CV vs. Resume: Key Differences and When to Use Which (w/ Examples)

Whether you're in school or looking to get a new job, you need the right job application documents. If you haven't already, you should compare a CV vs. a resume. While both can be useful, you may need one over the other.

What is a CV or resume? Both are documents that cover your education and work experience. Using one can help you get a job in your field or obtain a higher degree.

Read on to learn the differences between them and which one you should use.

Curriculum Vitae vs. Resume: What Is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a massive document, and it gets longer as you get more work experience. On the other hand, a resume is shorter and can always change.

Whether you have a CV and a resume, or one or the other, you should know what each is. Then, you can understand the difference between a resume and a CV.

Fortunately, there are a few factors that distinguish the two documents.

Function

One significant difference between a CV and a resume is the function. Many people in academia use a CV because it shows all of the person's accomplishments. That way, they can land a position teaching or researching at a college or university.

However, a resume functions a little differently. While a resume can help you land a job, it's more common to use a resume for a non-academic job. Whether you want to work for a major corporation or a small business, a resume is a great tool to use.

Another functional difference is that CVs are based on your credentials, while resumes are based on competency and skills. Both have a purpose, but one might be more important for an application than the other.

Length

Another difference between a resume and a CV is the length. CVs can be a few pages or a few dozen pages. As someone gains more credentials and experience, their CV will get longer. It covers everything someone has ever done in their professional life.

On the other hand, a resume is almost always a page or two. Some employers don't want a resume that's longer than one page. You can still showcase your experience in a resume, but you need to be concise and consider what is most important.

Some resumes can be longer, but they're mostly shorter than CVs. And the difference in length can make it much easier to create a resume than a CV.

Information

Because of the difference in length, you don't have to worry about what to include in a CV. If you've gone to an event or given a presentation, you can include it. The same is true for any certifications you obtain or jobs you have.

When conducting resume writing, you can still include some information. However, you may not be able to include every job you've had or degree you've earned. Your resume is a highlight reel of your career, and it needs to make you look like the perfect candidate.

Both a CV and a resume should contain your name and contact information. They might also include your education and work experience. However, a resume may not include as many certifications or activities you've done.

Specificity

Another major difference between a CV and a resume is how specific each document is. If you use a CV, you can use the same document for every job or research position you apply for. You will need to update it regularly, but the file itself doesn't have to change.

On the other hand, a resume is more specific. Whether you want to move up in a company or switch fields, your resume should help achieve that goal. You should adjust your resume objective to highlight certain skills that will help you succeed in different jobs.

Using a resume can be great if you want to get a job outside of your field. One of the best resume building tips is to focus on how you're a good fit for that job. And you don't have to worry about an employer focusing too much on your background.

Format

When comparing a curriculum vitae vs. resume, you should think about the format. Because a CV is an overview of your entire life, they're almost always chronological. That way, you can add new accomplishments as they happen.

If you choose to use a resume, you can also make it chronological. But a functional resume is a great option if you don't have much job experience. Instead, you can use a functional format to showcase relevant skills that can help you get the job.

Another option is to combine a chronological and functional resume. That way, you can include your work experience and highlight any relevant skills or certifications you have.

Resume vs. CV: Comparison Table

Sometimes, it can help to have a visual comparison of a resume vs. a CV. Here's a table to help you understand what sets the two documents apart.

resume vs cv

While there are many differences between a CV and a resume, it's important to know the most important ones. That way, you can decide when you should use which type of document.

CV or Resume: When to Use Which

Knowing what differentiates a CV from a resume is a great start. However, you may still struggle to choose between a resume and a CV. Whether you have a resume or a CV, they each serve unique purposes in your career.

Consider a few situations where you may want to use a CV, resume, or something else. That way, you can increase your chances of getting the job.

Type of Job

A CV is almost always a better option when applying to work in academia. Whether you want to become a professor or land a fellowship, your CV shows the search committee your experience and how you might be a good fit for the position.

If you want to apply for a job outside of academia, a resume is the better choice. You can learn how to make a resume specifically for each job. While that does take more time, it can help you stand out from other candidates that use more general resumes.

Consider how much detail you want to share with the search committee. If they would benefit from a full list of your achievements, you may want to use a CV, even outside of academia.

Continuing Education

If you want to go back to school for an advanced degree, a CV can be useful. The CV can include more of your achievements from your prior degrees, which is great if you don't have much professional experience.

Whether you want to get a master's or a doctoral degree, your CV can help you get into your dream program. While you can use a resume to apply, some programs may prefer a CV. Look into programs that interest you and consider what they require.

Location

For better or worse, the definitions of a resume and a CV aren't the same worldwide. If you want to work in a different country, you should consider how people in that country define a CV or resume.

The United States has both types of documents, and each is distinct. However, other countries call a resume a CV and vice versa. So if you want to apply for a job overseas, they may ask for a CV, but they might want what Americans call a resume.

