What Is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

by Leslie Toth, MBA, CPRW, PHR, SHRM-CP

CV

CVs and resumes are the same right? Many people use these terms interchangeably. After all they both serve the same purpose, to get a job, right? In the US and Canada we call them resumes and in Europe they are called CVs. It is good to know which one to use in which part of the world to ease in your job search.

Let's begin with the resume which is more familiar to most American writers. A resume or résumé is a much shorter document in comparison to the CV. A good resume is 1-2 pages and summarizes a candidate's education and professional experience. The goal of the resume is to make the candidate stand out from the rest of the competition. Generally, the resume reader spends approximately 30-45 seconds on each resume. Therefore, unlike a CV which is long and detailed, the resume should be brief and concise and list all of the candidate's details at a high level.

Resumes are primarily used in the United States and Canada for candidates applying for jobs and internships. Since the resume is a much shorter document than the CV, candidates should customize their resume to the specific position for which they are applying. There is no strict format rule in resume writing, so list the information in a format that best suits your background and experience. My personal recommendation is one paragraph summary, professional work experience starting from current position and working back, and also education / professional development.

A typical resume should include the following information:

  • Name and Contact Information: Residential address might be most appropriate.

  • Education: A listing of degrees or certifications and educational institutions or programs.

  • Work Experience: Names of the companies or organizations that you have worked for, the location of each company, the dates worked, job title, duties performed and accomplishments.

  • Professional Organization Membership: Membership in any related professional organization, also list board positions held.

The resume's main function is to direct the hiring manager's attention to the skills, education, and experience the candidate possesses. In today's competitive employment market, resumes are used to market the applicant to potential employers, showing all the best attributes of the candidate. Resumes make heavy use of action verbs, flattering language, keywords, bullet points to highlight accomplishments, and attractive headings to call out different sections in the document.

Below are the three most common resume formats in use today:

  • Reverse Chronological: Lists the applicant's job experience and skills in a reverse chronological order, where the most recent is at the top, followed by less recent.

  • Functional: Lists work experience and skills sorted by skill area or job function. It focuses on the skill that is required by the position being sought.

  • Hybrid: A mix of the first two and often repetitive – this format is not commonly used.

In contrast, a CV is a fairly detailed overview of your life's accomplishments.

CV or Curriculum Vitae means “courses in life” in Latin. A typical CV is at least two pages long (many are longer) and gives a clear, concise history of the person. A common practice is to use bullet points and headings to help employers better understand a candidate's background when they are reading the CV.

A typical CV will include the following information:

  • Name and Contact Information: Contact information for current institution or place of employment.

  • Areas of Interest: A listing of varied academic interests.

  • Education: A list of degrees earned or in progress, institutions, and years of graduation. Possibly also include the titles of dissertation or thesis here.

  • Grants, Honors and Awards: A list of grants received, honors bestowed upon you for your work, and awards received for teaching or service.

  • Publications and Presentations: A list of published articles and books, as well as presentations given at conferences. If there are many of both, consider inserting a separate section for publications and another for presentations.

  • Employment and Experience: This section may include separate lists of teaching experiences, laboratory experiences, field experiences, volunteer work, leadership, or other relevant experiences.

  • Scholarly or Professional Memberships: A listing of membership in professional organizations. Also list office or position held in a particular organization.

  • References: A list of persons willing to write letters of recommendation for you, which includes their contact information.

The CV is used mainly in Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa for all types of job applications. However, in the United States and Canada, the CV is used only when applying for academic, education, scientific, research, or physician positions. In many countries the CV is the first document that employers ask for when hiring employees and is used to determine if the applicant has the relevant experience and qualifications for the position.

The goal of any candidate is to make their CVs and resumes stand out from the crowd. This does not mean using out of the norm fonts or font sizes, but instead means concisely and accurately presenting oneself using the right words. Therefore, job seekers should know which document to use before applying to any position.

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