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CV vs Resume: What’s the Difference?

Tristin Zeman

Copywriter, Human Resources Manager, and Marketing Expert


Creating a resume or CV is a crucial first step in landing new professional and academic opportunities, but many don’t know the dynamic when it comes to needing cv vs resume.

While a resume and a CV are the same thing in many parts of the world, job seekers and applicants in the United States can not make that assumption. When it comes to applying for positions and programs that require a CV or a resume, it’s important to submit the right information. 

What is a CV?

how to make a cv - special situations

CV is the abbreviated form of curriculum vitae a Latin phrase that translates to “a course of (one’s) life.” A CV is designed to tell the story of a person’s experience in order to help a decision-maker determine if the person is the right fit for a job, program, or other opportunities. Throughout Europe and Australia, a CV is synonymous with a resume, however, in the United States, it is often referring to a slightly different document. 

What is a Resume?

cv vs resume- cartoon image of a resume

A resume is a one-to-two page document that includes your name, contact information and professional and educational experience. It can also contain information about any volunteer work, extracurricular activities, or passion projects — anything that helps the reader get a better sense of the position seeker’s skills, aptitudes, and traits. 

The Cover Letter: CVs’ and Resumes’ Supporting Documentation

cv vs resume - cartoon image of cover letter

In addition to submitting a resume when applying for a position, many job seekers also choose to include a cover letter. A cover letter is a letter written to the hiring manager or recruiter to give them an idea of who you are and a high-level view of your skills and experience. The cover letter is designed to capture the attention of the reader and make them want to know more so they continue on to your resume. 

A well-written cover letter should be customized to the position and should include a personalized greeting (when possible) as well as specifics about why this particular applicant would be the best fit for this particular opportunity. A cover letter should also be one page or less and the tone it takes (professional, witty, etc) should be determined by the position, company, and industry of the organization it’s being sent to. 

CV vs Resume

As previously mentioned, in many parts of the world, a CV and a resume are the same things. Only in the United States do job seekers sometimes need to make the call to determine when an opportunity requires a CV vs resume. In general, a CV will be requested when a person is applying for opportunities in academia. This can include masters, doctoral, and post-doctoral education, research institutes, fellowships, grants, and other educationally-focused programs and positions. If a company in the public or private sector is requesting a CV, it is likely they are actually looking for a resume. 

Difference Between CV and Resume

When it comes to the actual documents, there are some differences in a curriculum vitae vs resume. In most cases, a resume should be one or two pages whereas a CV can be any length. A resume typically will only have a high-level overview of your educational and professional experiences, while a CV will contain detailed information about every article published or project completed. 

Some job seekers may find it helpful to create both a resume and CV. When it comes to creating both a resume and a CV, it’s often much easier to create a CV first and then trim down the information to create a resume. Because of the level of detail expected in a CV, it’s a good idea to start creating a CV while still in school as the information will be fresh in mind. 

Difference Between CV and Resume Formatting

There are a few differences between cv and resume formatting best practices. When it comes to writing a resume, page count matters. The focus on creating a short, concise document with two pages or less means that sometimes margins and the space between lines of text can be changed to help fit more information on a single page. A CV doesn’t have a recommended length as it is designed to be a complete history of accomplishments and, therefore, doesn’t need to have as small of text or as tight of margins. 

Whether you’re creating a resume or a CV, it’s important that the document is easy to read and well-formatted for clarity. This includes having clear section headings, bullet points for short pieces of information, and enough whitespace on the page to the page easy to scan quickly. Many hiring managers and decision-makers are looking at dozens, if not hundreds of resumes for a single position. Therefore, they only spend an average of six seconds looking at a resume before moving on to the next.

Difference Between CV and a Cover Letter

Another common request from recruiters and hiring managers is for a cover letter. A cover letter is not the same thing as a CV. A cover letter is a letter written to the reader that summarizes the qualifications listed inside a resume or a CV. A cover letter will often include information about how the job seeker found out about the position, the highlights of their past experience, and information about why they chose to apply to the position or why they’d be a great fit. 

Should I Submit a Resume or CV?

Creating a CV or resume can be quite time-consuming, so it’s a good idea to consider what a job post is actually requesting before starting to customize your document for the role. This can be tricky as sometimes “resume” and “CV” are used interchangeably by employers, even in the United States. 

If the posting calls for a resume, a resume should be submitted, but if the post requires a CV, it’s a good idea to consider the position before deciding what to send. If the job or opportunity is not in academia or does not require extensive previous academic work, it’s likely a resume is really what is being requested. 

Conclusion

Job seekers looking to be prepared for any situation should consider having a resume, cv, and cover letter template ready to be customized for any opportunity that arises. When deciding whether to submit a CV vs resume, consider the location of the opportunity, as well as the opportunity itself to create the best chance for success. 

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