CV vs Resume - What is the Difference? [+Examples]

May 2
4 min read

CV vs Resume - 2018 Guide

These days it’s pretty common for people to look for jobs abroad. Even if you haven’t done so yourself, you probably know that standards for job applications in one country don’t necessarily apply elsewhere.

The most glaring example of the cross-border difference in job application procedures is the use of a resume vs Curriculum Vitae (CV). Chances are good that you’ve heard of both, but you are probably used to dealing with only one or the other. 

cv vs resume

Knowing the difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and resume can be valuable to your job search. It will prepare you for a situation where you are asked to provide either (or both) when applying for jobs both at home and abroad.

This guide will cover all the information you should know about resumes and CVs, including how, when and where to craft a CV vs a professional resume.

What is a curriculum vitae (CV)?

  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a detailed chronological overview of a person's educational and professional history that is provided as part of a job application.

What is a Resume?

  • A resume is a brief, written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experiences developed for specific job applications.

When to use a CV?

  • A CV should mainly be used when you are trying to change your career and are applying in a different field/industry where you do not have previous work experience. 

Taking a look at the above definitions, several resume/CV differences become apparent.

Detailed versus brief

How long is a CV?

By definition, it is more detailed than a resume. It usually has two or more pages, and it should include in-depth information about your previous achievements, education, professional work experience, personal projects, skills, extracurricular experience, awards, publications, extra courses, volunteer work, etc.

How long is a resume?

By contrast, a resume has fewer content sections, and the preferred length for recruiters is one page. Because of the short format, this means that you need to be selective about the content that is included, prioritizing information relevant to specific positions. Many people find this shorter format challenging.

How to Write a One-page Resume (5 Tips)

  1. Shorten the number of bullet points in the work experience. Focus firstly on the achievements that start with an action verb and include numbers or percentages. 
  2. Remove experience that is older than 10 years if you have more recent work experience. 
  3. Remove also the experience that is not related to the job you are applying for at the moment. 
  4. Include only your latest and highest level of education. For example, if you have a Master's degree, there is no point to mention the Bachelor degree as well. 
  5. Remove the articles: the, a and an and the unnecessary words. 

Static versus dynamic content

A resume should always be customized to the requirements of a specific job. The intention with a resume is to provide a snapshot of how your skills and experiences align with the employer’s needs. You need to be selective about content, which could mean omitting outdated work experiences or skills descriptions. Very rarely will you use the same resume to apply for two different positions.

Meanwhile, the contents of a CV are more static. Rather than altering the contents based on the position being applied for, your CV should evolve whenever you have a new experience or accomplishment to add. When applying for a job with a CV, you rely on your cover letter to highlight qualifications that are relevant to the position.

Chronological CV versus reverse chronological resume

A CV will always list information in chronological order under each section. With a resume, recruiters prefer to see your most recent work experience and education first, which means you should write each section in reverse chronological order.

When and Where to Use a CV

The first indication of when you should use a CV will be in the job posting. An employer should list the materials required for your application. However, this may not always be explicit, in which case your best course of action is to contact the employer directly to ask which documents you should submit.

Generally speaking, a CV is the preferred document for job applications in Europe. However, the use of a CV is not limited by geography alone. For example, even in North America, there are certain circumstances where a CV is needed. Many jobs in the public service or academia will require a detailed CV to be submitted as part of a job application. 

A CV should also be used when you are trying to change your career and are applying in a different field/industry where you do not have previous work experience.

When and Where to Use a Resume

Again, your first step should be to look at the job posting to see if the employer is asking for a resume or CV. However, if you are applying for a job in North America, it’s more likely that the employer will want you to submit a resume. Of course, it is quite possible that you will also be asked for a resume in Europe, especially if you are applying with a multi-national.

Summary

  • Curriculum Vitae (CV): longer because it contains more detail; relatively static; written in chronological order; more common in Europe.
  • Resume: less detail; included content is more dynamic and customized to job requirements; reverse chronological order; preferred choice of employers in Canada and the U.S.
  • Avoiding confusion between resume and CV usage: Don’t assume that because you are in a particular country or applying with a specific company that you are expected to use a certain document. Review the job application requirements provided by an employer. If it’s still unclear, contact the employer directly so you know if you should submit a resume, CV or both.

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