CV vs Resume: What's the Difference?
Updated 24 September 2020
When it comes to job hunting, you will likely be asked for either a CV (Curriculum Vitae) or a Resume.
But are you clear on what the difference is between the two?
You may think that these terms are interchangeable; after all, surely it’s just a document that lists your career experience and your credentials.
But the reality is that CVs or resumes are two entirely different documents.
Let’s take a look at what sets them apart from each other:
What Are the Differences Between a CV and a Resume?
The easiest way to distinguish a CV from a resume is by the length and content:
Broadly speaking, a CV will be used when applying for jobs of a scientific nature.
Perhaps you’re applying to be a research assistant or you want to work in medicine or academia.
The term Curriculum Vitae is Latin for ‘course of life’. Therefore, it’s based on your credentials.
If you are asked to submit a CV, you are being asked to demonstrate:
- Your educational achievements
- Any certificates of recognition
- Professional memberships and affiliations, etc.
A CV can be at least three or four pages long as it contains detailed information about your academic background.
In contrast, a resume is looking at your capabilities. It is an opportunity for you to describe your skills and attributes, as well as any personal achievements.
Your resume is more about your work history, so it’s an opportunity for you to showcase:
- Where you have worked
- What experience you gained
- How you can use that experience to help you in a new role
A resume is shorter than a CV (typically one or two pages); this is because it needs to be a concise overview of your career history.
What Is a CV? An International Perspective
If you use Google to search for ‘What is a CV?’ or ‘How to write a successful CV' you will find an array of information available at your fingertips.
However, it’s important to consider the international perspective.
As a terminology, the phrase ‘CV’ is used all around the world, but each country uses ‘CV’ differently, which could impact on what content you include.
For example, in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, CVs are used to encapsulate work history as well as academic achievements. They generally just use one document and don’t have specific resumes in the same way as the US.
In countries such as Australia and South Africa, the words ‘CV’ or ‘resume’ can be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.
In today’s global environment, if you are applying to work for an international firm, it’s wise to check what that company means when they ask for a CV or resume to ensure that you are providing the necessary documents.
CV vs Resume: A Quick Overview
Before we delve into the detail of the differences between a CV or resume, here is a quick overview that will help you get to grips with each document:
|Typical length||3–4 pages||1–2 pages|
|Described as||A full record of your entire career history||A brief list of skills/achievements which match the job description|
|Key characteristics||Credentials/academic achievements||Capabilities/core skills|
|Generally used for||Scientific, medical or academic job roles||Most other jobs|
|Suggested headings||Contact details|
|Suggested formatting||Chronological||Can be chronological or functional|
With this in mind, let’s look at the core differences between a CV vs resume:
Curriculum Vitae (CV) – What You Need to Know
A CV is used to describe your entire career history. It’s designed to showcase your credentials. For example:
- Academic achievements
- Professional knowledge
- Details (if applicable) of any published work and/or teaching expertise
You should continually update your CV whenever you achieve anything professionally as it is a comprehensive record of your achievements.
What to Include in Your CV?
As your CV is a detailed academic document, there are a few things that should always be included within your CV.
- Academic qualifications (including details of your GPA and your chosen major)
- Certificates of achievement
- Conferences and seminars that you’ve attended
- Non-academic activities
- Professional memberships or affiliations
- Published work and/or dissertations (remember to cite them correctly)
- Research grants
- Research interests
- Research projects (including brief details of aims and outcomes)
- Training courses
As you can see, it’s a comprehensive list. It is no wonder that CVs tend to be considerably longer than your resume.
Resumes – What You Need to Know
As we’ve briefly mentioned, a resume is an entirely different type of document to a CV.
Rather than listing your academic achievements, it focuses more on your career history and your skills and capabilities.
In short, it should demonstrate to potential employers whether you have the necessary skills to be able to do the job.
When Should a Resume Be Used?
Typically, resumes are used by recruiters across America for the majority of jobs.
Unless you are applying for an academic or scientific job role where a CV is required, they’ll likely request a resume because it’s a brief overview of your career history.
They’ll want to see where you have previously worked and what experience you have which is relevant to the job role advertised.
How to Write a Successful Resume
To write a successful resume, you need to be able to tailor your details to the job description.
Whilst a CV typically remains the same throughout your career (albeit regularly updated with new achievements), a resume should always be written with the job advert in mind.
You should think carefully about what a recruiter is looking for and make sure that you reference any keywords that have been used within the job description.
In today’s technical age, your resume doesn’t just need to impress a recruiter, it also needs to get through any Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which may use an algorithm to filter successful resumes.
You may choose to format your resume in chronological order (with your most recent first), or you could choose to list the most relevant experience at the top of the page.
It’s important to note that unlike CVs, which are carefully curated diaries of your career achievements, your resume should be succinct and to-the-point.
You typically only have one or two pages to summarize your skills and expertise. Therefore, think carefully about what is relevant to the job. You may wish to use bullet points to showcase your experience.
What Should You Include on Your Resume?
A resume is more flexible than a CV.
Rather than listing specific criteria to track your academic achievements, it is about showcasing the skills that are relevant to the job description.
However, you could expect to include the following:
- Name/contact information
- Resume objective (this is a short introductory paragraph introducing who you are and your career goals. Try to keep this to one or two sentences)
- Key skills (a list of your core skills which relate to the job description)
- Work experience (list your most relevant work experience. You can choose to put this in chronological order, or you can list the most relevant first)
- Professional interests
- Relevant certifications/professional memberships
As you can see, the information differs greatly in a resume vs a CV. This is because the information is much more focused on your career history as well as your capabilities and key skills.
The information about education should usually be listed at the bottom of the resume.
This article will have given you some useful tips to help you understand the key differences between a CV and resume.
Remember, rather than being interchangeable, CVs and resumes are two vastly different documents which are used in different settings.
A CV should be a continuous record of your academic/professional achievements, whilst a resume is a far more fluid document that should be written from scratch in response to each job application.
With different uses of the terms across the globe, it’s important that you know the differences so that you can ensure that you have the right application tool at hand when it comes to applying for jobs.
Here at WikiJob, we’ve published a series of articles that are designed to help you understand how to write an effective CV or what you should include in your resume.
We recommend that before you start updating your CV or resume, you take a few moments to read through some of our articles. They may be effective in helping you turn your CV or resume into a successful tool that helps you to stand out from other candidates and achieve that dream job.