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CV vs. Resume: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the difference between a CV vs. resume is part of determining what to submit for a job application. We’ve broken down the key factors that will help you decide which is best.

Maria Correa Profile
By Maria Correa 4 minute read

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CV vs. Resume

If you’re looking to apply for a new job, a CV or a resume will be requested by a future employer to show off your skills, professional experience and education. But what’s the difference between a CV vs. a resume? Some industries and international companies use the terms interchangeably, which can lead to confusion.

We’ll help you understand the differences between a CV (also known as a curriculum vitae) and a resume, and help you decide which one is right for you, by explaining the following:

  • What is a CV?
  • What is a resume?
  • How do I format my CV?
  • How’s a CV different in the US?
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What is a CV?

A CV, or the Latin word curriculum vitae (meaning “course of life”), is a comprehensive document that is a detailed overview of your career, research and academic experience rather than a more general overview like a resume would be.

For jobs in the United States, a curriculum vitae may be required for industries such as academia, entertainment, law, travel, military work, library sciences, engineering, architecture, publishing and government work. The most common jobs that favor CVs tend to be for academic, medical or federal work.

What does a CV include?

A CV is usually much longer than a resume. Here are some of the standard sections you can expect to include as part of your CV format:

  • Contact information
  • Personal statement
  • Core Qualifications/Key Skills
  • Educational history
  • Academic appointments
  • Publications
  • Awards, honors and other academic achievements
  • Grants and fellowships
  • Conferences
  • Other teaching experience
  • Research experience and lab experience
  • Other nonacademic activities
  • Memberships and affiliations

What does a CV focus on?

A curriculum vitae’s focus will depend on the industry for which you are making it.

An academic CV, for example, lists all of your previous professional experience in academia, including teaching, speaking, article writing and lecturing. That means an academic CV can be three or more pages long, can have 15-18 sections and doesn’t have to stop at the advised maximum of 10 pages, depending on your level of experience.

The key difference between a CV and a resume is that instead of altering the document to correspond with the open position’s requirements, the focus of your curriculum vitae should be on cataloging all accomplishments such as publications, research, program assistance, relevant professional associations and mentorships, but brevity and clarity are still the focus.

Similar to a standard resume, experiences in the field are outlined in reverse-chronological order with the most recent first followed.

When to use a curriculum vitae

You should only use a curriculum vitae when you’re applying to positions with a strong academic or research focus. For example, you might use a CV if you’re applying to be a professor at a university or if you’re applying for a research position.

In certain cases, people might use the term “CV” to colloquially refer to a resume. If someone asks you for a “CV” and you’re not applying for an academic job, follow up with them and see whether they mean an academic curriculum vitae or a more typical resume.

CV example

Use the CV sample below as a foundation for your curriculum vitae. You can find more inspiration in our CV examples library, or jump straight into our CV Maker to edit your CV template.

Academic CV Example

What is a resume?

A resume is a document that summarizes your professional career. Resumes give prospective employers insight into your skills and experience and, how they will pertain to your new job. The term “resume” comes from the French word résumé, which means “abstract” or “summary.”

A resume is what most people will create and send in with a job application, along with a cover letter. When written well, a resume should tell hiring managers what makes you the right person for a specific job.

When to use a resume

During your job search, unless you’re specifically requested to submit a CV, you should assume that most recruiters are looking for a resume. If you’re expected to have an extensive rundown of academic achievements and accomplishments in your document, then you’re better off using a CV.

ResumeHelp can help you create a resume and a cover letter with our Resume Builder, making it easier for you to write a resume for your next job application.

Formatting

A resume should be much shorter than a curriculum vitae, usually only one page in length (two pages at most). While your resume format will impact exactly how you structure your resume, here are the most common elements:

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Resume example

Follow the sample resume below to make a professional resume that impresses hiring managers. We also have hundreds of additional job-specific resume examples you can use as a foundation, and dozens of resume templates you can easily edit in our free Resume Builder.

Teacher resume example

Key differences between a CV and resume

The key difference between a CV and a resume is the narrative.

A resume:

  • Focuses on a job position, with only your most relevant skills and experiences featured.
  • Is a maximum of two pages long, depending on your professional background.
  • Should only include the past 10 years of professional history.

For more resume-writing tips, check our How to Make a Resume article.

A CV:

  • Catalogs your entire career, academic credentials while also featuring information about your current and future professional career goals.
  • Can be 3-10 pages long, as it includes significantly more professional history than a resume.
  • Lists everything you’ve been a part of and done, including professional affiliations, publications and mentorships.

To learn more about CV writing, read our How to Write a CV article.

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CVs outside of the United States and Canada

How we define a CV and a resume is the same in the United States and Canada. However, in Europe and most of the world, it’s much more likely that you’ll hear the term “CV” used to refer to the resume-style document you want to turn in for a general job.

Much like a U.S resume, a UK CV is more of a concise overview of your career history, so there’s no need for things like photos or too much personal information. Other countries like Germany, South Africa and Asia may require not only photos but personal information such as your date of birth and personal ID.

Because a CV is such a specialized document with so much information, it’s always best to double-check with a hiring manager if you’re ever unsure which type of document they’re asking you for.

If you are applying for international positions, it’s important to note that the top countries in which CVs are required in the place of a resume are: The UK, New Zealand, Germany, France, India, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Chile and The Netherlands.

Key tips for writing resumes and CVs

Whether you’re writing a resume or a CV, here are some general tips to make your professional documents the best they can be.

