The perfect CV

The Perfect CV: Hier finden Sie die wichtigsten „stumbling blocks“ beim Übersetzen Ihres CV in Englisch.

Sie haben eine englische Version Ihres Lebenslaufs geschrieben und kommen mit Ihrem Englisch im Business Alltag gut zurecht. Trotzdem wollen Sie peinliche  Fehler in Ihren Unterlagen vermeiden.

Mit Ihrem CV und Anschreiben you only get one chance to make a first impression. Don't trip on the usual banana skins: The most common mistakes made in English CVs and how to avoid them:

Mistakes are often made in a number of different areas: There are the usual 'false friends', where worlds appear to be the same in both German and English, but have a different meaning. Even more embarrassing are words which sound English but are not used by native English speakers - the so-called 'pseudo-anglicisms' and non-existent English words. Then there are German words and expressions which have no direct English equivalent. And, last but not least, important cultural differences regarding the contents and presentation of your English CV or résumé (US).

First things first – Your contact details

You probably find your 'Handy' very handy (praktisch) for keeping in touch whilst on the move, but potential employers will be interested in your mobile (UK) or cellphone (US) number. And you may think that everyone knows that the town where you live is in Austria or Germany, but don't forget to include the country in the last line of your address and the international access code (e.g. +49 for Germany) in all telephone numbers when you are applying for any international position. Note that English CVs do not normally include information about your marital/family status or a photograph, since this is not regarded as relevant to your application.

High school is not high school - Don't undersell your education

If you went to a 'Gymnasium' you may also have done sport in the gymnasium (Sporthalle). However, the school you went to was a high school (US) or grammar school (UK). The term secondary school can be used for other types of schools such as 'Realschule'.

You no doubt worked very hard for your 'Diplom' at University, but the English word diploma is a general word that can be used for all types of courses, including short training courses. By using the word diploma you risk giving the reader the wrong impression. If you studied at university for several years then use the word degree to describe your final qualification. A degree in economics is quite different to a first aid diploma!

For a German Diplom it's better to include the German qualification and compare it to an English equivalent, for instance 'Diplom Informatiker (approximately equivalent to an MSc in Computer Science)'.

If you continued to study after your first degree then you were a post-graduate student. Whilst the goal of many employees is to get 'promotion' at work and being promoted often involves getting more responsibility and money, if you have been awarded the academic title of 'Dr' then you have a PhD or doctorate and most probably have written a thesis (UK) or dissertation (US). Note that there is no English equivalent for the German verb promovieren.


It is important to adequately explain an 'Ausbildung' since many apprenticeships are unique to Germany and are not readily understood in other countries. If you did an apprenticeship as a pharmaceutical laboratory assistant (German: PTA) then your were an apprentice. You can also use the word trainee or traineeship for many white-collar (Schreibtisch-) occupations, e.g. a banking apprenticeship or banking traineeship. You may also have practical work experience, but if this was a formal arrangement you did an internship or job placement (UK). People recruited by companies after leaving university to complete a corporate training programme are graduate trainees.

Job titles that get lost in translation

Job titles are often difficult to translate, particularly since the word manager is used so frequently in English and covers a range of German equivalents (Leiter, Geschäftsführer, Bereichsleiter u.s.w).  Although we often talk about both leadership and management in English, if you were responsible for a team of people then you managed them. The term manager may also be used for any jobs where you had overall responsibility for a key function, even if you did not directly manage any people and had no 'direct reports'. It may be better to use a comparable English job title rather than a direct translation.

(TIP: If you are not sure how to translate a job title, try searching for equivalent positions in international job portals using appropriate key words.) 

Talking about your achievements

Potential employers will most definitely be interested in your achievements. But be careful how you describe them. You may have developed and implemented a new system, but you   most certainly did not 'realise' it. A 'Konzept' on the other hand is not always a concept; it could also be a plan, draft, idea or even a design concept.

Other skills

Your language skills are particularly important if you are applying to an international organisation. But how do you communicate your level of proficiency? There is unfortunately no DIN standard for this, but words like 'intermediate' should definitely be avoided. If you know your European 'CEF' level, for example B2 or C1, then include this, but do not assume that everyone reading your CV will understand it. Some commonly used descriptions include; fluent, highly proficient in spoken and written English, good working knowledge, basic communication skills, and basic knowledge. Consider including details of where you have used a language, for example; French - very good working knowledge (e.g. contracting and lab reports), English - highly proficient in spoken and written English (speaker at international conferences, papers published in English).

Hobbies and interests

Anglo-American companies in particular will be interested in what you do outside of work. Try to include specific interests rather than general activities, after all almost everyone in Germany goes cycling. If you enjoy reading, say what type of books you enjoy, e.g. reading historical novels.

Finally, decide whether to use British or American English, or even another standard English (e.g. for Australia, New Zealand or Canada). Be consistent and make sure your spellchecker is set accordingly. Sometimes the choice is obvious, but if you are not sure, you can often determine which standard of English a company uses from its website.


Good luck with your job hunting! Your NotchDelta Team

Unser Autor Stuart Dean ist Business Englisch Trainer, Autor und Übersetzer und arbeitet für renommierte Unternehmen aus der Finanz-, Tourismus-, IT-Branche und Konsumgüter-industrie.

Nach seinem Studium der Betriebswirtschaft in Cardiff war er für mehrere Jahre im Bereich Marketing Communications in britischen, U.S. und deutschen Fimen tätig, unter anderem bei einem Personaldienstleister im der Personalentwicklung.

Hilfreiches und Nützliches zum englischen Sprachgebrauch im täglichen internationalen Business oder zum Beispiel im englischen Vorstellungsgespräch gibt er in seinem ersten Buch „Business Talk English“ direkt und aus erster Hand wieder. 

Stuart Dean lebt und arbeitet seit 1993 in Mainz und München.