CV vs. Resume – What’s the Difference and Which One to Use

All of us are familiar with the two words ‘CV’ and ‘resume’. But do you know that they don’t imply the same thing but are actually two different types of documents? Have you ever thought why some job applications specifically require CVs and others only resumes? Both are summary statements that seek to capture the best of the applicant including his qualifications and experiences. In spite of that, CVs and resumes have different purposes and thus different formats as well. Let us get some idea about their difference and how different situations require these different types of documents. Before you begin the application process, you must understand the different uses and formats of the CV and the resume so that you can decide which one’s most suitable for your purpose.

How is the CV different from the Resume? 

  • The main difference between a CV and a resume is their length and layouts. To put in simply, a resume is supposed to be shorter than a CV. The word ‘resume’ is derived from a French expression that means ‘to sum up’. Ideally, a resume should never be more than two pages long. It is only a concise summary of the applicant’s educational qualifications, skills, credentials, other accomplishments and work experience. Optional sections like Resume Objective and Career Summary Statement can be included in a resume.

The CV or the Curriculum Vitae, on the other hand, is a detailed document stating the full life history of the applicant. The Latin word ‘Curriculum Vitae’ means ‘course of life’. It is more than a simple and short career biography like the resume. You might want to list your publications, professional licenses or certificates, course works, grants received, travel and research experiences, additional information that you think relevant for job applications, and names of references.

  • A CV is normally organized in a clear chronological order and begins with a list of educational qualifications. The layout of a resume is more flexible: it can be written in a chronological, functional or combination format. You are free to shuffle around the information the way you think the best. Typically, the list of work experiences and educational qualifications in a resume are ordered in a reverse-chronological order, i.e., the latest job experience or the recent degree is placed on the top. Resumes often use bulleted points to present the information in a succinct manner. The aim of a resume is to make you stand out among from all other applicants. This should be the ultimate guide in choosing the most suitable layout for your resume.
  • The resume focuses on the applicant’s targeted skills and achievements. The CV, on the other hand, is a far more comprehensive document that usually emphasizes academic accomplishments. Thus a CV always begins with a list of educational qualifications and a resume with the latest work experiences.
  • A CV reflects the applicant’s expertise – it highlights the points that make the applicant an expert in the chosen field of study. The resume, on the contrary, emphasizes the applicant’s contributions: how your work made a difference in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
  • Sometimes CVs (especially in Asia and some European countries) include personal information as well.
  • A CV is a general, static document that doesn’t change for different job applications. It is only updated when you publish a new paper or a monograph, participate in a conference, and work on a new job. But a good resume is always tailored to the specific requirements of the job for which it is written.

CV or resume – which one to use then?

It must be clear by now that the two types of documents have completely different purposes. Therefore, the choice between the CV and the resume has to be determined by the type of position one is applying for.

  • CVs are typically used when applying for academic, scientific, medical, legal and research positions, faculty openings and internships whereas the resumes are meant for business, industry, and government or non-government sectors. Applications for fellowships and grants usually require a CV. You can safely assume that the industries which don’t put much value on publications and research works do not ask for a CV.
  • To put it a little differently, a resume is used in the cases where the employer will hire an applicant on the basis of his or her skills mainly. That is why non-academic situations like consultancy services, engineering positions, jobs in marketing, communications, IT or accountant use resumes. The jobs that hold research productivity and teaching expertise as major criteria for recruitment always require CVs.
  • In the United States and Canada, the academia and the field of medicine extensively use CVs instead of resumes. In the countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, most of the employers prefer CVs over resumes. In UK, Ireland and New Zealand, for example, resumes are not used at all.
  • Often the employers clearly state in their advertisements whether they expect a CV or a resume from you. But things can get still tricky if you are applying for a position abroad. Many countries use the word ‘CV’ in their job advertisements when they are actually referring to a resume. CV in UK, Denmark or Greece denotes a resume in the North American tradition.
  • It is always good to have a detailed CV ready at hand if you want to apply abroad. Most HR experts recommend that you prepare a CV regardless the sector you work in. Do not think of it as a CV that you will only use when a job application specifically needs one. But think of it more as a ‘master resume’ that will have all your details in one place so that you can easily prepare a specific, shorter version from it whenever a specific job opportunity calls for it.
  • Before you write down your CV, don’t forget to go through the specific formats or templates that are demanded. Different employers and academic institutions may ask for different templates for CVs.

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