Make sure you understand the difference between a resume and a CV in the proper country. That way, you won't overwhelm a company with an academic CV.

The Resume/CV Distinction Around the World

The resume/CV meaning may seem clear, but the definitions don't always transfer internationally. Before you start sending your resume or a CV to employers in other countries, make sure you're sending the correct document.

And if you want to apply to jobs in multiple countries, consider the definitions in each place. That way, your application will meet the requirements.

United States

In the United States, a resume and a CV are very different. While some people use both, they don't use them for the same things.

As mentioned, an American resume is a short document that can differ from job to job. It focuses on skills or experience that prepare the applicant for that position. No matter how much experience you have, your resume will be short.

When Americans talk about a CV, they're referring to a longer document with more details. A CV covers everything that someone has done as a professional, from education to awards. It gets longer with each year, and you don't take information out of the CV.

Canada

Like the US, Canada uses different terms for a shorter document for non-academic jobs and a longer file with more details. Canada uses the same terms as well, so a resume in the US is a resume in Canada.

People in Canada can use resumes and CVs for the same purposes as Americans. This is convenient since it's easy to move between those two countries. Whether you want to move to academic work or another job, you can use the same documents.

Australia

In Australia, you will find that jobs require a resume, but you may find positions that ask for a CV. However, Australians use resume and a CV to mean the same thing. Both terms refer to what Americans and Canadians call a resume.

Australians follow similar resume formats to Americans regarding personal information and pictures. In both countries, you shouldn't include personal information outside of your name. You also don't need to include a picture except when applying to work as an actor, singer, or model.

Europe

Like Australia, countries in Europe don't distinguish between a resume and a CV. However, a resume in Europe can be a bit longer than one in the US. Your resume may be two or three pages in Europe instead of one to two pages.

Including a picture of yourself is also more common in Europe, but you don't have to use one. Similarly, many Europeans will include personal information, but it's not a requirement. They might include:

  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Marital status

Resumes in Europe may also include your secondary schooling, even after you finish college. But most Americans take high school off their resumes when they have a college degree. And in Germany, companies like to see your GPA for each item on your resume.

South Africa

South Africa is another region where the resume/CV meaning doesn't change. In the country, you'll use what Americans call a resume, though you may see both terms on job listings.

Another significant difference in South Africa is that you have to include your ethnicity and ID number. That way, employers can verify your status for affirmative action purposes.

Key Takeaways About a CV versus a Resume

When applying for a job, you should understand how to compare a CV vs. a resume. Having that information will help you choose the right document. And it's especially useful when moving overseas, where the resume/CV meaning can change.

While Americans use a longer CV to share every detail, other countries may call a CV what Americans call a resume. A resume is only a couple of pages, and you can write it based on a specific job description.

But no matter where you live, you should write a resume or a CV that showcases your experience. That way, it can help you get your next job.

FAQs Related to the Difference Between Resumes and CVs

Do you still have questions about a CV versus a resume? Here are a few common ones plus their answers.

Can I Use a Resume Instead of a CV?

In a lot of jobs, a resume is the better option, especially outside of academia. You may also be able to use a resume instead of a CV when applying to graduate programs. While a CV covers a lot, some employers may want something shorter.

The only time when a CV is ideal is when you want to apply for an academic position. Schools may want to see everything you've done, and a CV can help you prove you have experience.

Is a CV a Resume in Australia?

In Australia, the resume/CV meaning is the same. They don't have what Americans call a CV, but they do use a resume. However, don't be surprised if someone talks about their CV. Just remember that Australians don't distinguish between the two.

While you may want to write a slightly longer resume for jobs in Australia, you don't need a lengthy CV. Instead, focus on what sets you apart and makes you a good fit for the job you want.

How Do I Turn My Resume Into a CV?

To turn your resume into a CV, you'll need to gather as much information about your professional life as you can. This may include older resumes with experience that you don't have on your existing resume.

You might also need to consider what you did in college and other skills you have. List all of that out in a separate document.

Then, find a CV template to help you compile everything together. Include as much information as you can in chronological order.

Does Anyone Besides Academics Use a CV?

While academics are the primary group of people who use a CV, they aren't the only ones. Of course, people in countries like Australia or South Africa use a CV, but they aren't talking about an American CV.

You may want to use an American CV if you don't have much professional experience. A CV can include academic achievements as well as work. If you have a lot of honors and awards from school, your CV may be the perfect tool to help you land your first job after graduation.

Do You Need Both a Resume and a CV?

You don't need both a resume and a CV, but it can't hurt to create both. If you want to open yourself up to academic and non-academic jobs, you should create a resume and a CV. That way, you don't have to write one or the other when applying for a job.

Another reason to have both a resume and a CV is if you want to apply for a lot of jobs. You can reference your CV to write a resume for each position. That way, you know what information to include so that you can increase your chances of getting an interview.

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