  • Use keywords. Employers sometimes get hundreds of job applications, so to see only the ones most relevant to the job posting, they use applicant tracking systems (ATS). ATS scans keywords to see if the resume or CV they received matches the job description. It’s important to read the job ad carefully and include the appropriate ones in your document.
  • Stay focused. A CV focuses heavily on academic qualifications, while a resume focuses on skills and work experience. Avoid including information that isn’t relevant to your career goals.
  • Action verbs are your friends. Instead of starting your bullet points with “Was responsible for…” or “I worked on…”, use action verbs like managed, created or led. They’re words that make your statements stronger and will take your document to the next level.
  • Tailor your document. We’ve mentioned before the importance of customizing your resume or CV to the job, and we’ll mention it again because it’s really that important. Make sure that what you write accurately captures what the prospective employer is looking for.
  • Review your document carefully before submitting it. There’s nothing worse than realizing too late that your resume or curriculum vitae has a typo. Proofread carefully or better yet, use our Resume Builder and CV Maker. We have a handy spell-checking tool that scans your document to make sure it’s error-free.
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FAQ: CV vs resume

While a CV may seem to have the same purpose as a resume, it is actually slightly different.

The purpose of a resume is to showcase your most relevant strengths and get you a new job, while the purpose of a CV is to provide a comprehensive overview of your academic and employment history. This document is designed to give hiring managers the whole picture rather than just the information that pertains most directly to the job application.

Internationally the terms “CV” and “resume” may be used interchangeably. The format for most nonacademic jobs outside of the states is a two-page document that also offers more personal details than the average resume, e.g., a photo, hobbies, interests, languages or sports. But regardless of the country, your resume should focus on the skills required for a specific company or position.

The answer to this question will depend heavily on the industry. Generally speaking, in the U.S., most prospective employers will expect to receive a resume and a cover letter as part of a job application. Resumes are a summary of your top skills and experience, and are typically no longer than a page (though it’s OK for professionals with extensive work history to have a two-page resume).

A CV, or curriculum vitae, is more common in specialized fields like academia, law, the federal government, military and sciences.

To determine whether you should write a CV or resume, read the job description and research what the common standard is in your industry.

Yes, ideally, you should write a cover letter to accompany your curriculum vitae when applying for a job. This document should be no more than one page in length and be split into three to five paragraphs.

The cover letter you provide with your CV can be used to draw a reader’s attention to a particularly relevant project or break down your most significant career goal, as your CV may be long but is only giving a sample of your professional experience.

To make things easier, consider using the ResumeHelp Cover Letter Builder and our cover letter templates.

CVs and resumes may be different types of documents but they do share the same goal of presenting your best attributes to an employer.

Just like a resume, a CV requires research of the job you’re applying for, knowledge of the skills the employer is seeking, and highlighting your most relevant experiences. Depending on your role, there may be certain formatting rules or required sections to include, depending on the job you’re applying for. For example, medical, sociological and psychological CVs require APA formatting instead of MLA, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with both the requirements for the position and industry examples.

Now that you’ve seen how a CV is structured and what industries may be requiring a curriculum vitae, you might be wondering how to start writing a CV. Below we’ve broken down the basic steps to write a great CV even if you don’t have any direct industry experience:

  • Begin by making a list of your most relevant professional achievements and then break those down by what skills you used to achieve that goal and their level of importance.
  • Then pick the right CV format for your industry.
  • Use your professional email and most recent contact information.
  • Start with a personal profile and your title.
  • List your relevant experience (this could include academic and extracurricular activities) and key achievements.
  • Pay special attention to your academic, publications and education sections.
  • Have relevant skills and keywords present that fit the job opening.

Remember to include a list of bullet points that give an overview of specific responsibilities and duties you typically completed and emphasize impressive achievements to showcase your past success.

Listing your accomplishments beforehand can help produce CV sessions that are still relevant to the job and showcase your significant qualifications even without direct work experience.

Sections like awards received, conferences you attended or any scholarships and grants you have can add credibility to your CV, which hiring managers will appreciate.

Yes, a resume can be two pages long but only if you’re a career professional with more than 10 years of work history. Otherwise, your resume shouldn’t be longer than a page.

When it comes to senior-level positions, hiring managers and recruiters will expect candidates to submit two-page resumes that include career highlights. Job seekers with less experience should focus on packing their information into a single page, focusing on important skills, and making sure there isn’t a lot of white space.

Choosing the right resume format will help you make sure that your information is correctly highlighted. For example, the chronological resume format is ideal for two-page resumes, whereas the combination or functional resume format works best for job seekers who need a one-page resume.

To see the different formats in action, check out our resume examples and see our resume formats guide.

A curriculum vitae is formatted similarly to a resume. Even though a CV is a more in-depth document, formatting works the same:

  • Use a professional font like Times New Roman and Arial
  • Make sure the margins are at 1” across the document
  • Ensure the spacing between lines is at 1 or 1.15
  • Use the correct text for the subheadings (Objective statement or professional summary, core qualifications, educational history, work history, awards, etc.)
  • Use bullet points to write your short phrases
  • Make sure page breaks aren’t awkward

It’s also important to research the standards of your industry and see what hiring managers prefer. An academic CV might look different from a legal or entertainment CV in terms of what information you need to present.

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Maria Correa Profile
WRITTEN BY Maria Correa

Maria Correa is a Puerto Rico-based Content Writer with ample background in digital marketing and copywriting. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a B.A. in English and enjoys making information accessible to others.

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