language is not only beneficial for communication reasons or for professional purposes but for many more aspects.

  1. Although it may not be the most spoken language in the world, English is the official language or the second language for a large number of countries. Approximately as estimated at least 2 billion of the population make use the english language for communication.
  2. The dominant business language is English, becoming almost a necessity for candidates when they are to enter a global workforce. As by proven from research, most cross-border business communication is most commonly conducted in English.
  3. Learning English allows access to a great wealth of entertainment and allows to have a greater cultural understanding, as most world’s top films, books and music are produced and published in English.
  4. It can be discussed that approximately 50% of what is produced on the internet is in English.


Writing your CV in English

Formality and technicality are the biggest differences found between the Italian and the English curriculum vitae. It is normal for Italians to use lots of complicated and important words, while in the Anglo-Saxon world it is such that makes the reading of the CV hard. Another visible difference is that few people tend to use or rely on the cover letter preceding their CV. Cover letters and personal profiles are the “USP” of each individual, (Uniqueness or Universal Selling Proposition).
Often when applying for a job it is very common to find people who have your same qualifications and professional backgrounds. Cover letters and personal profiles are what set you apart, and differentiate you from other candidates.
The aspect that strongly differentiates Italy from the UK and the US is the different education system. For example, when I first started my master degree at ISTUD, when I was asked to discuss my marks and what I studied, there was an aspect that confused me: for example, I was unfamiliar with the scoring system made out of 110, or the Italian expressions “con lode”, corresponding to what is known in english as distinction. Particularly what an “undergraduate thesis” is, in Italian “tesi di laurea”. Anglo-Saxons use the word “thesis” (tesi) only in relation to post-graduate research, most commonly when awarded with a PhD, in which they submit a thesis, or a doctoral dissertation.
What mainly differentiates the Italian Curriculum Vitae from the Anglo-Saxon one , is the assertiveness (not necessarily an aggressive approach), but more targeted and focused, compared to the Italian CVs which tend to be more general and at occasions less specific.
Executive jobs, in the global marketplace, tend to require a CV designed with “military” precision.
The main objective when writing a CV is to get to the interview. Yet it is your performance in the interview that will determine whether or not you get the job.


The CV in Italy

When writing a curriculum vitae in Italian for Italian recruiters, there aren’t any specific rules in the structuring, all that is required is to put the data in a chronological order and a brief text is preferred.
Photographs are always included, as it helps the recruiter maintain a reminder of who the person applying is, obviously the photo has to be strictly professional.
What is considered a good CV, is one set with a chronological order, personal information, educational path, working experiences and the locations.
Up to approximately 15years ago, when a male applied for a job, it was a necessity to mention, whether or not, they served in the military, while at the moment this isn’t a requirement anymore.
Although not as commonly used as in the Anglo-Saxon method of structuring a cv, personal goals and skills are presented in the cover letter and not inserted in the CV.
Recreational activities and hobbies are not normally present in Italian CVs, instead a greater emphasis is placed on the personal information, such as individual talents, professional ambitions and the willingness that the candidate has to move.
In order to leave the employer with a good impression on the candidate it is best if a detailed explanation of the individual expectations is given in person rather than in the cv or the cover letter.
In Italy writing a shorter version of a CV, such as the American format, is not as common.

To conclude the main difference that can be encountered when comparing Italian CVs and Cover letters, are many, some of which will be listed shortly. When writing the covering letter, “ la Lettera di presentazione”, the candidate should usually write it addressing directly to the employer they have an interest to work for and it must follow a formal style using the third person, using “lei” instead of “tu”. Italian CVs usually dedicate more space to explain personal attributes and skills rather than focus on hobbies or recreational activities. Another important aspect that is not seen in the Anglo-Saxons CVs, is the inclusions of the clause that says: “Autorizzo il trattamento dei miei dati personali ai sensi del D.L. 196/2003” in order to comply with Italian data sharing laws.

Elena Najat El Attrache

Elena Najat El Attrache

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