“Europass” can mean two things — a European train ticket or a system for producing a resume/CV to get a job in Europe — and either way, you’re going to see lots of wheels spinning round and round.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the Europass CV and its relevance to some job seekers. What we’ll cover:
- What is the Europass CV?
- Origin story of the Europass CV online: why a standardized European CV format was deemed a good idea
- What does the Europass CV template look like?
- How to create a Europass CV
- Advantages and disadvantages of the Europass CV template
- Europass CV writing tips
- How to prepare a great European CV: general considerations
What is the Europass CV?
The Europass curriculum vitae (CV) system is a well-intentioned initiative to standardize the paperwork that people use to look for jobs in Europe. It’s a web-based system for producing a free electronic document that contains your contact info, work experience, education and other credentials that qualify you to obtain employment.
In other words, it’s an online generator of what Americans and Canadians call a resume, and what Europeans call a CV. And, sadly, it’s a mess. This may be our subjective opinion, but it's also based on considerable experience developing and working with various online resume/CV instruments. The Europass CV is often described as having bad visual design and being outdated. It’s what many people call a “discount resume,” and it looks like it.
It’s an attempt by a sprawling, multilingual European organization to standardize a one-page document that should be all about the job skills of one individual. Theoretically, this free, web-generated document would give anyone in the world equal footing to compete for any job in Europe. But it falls far short of its goals.
It’s as if all of Asia, or all of Africa, or all of Latin America, decided on a one-size-fits-all solution for millions of individuals on those vast continents to search for a job. It’s a fine idea, but it doesn’t necessarily work.
Europe is a diverse continent with a market economy, which means resumes are more effective when they follow the quality standards of the job market, rather than bureaucratic unification. Not to mention the fact that the job market reacts quickly to change … and government services rarely do.
The idea behind the Europass CV template
The concept of a uniform European CV format may have some merit. The Europass CV template exists, in part, because the continent of Europe has engaged in many laudable efforts to unify its disparate parts by removing unnecessary boundaries. In 1999, the European Union achieved the amazing goal of retiring national currencies in favor of the universally accepted euro. Just try that on any other continent!
Europe has become a commonwealth of nations, with different languages, cultures and customs, yet border controls and most other barriers between individual EU countries no longer exist. So why not standardize a system for Italians to seek employment in Germany, or for the Swiss to find work in Spain? That’s the idea behind the Europass CV, to normalize the process of Europeans reaching across borders to get a job.
In 2004, the European Parliament adopted the European Commission’s proposal for “a single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences,” which became the Europass CV. Since then, more than 100 million Europass CVs have been created online. In fact, the Europass CV template is only one component of the entire portfolio. It consists of five Europass documents to use as your digital credentials:
- The Europass Curriculum Vitae template provides a standardized format for CVs/resumes to use in job applications.
- The Europass Diploma Supplement provides information on your education, the type of degree you hold and the institution that granted it.
- The Europass Certificate Supplement provides information on any vocational training you’ve received and any certification earned.
- The Europass Language Passport provides information on your language skills, though it’s now been incorporated into the Europass profile to be used as a section on your CV.
- The Europass Mobility document provides information about skills you have gained while traveling, studying or working in a foreign country.
If that sounds like information overkill, it probably is. Most employers prefer a ONE-page resume/CV. Hiring managers care about effectiveness and brevity, not a tiresome list of bureaucratic requirements.
What does the Europass CV template look like?
Below is a Europass CV template example.
How to create a Europass CV
You can access the Create your Europass CV builder directly or via the home page of Europass, an official website of the European Union. The welcome message affirms that the online process is easy for creating your CV to apply for a job, education or training, or volunteering opportunity.
In fact, the first step is to create your Europass “profile,” consisting of personal information, work experience, education and training, and personal skills. This becomes the basis for creating as many CVs you want by selecting the information to include and preferred design.
Advantages of the Europass CV format
- Is the Europass CV free? Yes. The fact that it’s free is possibly the biggest advantage of the Europass, despite its many disadvantages. It’s a CV format often used throughout Europe, and you can create, store and share CVs in 29 languages. Europass can also help you write a cover letter.
- The Europass CV is touted on its own website as “the best-known CV format in Europe.” Certainly, the Europass CV format is often used throughout Europe.
- Although the Europass system to create a CV or resume is designed for use in Europe, you don’t have to be from Europe to use it. Some European employers may be used to its format, and may even prefer it. But a Europass CV is never required to apply for a job in Europe (and in fact it turns many employers off).
Truth is, the main scenario where Europass provides an advantage is when a candidate has no time or resources to invest in a good resume — and the hiring manager doesn’t care about resume quality or design as much as about other factors.
Does that sound like a situation you want to be in? Not really. A good resume makes recruiters pay attention to your candidacy … and a bad resume may heavily damage your career prospects.
