Resumes & Cover Letters

Resume vs. Curriculum Vitae: Differences, Definitions and Tips

April 9, 2021

While reading job postings, you may have noticed some employers ask for a resume, others ask for a curriculum vitae commonly referred to as a “CV” and a few may ask for a “resume/cv.” While both resumes and CVs are used in job applications (and some employers may use the terms interchangeably), these two documents have a few distinct differences.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a CV and a resume, what to include in each one and when to use one versus the other. This will help you ensure you’ve prepared the right document for your job applications.

The differences between a resume and a CV

The differences between a resume and a CV include the document’s length, contents and purpose. You should also consider which region of the world you’re applying in and your career path when deciding which is more appropriate to use.

Most notably, in the US a resume should be a concise and curated collection of your professional experience, skills and qualifications that are strictly relevant to the job you’re applying for. In contrast, a CV presents an in-depth history of your professional and academic credentials and accomplishments. Some of their main differences include the following:

Length

Since a resume includes your skills and qualifications for a specific role only, it should typically be just one or two pages. A CV won’t have a length limit and is much longer than most resumes because it includes more information and more detailed descriptions of coursework, research, publications or presentations.

Experience/career type

CVs are mostly used to apply for academic roles or programs, grants, fellowships and research or teaching positions. You may have a CV if you are currently applying to or have graduated from a master's or doctoral program, or if you work as a professor or researcher at an academic institution. Resumes are used when applying for jobs in the private or public sectors which are often referred to as “industry positions” in contrast to academia.

Geographic location

In other regions of the world, such as the UK, New Zealand and parts of Europe, employers use the term CV to describe both CV and resume-style documents and don’t use the term “resume” at all. In South Africa, Australia and India, the terms CV and resume are often used interchangeably. But, in the US, a resume and CV are two distinctly different types of documents used for different purposes.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

What is a CV?

A CV (abbreviation for the Latin word curriculum vitae, or “course of life”) is a detailed and comprehensive document which describes the course of your academic and professional accomplishments. It’s usually formatted in chronological order and starts with your educational experience. While there is no length requirement on a CV, most range from three to ten pages though some might be even longer. Generally, the more experience you have, the longer your CV will be.

Related: 10 Ways to Enhance Your CV

CV Format
Image description

CV Format
1. Name and contact information
2. Summary
3. Professional history
4. Education
5. Skills
6. Awards
7. Publications

What to include on a CV

Typically, you’ll include your career history as well as your education, awards, special honors, grants or scholarships, research or academic projects, and publications on your CV. You might also include professional references, coursework, fieldwork, descriptions of dissertations and a personal profile that lists your relevant skills and attributes.

Related: Curriculum Vitae (CV) Format Guide: Examples and Tips

What is a resume?

A resume is a document that summarizes your career history, skills and education. The term originates from the French word résumé, which translates to “abstract” or “summary.”

Resume Format
Image description

Resume Format
1. Name and contact information
2. Summary or objective
3. Professional history
a. Company name
b. Dates of tenure
c. Description of role and achievement
4. Education
5. Skills
6. Optional (Awards & Achievements, Hobbies & Interests)

What to include on a resume

A resume typically includes a professional or “summary” statement, dedicated skills section and condensed description of your recent and relevant professional achievements listed in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most current job.

You may also choose to share your education experience, relevant professional associations you’re a part of or volunteer work. If you have little or no professional work experience, you might list relevant internships, apprenticeships, volunteer work or personal projects instead.

Download Resume Template
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

When to use a resume vs. a CV

If you’re unsure whether an employer requires a resume or CV, ask yourself the following questions to help determine the best document:

What kind of job are you applying for?

If you’re applying for a job in academia, especially as an educator, teaching assistant or researcher at a college or university, then you’ll probably need a CV. Some postsecondary institutions have guidelines for what to include in a CV, so be sure to check the school’s website or ask a recruiter or hiring manager for this information before you apply.

Where is the company based?

Depending on where the company is located, “CV” may refer to a standard resume or it may refer to the longer form, highly detailed document explained above. To determine which you should send, first consider the type of job. If it’s an academic or research position, the employer is likely seeking a traditional CV. If it’s any other type of job, including a role with a business or even a staff position within academia, then the employer is likely seeking the shorter form resume-style document.

If you’re in doubt about whether you should send a CV or resume, reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager and ask for clarification.

If you have a resume but not a CV (or vice versa), it may be worthwhile to put one together. A CV is, in many ways, a more detailed version of a resume with a few additional pieces of information, so creating one from the other shouldn’t require a great deal of work. Having the right document for a job application is crucial, and keeping both options on hand will ensure you’re prepared no matter what the job posting requests.

Key ideas

  • The main differences between a resume and a CV are length, content and purpose.

  • Resumes are typically one to two pages while CVs have no length restrictions but are typically between three and ten pages.

  • A resume is a concise, curated summary of your professional accomplishments that are most relevant to the industry job you’re applying for. Depending on your level of professional experience and the role, you may also include descriptions of academic and personal projects or volunteer work.

  • A CV is a comprehensive, in-depth document presenting your relevant academic and professional achievements that are often used when applying for teaching or research positions.

  • When deciding whether to submit a resume or a CV, consider the role and geographic location of the position. If you’re in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask a representative of the organization such as the hiring manager, recruiter or an HR representative to help you decide.

Related: How to Convert a Resume to a CV (With Examples)

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