Confused about the difference between a resume vs. CV? You aren't alone.
Many jobseekers, particularly those who are new to the workforce, wonder, “What is a CV or a resume, and which one should I use?”
- A resume is a one- to two-page document that summarizes the key skills and professional and educational achievements a jobseeker possesses.
- A CV, or curriculum vitae, is the standard document for jobseekers who are applying for jobs in academia or research roles. If you’re not applying for work in these fields, use a resume.
Here is a quick overview of the big differences between CVs and resumes, which we will delve into in more detail below:
Resumes vs. CVs: Differences At-a-Glance
- A CV, as previously stated, is the standard document for jobseekers who are applying for jobs in academia or research roles. For all other roles, go with a resume.
- CVs are several pages long and provide potential employers with a detailed list of your accomplishments, while a resume is a shorter document (usually 1-2 pages long) that can be used across industries to apply for work.
- CVs are static, meaning they are not personalized to the individual job. A resume, on the other hand, can (and should) be customized to call out an applicant’s most relevant experience to the job application at hand.
Certified Resume Writer Georgina Lozano emphasizes that there is only one scenario in which American jobseekers would use a CV: when applying for a job in academia or research. Lozano, who has helped hundreds of jobseekers with their resumes, says that she counsels people to write a personalized resume for each role.
However, your field isn't the only thing that differentiates the two documents.
"In Latin, curriculum vitae means 'a course of the life,' which is essentially what it is," said Jennifer N. Brown, associate professor and chair of the Department of English and World Literatures at Marymount Manhattan College.
As Brown points out, when it comes to a resume vs. CV, the most noticeable difference is often the length. Experts encourage jobseekers to keep their resumes short - one page is ideal. CVs, on the other hand, are often several pages.
Experts encourage jobseekers to keep their resumes short - one page is ideal. CVs, on the other hand, are often several pages.
"Mine is about seven or eight pages long at this point," Brown said.
Resumes vs. CVs: A Breakdown
When considering whether to use a resume vs. CV, look to the job you are applying for to make your decision. CVs are primarily used in academia and research.
"Any academic job should include a CV," Brown said. "I think even administrative jobs in academia, such as a Dean, for example, should have a CV. I probably wouldn't hire an adjunct professor who used a classic resume."
Unlike resumes, there is no standard format for a CV. CVs are different from one discipline to the next, so a CV for a chemical engineering professor could look vastly different than one for a literature professor. However, there are standard pieces of information – education, work experience, etc. – that should be included in every CV.
CVs are most often organized chronologically, which makes it easy for recruiters to skim the document and get an overview of your entire career.
CVs should be written in the first person without using pronouns in a straightforward, factual manner.
A curriculum vitæ, or CV, is an in-depth application document that can be laid out over several pages. CVs contain a higher level of detail about your achievements than a resume, including more information about your education, awards, honors, and any publications. When considering the difference between a resume vs. CV, length is an important consideration.
"A CV is usually a document that covers the entire career of an individual, including education," said Rachel Gutierrez, a technical recruiter for Facebook. "It is usually much longer, in chronological order and isn't targeted. It really is just a rundown of everything [the jobseeker] has done."
Brown agrees and believes the space limitations inherent in a resume vs. CV is one of the great benefits of writing a CV.
"They are meant to be long," she said. "Even right out of grad school, I think mine was probably about four pages. I mean, don't go on and on — I'd roll my eyes at a 20-page CV - but they should give a really full picture of a person's accomplishments."
Unlike in a resume, the details in a CV are static, meaning that jobseekers don't change or adapt the document for different positions. Brown points out that CVs are a running list of the applicant's achievements, rather than an adaptable document.
She said that CVs contain information on everything from your education to awards you've won to any publications you've written for, which can be divided into books, articles, and reviews. CVs also contain details on the classes you've taught and any administrative roles you've held.
Another significant difference between resumes vs. CVs?
"CVs don't contain bullet points outlining your accomplishments or initiatives the way that a resume would," Brown said. "When you are using a CV, those kinds of details are reserved for the cover letter."
When deciding which document to use ¬–¬ resume vs. CV – keep in mind that a classic resume can be used to apply for roles in any industry other than academia and research.
"Remember that the first people to view your CV or resume will probably never read the entire thing, Gutierrez said. “They will be scanning to see if you meet minimum requirements and then move you along.”
A personalized resume – one that has been tailored to the job you are applying to – works well for attracting the attention of time-strapped recruiters since it can be customized to flaunt your most relevant experience right out of the gate. Taking the time to customize, she said, can put you ahead of the competition.
“Most resumes I see do not highlight what the [jobseeker] actually wants me to see to help them rise above the competition,” she said. “Resumes are meant to be customizable for each role that you apply to [but] candidates rarely do this. They create one resume to fit all roles and that doesn’t work well.”
There are three standard formats for resumes – the chronological, functional, and combination formats. The most common – and the one most preferred by recruiters – is the chronological format.
No matter which format you choose, Gutierrez has some solid advice.
"Do not include pictures, information about your family, or marital status. Although this is interesting from a personal standpoint they are not things that should factor into a decision on hiring you," she said. "In fact, this could unintentionally bias the reader."
There are several ways to organize your resume, though reverse chronology is the preferred format of recruiters. In addition to format, the resume template you choose can impact the way your resume is formatted.
To choose a design and template that is right for you, it’s helpful to peruse resume examples in your industry to see how other successful jobseekers are organizing their resumes.
Resumes are designed to sell a candidate and to inform a potential employer of what they will bring to the table if hired. The tone of your resume should be upbeat, like a marketing document, and written in the first person (without the use of pronouns).
A great resume should be concise, utilizing no more than a single page per decade of work experience.
"The thing that I think is very neat about a resume is its brevity," Brown said. "However, you don't get a whole picture. Resumes feel more like a snapshot of a person."
As Gutierrez explained, savvy jobseekers personalize their resumes for every position to which they apply, tailoring it to include keywords pulled directly from the job ad.
These keywords should be inserted verbatim into a resume to help jobseekers get their resumes past applicant tracking systems and into the hands of the hiring manager. Additionally, it’s important to personalize your professional summary to showcase your most relevant experience and achievements right at the top of your document.
Since research shows that recruiters spend the most time perusing the top third of a resume, making this area shine is critical. Paying close attention to the job ad and getting your critical skills at the top of the document is crucial to getting a recruiter to sit up and take notice, Gutierrez said.
“Look at the requirements for a job,” she said. “Do you meet them? If yes, then show that to me in the first half of your resume. Don’t bury your lead.”