So let’s look now at some of the downsides.
Disadvantages of the Europass CV
Numerous experts disagree with how the Europass CV is designed as a document and a service. The disadvantages of the Europass, as described by many sources, include: outdated resume design, questionable resume builder interface, bugs on the website and questionable text formatting. These criticisms can be seen as subjective, but with the amount of innovative CV creation services and templates (including free ones) on the web, it's hard to argue that a government-created resume service may have become outmoded.
Here are some article headlines you may find if you search for online info about the Europass:
- “Why should you avoid Europass CV like plague?”
- “Your Europass CV is Ruining Your Chances”
- “Why the Europass is bad for your career”
- “Why I don’t like Europass CVs”
- “Why you should not use the Europass CV”
Let’s explore why.
The Europass CV template is famously unattractive
There's a lot of criticism related to the design of the Europass CV. Gaping blank spaces that eat up precious real estate. A large logo that uses up even more. Huge spaces between bullet points and text. Justified text that spaces words out weirdly. A page where almost all the info appears on the left and the right is blank. Ugly fonts and other odd typography choices.
We hope the creators will forgive us for saying (based on decades of experience in the professional world): it’s a very questionable design standard for a good European CV. There’s just no way around it, as harsh as it may seem. Google “Europass CV images” and you’ll see what we mean. The Europass CV may be a huge visual turnoff that will put a bad taste in employers’ mouths before they even read the first word.
The modern world is highly visual, and we can’t pretend that design doesn’t matter. It does. We like apps with nice interfaces. Websites with sleek menus. Phones with modern curves and colors … and employers like well-designed resumes.
Europass CV editor: our own experience
We tried to create a personal Europass CV online and found the experience extremely frustrating. Once again, this may be subjective, but try it yourself and see if you agree.
In hindsight, we probably could have saved ourselves some time by watching a video tutorial on Europass CV preparation like this one. If you’re still stuck, go to YouTube, search for “Europass CV tutorial,” and you’ll find plenty.
Here are some of the challenges we encountered.
First you have to create a profile with your contact info, work experience, education, languages — and a LOT of unnecessary categories that you can fortunately skip. If you filled out all the options, you might end up with a 10-page CV.
Once your profile is done, you reach an apparent dead end. There is no “Next” or “Download CV” button, so you have to go searching for it. We spent almost half an hour trying to figure out what to do next, and we almost gave up.
We finally figured out that you have to click on the “Me” button — which provides a drop-down menu that offers no help. By pure accident, we discovered that you have to click on the “Me” button TWICE to find the “Create A CV” option.
On the next page, if you miss the instruction that you have to select the parts of your profile to include on your CV, you’ll download a document that contains nothing but your name! Why would anyone create an option that allows you to download a CV that contains nothing but your name?
Nearly an hour had passed with no resume in sight. Just a blank document. At this stage, we were pretty frustrated and questioning our decision to sign up for the Europass CV service.
In three places, the website changed the dates we entered. A birthday on June 13 was changed to June 12, and when we insisted on June 13, it was changed to June 11!
A college start date in 1986 was changed to 1985, and although we corrected the error, it refused the change. A job start date in 1989 was changed to 1988, and then the website refused to correct that too.
For some reason the website also asks if you have a “motto.” But if you enter one, it never appears on the CV, so it’s anyone’s guess what the point of this is.
If you want a resume/CV that doesn’t exceed one page — which is highly recommended unless you're applying for a very senior position — you’re going to have to work at it. Or, more accurately, you’re going to have to fight the website to achieve this.
The website does provide a preview of sorts, but it doesn’t show page breaks. So you may have to download a two-page resume multiple times, each time deselecting some of the info you want included, before you produce a final product that fits on one page.
Because of all the wasted space built into the CV design, we ended up deleting a mailing address, website, LinkedIn page, languages and a past job. Yet all of this information would have fit if the page was intelligently designed.
Tons of wasted space
The flagrant waste of space in the CV templates is often seen as very questionable design and CV formatting. In one template, all information was aligned along the left margin, squandering an enormous amount of horizontal space by leaving the entire right side of the pages blank. For example, there was one line each for 1) name, 2) nationality, 3) phone number, 4) date of birth, 5) gender, 6) email address, 7) website and 8) mailing address. All of these were flush left, and all had generous spaces between them. This took up one-fourth of the page!
Why is there so much space between the bullet points? Why does it take two lines to say “San José, Costa Rica”? Is it necessary to tell people that San José is a “city” and Costa Rica is a “country”? Why can’t all of these things be named in a single line? Why is so much space wasted on the right side of the page? There was plenty of room to put “San José, Costa Rica” in the blank space to the right of the employer’s name.
This is an absurd amount of space to dedicate to telling people that you speak German, Dutch and English. We just wasted five or six lines of our resume to say we speak three languages. And what is “speaking production,” anyway?
