Resume vs CV: what are the differences?

Which one should I use and why? December 10, 2023 · 8 min read

The phrase Curriculum Vitae (CV) is something you’ve likely come across plenty of times. Sometimes you’ll have seen it used to mean the exact same thing as “resume”. Other times, you’ll be led to believe it’s a completely different document.

What is the truth?

Is a resume and a CV the same? How are resumes and CVs different?

Resume and CV - what are the differences?A resume and CV are two different documents, each of which carries out separate tasks.

Here, we’ll explore the differences between the two so that you can figure out when to use a resume vs a CV. They are used in different ways depending on the industry you’re applying in, and it’s really important that you grasp exactly what the differences are between them.

To get going, let’s look at what a CV does and what it actually means.

What Is a CV?

In your CV, you go through your education as well as your other accomplishments like published papers, awards, and honors you’ve been given.

And the meaning?

Simply put, CVs are a commonly used format for academics because graduate students put a lot of time and work into getting papers published when they work towards their higher qualifications.

A CV will work through your career chronologically, making it quick and easy to see the full academic and working career of the person.

What’s the ideal length?

There’s no standard rule to go off for how long a CV should be. A person with years of experience and lots of published works could have a CV that runs up to eight pages!

Your CV won’t need changing for each position that you apply for, the only thing that will be different from application to application will be your cover letter. Read more to understand the differences between a cover letter and a resume.

What’s a Resume?

When you want to summarize your working history, your skills, and your education, you use a resume.

In other words…

A resume is there to give hiring managers a general overview of all of your working history.

How will it look different from a CV?

Generally, a resume will run down your professional experience in reverse-chronological order, so you’d start by listing your current or most recent position first. For a fresh graduate with little, if any, work experience, start out with your educational achievements and then go through internships and apprenticeships you’ve undertaken.

Not sure what other sections belong on your resume? Check out a full rundown of everything you need to know to create a perfect resume.

The best resumes are written to target a specific job you’re applying for, and shouldn’t be longer than two pages. For ideas on what it should look like, use our free ready-to-use resume examples.

CV vs Resume: Know the Difference

Both a CV and a resume can be used when you’re job hunting, and plenty of employers will accept whichever one you give to them. However, there are some pretty clear differences between the two that you need to know.

This is a quick guide we’ve put together for you so that you can make sure you’ve got the right document ready to hand over for the right job application.

How long?Keep it short, one to two pages maximum.As long as it is needed, they can get to 5 or 6 pages!
What goes into it?Every job you apply for needs you to customize your resume. Focus on your professional skills rather than your academic prowess. It’s like an academic diary, tracking your qualifications, achievements, and certifications. By its very nature, it’s static and universal, but you need to keep it up to date.
Customizability?You need to make it relevant to each position you apply for with it so you can shine a light on your relevant skills. Your CV is a record of achievements so it doesn’t change. New information gets added as your career progresses, but nothing gets added or removed for different applications.
Where to use it?In a lot of the world, like Australia, India, and South Africa, resumes and CVs are mostly interchangeable, but in the US they are different and distinct types of documents. Across Europe, the UK, and New Zealand the word resume barely gets used and CV covers both types of documents we’re talking about.
What should it look like?There are a few different formats to use, such as reverse-chronological, functional, combination, or targeted and we’ve got more details about them in our resume formats guide. Your CV will look like a list of what you’ve achieved and will be in chronological order, that is the order in which they happened.

When Is the Right Time To Use Them?

Still not sure how to get going? It’s worth noting that pretty much any job you’re applying for is going to tell you which documents they want you to send over.

You shouldn’t have to play a guessing game.

  • For positions in academia, particularly as a researcher, teaching assistant, or educator at a university or college, you’re going to need to attach your CV.
  • Regular jobs generally call for a standard resume to be sent out when you’re applying in the USA; they want to see a shorter document rather than pages of details.
What format is better to choose resume or a CV?What format is better to choose resume or a CV?

We’re not going to tell you the perfect answer to the question “is a resume or cv better”? There isn’t one.

If the choice is still not entirely obvious, it is useful to have 2 ready-made documents at once. You can always start by sending a resume, and if you are asked for a more advanced version, you will send your CV.

Should I Include a Photo on My CV or Resume?

Is a photo important in a CV? Is it going to grab the attention of the recruiter and improve your chances of getting the job? If you want to look like a pro, should your CV have a photo?

Are the rules the same for a photo for my resume?

As a general guide, when you’re applying in countries like UK, USA, and Canada you don’t need to include a headshot in either your resume or CV. There are lots of countries where you should be including a photo, though; it’s an expectation. These countries include most places in Asia and across continental Europe.

As with most elements of your resume or CV, there are some general rules to follow here…

Should I include a photo on my ResumeThe necessity of the resume photo is determined by the selected position, as well as the country in which your future employer is located.

Rather than going through the guidelines, hints, and tips for when to include a photo in your CV here, we’ve got a comprehensive guide about including a photo in your resume that will answer all your questions, including the ones you never thought to ask!

Bringing It All Together

The key differences between a CV and a resume are all about how long it is, what it looks like, and what you’re going to use it for.

  • A CV is as long as needed; a resume shouldn’t go over two pages
  • Your CV covers everything you’ve done in your academic career; your resume gives a clear summary of your work experience and skills you’ve got;
  • Send a CV when applying for academic roles; attach your resume when applying for other types of job.

This is what you need to know about the American and Canadian job markets.

The global perspective looks like this…

In New Zealand and all across Europe - including the UK and Ireland - they use CV to mean the same thing as a resume means in the US. That is, in these countries a CV is a brief and succinct summary of your work history used to apply for jobs. The word “resume” is rarely if ever used.

The best way to resolve any confusion about whether a resume or CV is best, get in touch with the recruiter and double-check. If anything, it will show you’re being diligent and thoughtful about your application.

The main differences between resumes and CVsThe main differences between resumes and CVs are document size, the purpose of writing, and content.

It might be useful to consider…

When you’ve got a resume prepared but don’t have a CV, or the other way around, you might want to get one prepared. Having a CV means you have a more detailed version of your resume with more information, and since so much information is the same it shouldn’t be too tough to get it ready.

When you’re hunting for the perfect position to advance your career, you need to make sure you’ve got the right documents ready and good to go. Having a resume and a CV prepared means you’re ready for anything that gets thrown at you, no matter what job you apply for or where it is.

To increase the chances of landing your dream job, it’s a great idea to use a top-notch resume template. You can put together a modern, professional-style CV or resume in five minutes; check out our sleek and stylish resume template gallery to find the best layout for you.
SweetCV team
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SweetCV team