We all seem to know what a resume is and the purpose it serves. We use it to detail our relevant education, work experience, and skills, and usually share it with an employer whenever we’re looking for a job.
What’s less clear to many, however, is the use and purpose of a CV. If you’re ever asked about your CV, it is not unusual by any means to pause and reconsider whether you even know what a CV is.
A CV, which stands for “Curriculum Vitae,” is a far more comprehensive document for the use of showing your qualifications than a resume. Not everyone needs a CV; in fact, for many, it’s not advisable.
This post will highlight the differences between a CV and resume, while helping you determine which document is right for you.
A CV is a document mostly used by academics and graduate students that details not only work experience and education, but awards, achievements, honors, and publications.
CVs are often very long in length, as they can sometimes be up to 12 pages— the standard CV can also be a two-or-six page document.
Since academia is all about what you’ve published— lending to the phrase “publish or perish”— a CV can help direct an institution or other academic body in the right direction as to verifying your credentials.
It should be clarified that a CV can be used outside of pure academia— many grants and fellowships will ask for a CV, along with any research positions in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors.
In fact, a prominent use of the CV outside of academia is for Canadian and American citizens working abroad. Many countries, such as the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, ask for a CV instead of a resume in employment matters, which makes it important to have one.
In Germany, it turns out that a CV is just one of many documents that a job seeker or academic has to produce.
Meanwhile, some countries call what would traditionally be a resume a “CV.” These countries include Australia, India, and South Africa.
Nevertheless, a CV should almost always be ordered chronologically, which can also set it apart from the standard resume— many will often tell you that a resume can list work experience in the most noticeable or effective manner.
You usually will not delete information on a CV to make room for new information, but rather just continue to add new content. A CV is usually a document that typically constantly grows in length.
Resumes are mostly the status quo in hiring in the U.S. and Canada. This is reflected in how a minority of individuals will be able to define what a CV is, while almost everyone will be able to describe what a resume is.
A resume is typically a page long, although sometimes a two-page resume will work. It needs to be visually appealing and concise, clearly highlighting experiences and skills that you have that will contribute to success on the job.
The resume is used in all sorts of jobs outside of academia, including professional vocations— jobs in accounting, engineering, consulting, marketing, communications, etc.— and lower-paying positions.
A resume should almost always be tailored specifically for the job that you’re applying for, which is one of its biggest differences from a CV.
The first step to effectively tailoring a resume towards a specific job is to determine what skills or experience the employer in question is most seeking. Once you’ve been able to do this, it’s important to rework your resume so that this relevant information is at the top.
It’s important to also emphasize skills that could also help your case throughout the rest of the document. Using bullet points to demonstrate soft skills and other traits is wise.
Lastly, you’ll want to possibly have someone look over your tailored resume, so that they can determine if you seem like a good fit for the targeted company based upon the information and formatting you’ve provided.
Ultimately, a resume allows for creativity and discretion that would seem out of place on a CV. While for many, if not most, jobs you will want to use a standard, template-friendly resume, you would never find a CV like this or this.
A resume is a brief snapshot, while a CV highlights an entire career.
It is important to note that it’s not a bad idea for you to have both a CV and a resume. A good way to approach this if you have a resume and don’t have a CV is fleshing out the information on your resume the next time you handle it.
Even if you don’t end up using your new quasi-CV document, you’ll be able to use it to tailor future resumes, while always having it in your back pocket. It can serve as a “master resume,” so to speak.
For those who work in academia, it will also feel like a pain to convert a CV into a resume, but it can be done, simply by shortening, rather than broadening the document.
Other Similarities and Differences
While the previous sections have highlighted many of the similarities and differences between the CV and resume, this section will further demonstrate some of them through bullet points.
- Similarity: Both are often published online, especially in the professional sector. For academics, they’ll often be posted on faculty web pages, while for corporate workers, they’ll be posted on bulletin boards and employee profile pages.
- Difference: A resume typically does not include references in the actual document, while a CV often does. Resumes can include the phrase “references on request” to highlight your desire to eagerly provide them.
- Similarity: Both documents should use a consistent format and font. Times New Roman or Arial are two of the more standard fonts for use on a resume, while the same font size should be used throughout the document, except for perhaps a heading.
- Difference: CVs only change when accomplishments grow, and are a fairly static document. Resumes, on the other hand, can change whenever you add a new position or skill that enhances your hiring credentials.
- Similarity: Both a CV and resume need to be thoroughly edited and revised to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors, nor any formatting inconsistencies. An example of a formatting inconsistency would be having bullet points for one job listing, while leaving them out for another.
These similarities and differences should help further highlight the essence of a resume from the essence of a CV.
As highlighted, a resume or CV is not meant to purely be a paper document; rather, it can also be a fully digital document, used exclusively in email or social correspondence.
Since most resumes are no more than glanced over— recruiters are said to spend no more than six seconds reviewing a resume— it is extremely important to make your point as clearly and concisely as possible.
Now that you know the difference between a resume and CV, it’s time to make one yourself— or both!