The words resume and curriculum vitae (CV) are used almost interchangeably in the career space these days, but in reality there are major differences between them. Among these differences are length, what’s included, and in what situations they should be used.
So, what is a resume? What is a CV? And what’s the difference between them?
In the following article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more, and also let you know which one is right for you.
1. What is a CV?
A CV (an abbreviation of the Latin word, curriculum vitae, which translates to “course of life”) is a thorough and often several-page document that outlines a person’s career, achievements, publications, academic works, volunteer work, and personal information.
Every time you make a career change, achieve something professionally or academically, receive awards or degrees, gain certification or publication, or accomplish something otherwise noteworthy in your career, you should update your curriculum vitae.
As a result, your CV is a complete summary of your professional and academic career history.
Because they serve as a running tally of accomplishments, CVs are usually several pages long (sometimes up to 20 pages or more!), depending on the level of a person’s experience and tenure.
CVs are credential-based, meaning more emphasis is placed on milestone qualifications like education and certifications than skills. For this reason, CVs are more often used for jobs in the medical, research, and academic fields than resumes.
A well-written CV should include the following, in addition to your name, professional title, and contact information:
- publications you’ve written or contributed to
- conferences you’ve attended
- research you’re interested in
- academic positions you’ve held
- non-academic work history and experience
- honors, awards, and certifications you’ve earned
- academic degrees and qualifications
- grants you’ve received
- professional affiliations
Your CV may include things that aren’t listed above, but that you find important to note for a prospective employer. This is perfectly fine, as the idea behind a curriculum vitae is that it encompasses every relevant aspect of your professional and academic life, as well as work experience.
The applicant in the example below hits on all the main areas a curriculum vitae should cover, including research work, publications, awards, and academic/professional experience:
While the CV above is only a page long, many will spill onto two pages or even three pages once a person’s career gets going.
2. What is a Resume?
A resume is a brief, one-page document that summarizes your work experience and relevant skills for the purpose of applying for a job.
Unlike a curriculum vitae, which includes all of your professional milestones and work experience, your resume should be tailored specifically for the job you are applying for, including only the education section, skills, experience, and certifications that are relevant to that position.
|For example, if you’re applying for a job as a teacher, there’s no need to include your Google Analytics Certification or your experience as a barista.
Resumes should never be longer than one page, and should be as concise as possible. You want your resume to give the hiring manager a positive snapshot of your experience and skills, so they feel compelled to bring you in for an interview.
Additionally, resumes are competency-based, meaning their purpose is to emphasize the skills and experience that make you a good fit for the role you’re applying for.
A good resume should including the following position-relevant information:
- your name
- contact information
- resume objective (optional)
- professional experience
It’s important that your resume looks nice and professional, so spend some time on the resume format to ensure your spacing, margins, and font are all looking their best.
This applicant has a pretty robust resume, with lots of experience, certifications, and skills. However, everything still fits onto a single page, making the candidate look extremely accomplished and qualified.
Although the resume above almost completely fills the page, a shorter, more concise resume is also acceptable – and sometimes even preferred by employers.
3. What’s the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?
The differences between a curriculum vitae and a resume are their length and purpose: resumes are usually only a page long, while CVs can be anywhere from 2 to 30 pages. Additionally, a CV outlines a person’s entire academic career, while a resume briefly summarizes one’s professional skills and experience.
In short, a CV is a multiple-page (often two pages) document that details a person’s professional and academic experience, while a resume is a one-page document that outlines a person’s professional skills and experience relevant to a job.
CV Versus Resume
We’ve broken the difference between a CV and a resume down into a simple table:
|Includes all professional/academic experience
|Includes job specific experience only
|Updated to add accomplishments
|Updated to tailor to different job descriptions
|Used mostly in academic & research fields
|Used to apply for jobs
|Emphasizes academic achievements
|Emphasizes professional achievements
|Grows longer over time
|Always fits on a single page
If you need further help understanding the differences between a resume and a CV, or if you need a CV or resume, and how to create one of these documents for yourself, have a look at our how to write a resume guide.
4. International Differences
Outside of the United States and Canada, the word CV is used almost universally to describe what we know as a resume, and vice versa.
In Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the word CV is used instead of resume as well, but there are minor differences in what they include in this document. In these places, it’s common to include a photo, marital status, and salary information.
Elsewhere, in places like Asia and the Middle East, it’s also common to include more personal information such as gender, race, date of birth, and even sexual orientation!
However, if you’re applying for a position somewhere outside of the United States, it’s safe to use a standard resume and provide further information only when it’s requested.
5. Do You Need a CV or a Resume?
Which document you need between a resume and a CV ultimately comes down to your industry and your personal preferences.
If you work in the medical field, a scientific research position, or in academia, the right move is probably to use a CV.
If you work, or want to work, in nearly any other field, you should probably use a resume and tailor it specifically to the job applications for the position you want.
That’s all there is to it!
For more help with resume writing or putting together your job application, check out the following additional resources:
Happy job hunting to all you job seekers from our team at Resume Companion!