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CV vs Resume: What’s the Difference?

CV vs resume: You’ve likely heard of them, but do you know the difference between these documents? When applying for a job, there are usually several documents that employers want to see. Some jobs ask for just an application. Others may want a cover letter plus a resume or CV.

You probably know what a cover letter is already. It’s a letter to the hiring manager or committee, telling them why you would be the right candidate for the job. On the other hand, deciding between a resume or CV can be tricky. Let’s take a look at both to help you determine which document you should prepare for your job search.


A resume is the most common document requested for job applications in the United States. Often, employers get hundreds of resumes for any particular job post. They have to quickly sort through the resumes, so they frequently use software to scan for certain keywords. Then, the hiring manager reviews the resumes to determine who to interview.

Because of this process, a resume should be a concise summary of your education, work history, credentials, skills, accomplishments, etc. You may also choose to include an objective, career summary statement, and/or a professional profile. At the top of the resume, you should also state your name and contact information, which can be used for scheduling an interview should the employer choose to do so.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Similar to a resume, a Curriculum Vitae (CV) should start with your name and contact information. The rest of the information should be broken down into categories, and tailored to the job description for which you’re applying.

So far, it sounds a lot like a resume, right? However, a CV will cover your summary of skills and experience in greater detail. Some of the things that might be included on a CV are:

  • Objective
  • Personal profile
  • Degrees
  • Teaching experience
  • Employment experience
  • Research
  • Awards
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Achievements
  • Professional associations
  • Licenses
  • Grants
  • Fellowships
  • Languages spoken
  • Hobbies

CV vs. Resume: The Main Differences

So far, you may be thinking to yourself, “Resumes and CVs still sound pretty similar to me. How do I know which one to choose?” To help you decide, there are three main differences between them: the length, purpose, and format.

1. Length

In most cases, a resume should only be one page in length. When a hiring committee sorts through a tall stack of resumes, they don’t have time to flip through several papers. And, they probably won’t realize that there is any information on the back of a resume either. Because of this, most people choose to condense their resume to one page. However, for people who have long, illustrious careers, they may choose to go over to two pages.

On the other hand, most CVs are two to three pages in length, though you may see CVs that are much longer than that. This is because on a CV, you can go into greater detail about your qualifications. You can use the space to cover your entire career. Just take another look at the list of things that can be included on the CV. If you include all of that information in detail, your CV could end up being several pages long.

2. Purpose

There are two categories that you should be aware of when thinking about the purpose of a resume or a CV.

The first involves the field in which you work. If you are involved in the fields of academia, medicine, research, science, fellowships, or grants, you should plan on using a CV.

If you work in these fields, you tend to conduct and publish research, present findings, and apply for grants, all of which can be included on a CV. Depending on the work that you do, it would be too difficult to discuss these types of qualifications in a single page of a resume. Therefore, the CV is the best option to help cover your entire career to present to potential employers.

The second category to consider is the location of the potential employer. Where does the company reside? For companies located in the United States or Canada, a resume is usually the acceptable choice.

On the other hand, many companies outside of the U.S. prefer to see a CV. This is true for most countries within Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Australia. When applying to jobs outside of the United States, you should research specific formatting guidelines for a CV in that particular country.

3. Format

Basic formatting guidelines for resumes and CVs are fairly similar.

  1. Both documents begin with your name written across the top of the page, followed by contact information.
  2. Both use clear and simple fonts, no bigger than 11-12 points in size.
  3. Both use headings to separate sections of information, such as education and work history.
  4. Both use white space on the page to help lead the employer’s eye to the most important points on the page.
  5. Both use bullet points to call out facts and achievements.

With space for greater detail, a CV typically has a mixture of bullet points and text. In some areas, you may include short paragraphs to discuss your work.

Since the goal of a resume is to be concise and scannable, you should use bullet points to discuss job descriptions and accomplishments. Most importantly, employers want you to quantify your accomplishments using percentages, dollar amounts, numbers of employees, etc.

There are three different types of formats for resumes: chronological, functional, and a combination.

  • The chronological format gives your most recent job first. This is the appropriate choice when you want to show your career growth. However, it shouldn’t be used when you have lots of time between jobs or are changing careers.
  • The functional format should be organized in a way to emphasize the skills and abilities that would make you successful for the job. This is the best type to use when changing careers.
  • The combination format is a mixture of both the chronological and functional resumes. It may include an objective and headings for abilities, job function, and work history.

You should choose the format that will best highlight your work experience and make you an attractive option for the job to which you are applying.

Tips for Both CVs and Resumes

Whether you’re writing a CV or resume, don’t forget to tailor the information for each opportunity based on the job description. Determine whether you should highlight your education, a particular job or skill, or certain keywords to get your document into the hands of the hiring committee.

Look at examples online, and use these to choose the perfect template to use. This will help keep the document organized and uniform from beginning to end.

Most importantly, take the time to edit the document before submitting it. Read through the resume or CV to look for any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. Make sure that the writing makes sense and properly represents you.

CV vs. Resume: Which Should You Use?

As you prepare to create documents for your job search, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my purpose? In what industry am I applying for jobs, and where are the jobs located?
  • How long should my application document be to describe my relevant qualifications?
  • What format should I use to highlight my qualifications for the job?

Based on the answers to these questions, determine whether you should use a CV or resume to stand out to hiring committees and, hopefully, land an interview for the job of your dreams.

Do you use CVs or resumes? Let us know in the comments!

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