When we tried making our own adjustments, everything was aligned left, squandering a lot of space on the right that we really could have used elsewhere.
Europass CV writing tips
Design questions aside, you at least have full control over the text you provide on a Europass CV. Make your writing concise but compelling, using strong action verbs and vivid adjectives to describe your qualifications for the job, your past job-related achievements and your special skills. We’ve actually compiled a list of 300+ powerful action verbs you can use in your CV.
Avoid clichés like “self-starter,” “team player” or “thinking outside the box.” Strive for fresh, original language that recruiters haven’t seen a thousand times before. And avoid “fluff,” which is language that sounds fancy but conveys no real information.
Be specific, using facts and figures where possible to quantify your accomplishments in past jobs. And try to avoid repeating words, especially in close succession, like “Improved work-flow processes, among other productivity improvements.”
Short is sweet with a Europass CV. Try to limit your Europass CV to one or two pages. Keep it simple and focus only on the necessary elements of your skills and experience.
Given the space-wasting design of the Europass CV, you’ll need to keep your text as short as possible if you hope to make everything fit on one page. One solution is to trim your text to eliminate “widows,” which are solitary words at the end of a text block or bullet point that spill over on an additional line, making the entire document one line deeper. By trimming a word or two somewhere in these text blocks, you can usually eliminate these space-eating fragments at the bottom.
How to prepare a great European CV
Many employers seeing another Europass CV cross their desk may choose to set it aside in favor of a professionally designed CV that actually looks nice. So at times, using the Europass can actually do more harm than good. Its design flaws explain why there are so many articles on the web with titles like “Why Europass is harming your career chances.”
You’re better off with just about any other plan. Use a professional resume preparation service, where you’ll pay a fee, but it’s well worth it. You’ll find more template options, more intuitive builder tools and an easier editing process. Most important, you’ll get a much better final product.
Or if you have any design skills whatsoever, do the job yourself. You can draw inspiration from multiple samples online. Fire up a laptop, launch Microsoft Word and go to work. It would be difficult to do a worse job than Europass does.
European CVs in general
Having focused specifically on the Europass CV template, let’s talk more generally now about the “European CV format” — not necessarily Europass. How do European CVs differ overall from their counterparts elsewhere in the world?
If you’re accustomed to standards for resume design in North America, there are some differences to be aware of in Europe.
A resume / CV by any other name
First, to clear up one confusing point: What Americans and Canadians call a resume is called a curriculum vitae, or CV for short, in Europe. This is typically a one-page document with a job seeker’s contact info, employment history, education and skills. So with minor differences, what’s called a CV in Europe and a resume in North America usually refers to the exact same thing.
However, there’s also such a thing in North America and elsewhere as an “academic CV,” sometimes called a “long-form CV.” This is a multi-page document used in academic settings to list scholarly achievements, publications, fellowships, grants, research experience and so forth.
Outside academia, medicine and certain scientific fields, most people never have to prepare an academic CV. For more information on the long-form academic CV, consult our article on “Resume vs. curriculum vitae (CV): What’s the difference?”
How else are European CVs different?
But what we want to address here are the minor differences between “ordinary” European CVs and North American resumes.
For example, it’s more common in Europe than in North America to include a photo of the applicant. (However, photos on CVs are uncommon in the United Kingdom.)
In some countries, there’s a philosophy that job applicants’ looks should not influence their employability, hence the tendency to omit photos. In other countries, it’s seen as harmless to include a photo of the applicant in a page that’s all about that person.
The United States has strict rules against discrimination on the basis of gender, age or national origin, which is why American resumes will rarely specify the applicants’ gender, birthdate, nationality or other personal data. European countries generally have the same anti-discrimination rules, yet it’s not uncommon at all to include gender, birthdate or nationality on a CV.
How long should a European CV be?
European employers may also be accustomed to CVs that are longer than one page, although the golden standard in North America is not to exceed one page except in unusual circumstances (such as senior management positions). But trust us on this: a busy European hiring manager who receives a one-page CV will never complain that it isn’t long enough! On the contrary, they will look more favorably on your candidacy for not wasting their time.
Key takeaways: some conclusions on the Europass CV
- In summary, the Europass CV is a flawed system that allows anyone to build a free curriculum vitae/resume. But the system is difficult to use, templates are poorly designed, and the final product is so unappealing that it’s a turnoff to many employers.
- You can use the Europass if that’s your only option, but get in line with millions of other job applicants sending unattractive CVs created with a minimum of effort. Even worse, by using Europass, you’re joining the kilometer-long line of candidates that are going to be overlooked. Don’t let that happen to you for such a trivial and avoidable reason.
- Your best bet is to use a professional resume/CV preparation service that delivers a high-end product — or even to sit down at a computer and create your own.