Job seekers often confuse curriculum vitae (CVs) and resumes because they are both vital documents in a job seeker’s quest for the perfect job. They summarize a candidate’s work qualifications, including job history, skills and education. But is a CV the same as a resume?
The simplest answer is no. Several distinctions set resumes and CVs apart, and it’s important to know the difference to ensure you send the correct document to potential employers. We’re here to help you!
In this article, we will:
- Outline the differences between a resume vs a CV.
- Look closely at what CVs and resumes are and what each should include.
- Help you decide if you should use a CV or a resume.
- Provide expert tips for writing CVs and resumes.
- Give you examples of both types of documents.
Example of a curriculum vitae vs. resume
What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
CVs and resumes have standard features, but they follow different rules. A CV is an in-depth, lengthy document that covers your entire professional career to provide a thorough picture of your capabilities. In the U.S., a CV is typically reserved for jobs in academia, medicine, law and science.
A resume is a one- or two-page summary of critical facts about your job qualifications, highlighting your work experiences, relevant skills and educational background.
The following is a list of the most notable differences between a CV vs. resume:
Format: Resumes and CVs have different structures.
Resumes have three basic formats, depending on the job seeker’s background and goals:
- Chronological: Best for those with at least one year of steady work experience.
- Functional: Best for job applicants who are just starting out and for those who are changing careers or have gaps in their employment history.
- Combination: Best for job seekers with more than 10 years of experience who want to balance their skills with their job history.
A CV does not have a standard format because the layout is typically based on the job seeker’s industry and their target job. For example, a medical CV might focus on work experience and professional affiliations, but a scientist’s CV often spotlights research and publications.
One way to decide if you need to write a CV or a resume is to check best practices for your industry. For example, a resume will usually suffice if you work in the restaurant, health care support or banking industries. Still, a CV might be necessary if you work in fields like scientific research, academia, medicine, or law. Check with the job listing, too — sometimes potential employers ask for one or the other.
Pro tip Need a CV fast? We’ve got dozens of CV templates for various jobs and industries. Download one for free to format yourself, or use one with our Resume Builder to build a customized CV in minutes!
The required information for a resume vs CV is different because it is limited to five basic sections: the job seeker’s contact information, a professional summary or an objective statement, education, skills and job history.
All CVs require job applicants to add their contact information, education, and professional experience, but some may call for other sections, such as presentations, professional affiliations, and hobbies or interests, depending on the job, industry and the job candidate’s career goals.
This is the most obvious difference between a CV and a resume. A good resume must be concise (one or two pages), but a CV is expected to be comprehensive and can be any length, depending on the job candidate’s career.
CV vs Resume
- Open format.
- Used for specific industries.
- Sections determined by job.
- Unlimited length.
- Three standard formats.
- Can be used for any industry.
- Four essential sections.
- One or two pages maximum.
Pro tip In other parts of the world — namely Europe and Asia — the term CV means the same as a resume in the U.S., so it can be easy to confuse the terms. Be mindful of this distinction if you are traveling or moving abroad and looking for a job.
What is a CV?
Like a resume, a CV is a document that job candidates use to get a job. But a CV is much more comprehensive than a resume and typically displays the full range of a person’s professional life. It is a “living document” that job seekers add to throughout their careers. Employers require a CV vs a resume when the job requires expertise in a particular field and extensive knowledge of the subject.
Pro tip Although it’s common for CVs to be longer than three pages, conciseness is important. Every section of your CV should be neatly organized and succinct. Make it easy to read by using bullet points for every entry.
What to include in a CV
As you know by now, there are essential sections every CV must have and there are others that job applicants can and should add, depending on their professional history and target job.
First, a look at what you must add to a CV:
- Your contact information.
- A professional profile.
- Comprehensive professional work history.
- Professional skills.
After you add the basics, you are free to include other sections in your CV, like:
- Teaching or lecturing experience
- Conferences and speaking engagements
- Awards and honors
- Grants, fellowships and scholarships
- Professional associations and memberships
- Volunteer work
- Relevant hobbies and interests
- Professional references
What is a resume?
Unlike a CV, a resume gets straight to the point. A resume is meant to be a condensed history of your job-relevant qualifications and is accepted by most employers for a wide range of industries in the U.S.. You must customize a resume for every job you target if you want to stand out from the competition.
Like a CV, every resume must contain five basic sections:
- Your contact information
- A resume summary or objective statement
- Relevant job history
- Relevant skills.
A resume can have some optional sections, but unlike a CV, you can only add one or two if you have room.
Optional resume sections are typically limited to:
- Professional awards or honors. Only create an awards section for professional accolades. Add academic awards in your education section.
- Certifications and licenses.
Create a CV or a resume fast
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CV vs resume: Important takeaways
Now you know the difference between a CV and a resume! But to ensure you don’t forget, take these key points with you:
- A CV is a comprehensive portrait of a job candidate’s professional career and academic history.
- A resume summarizes a job seeker’s most relevant achievements and skills.
- The most significant difference between a CV and a resume is length. There is no limit to how long a CV can be, but a resume must not be longer than two pages.
- A CV is usually reserved for jobs in academia, medicine and law, but a resume can be used for any job or industry.
- There are three standard resume formats. CVs can be organized according to the job.
- You must customize every CV and resume for the job requirements.
- Resumes and CVs have five essential sections: contact information, education, job history and skills.
- Resumes can contain up to four optional sections if there is room, but a CV will often contain many sections, depending on your profession and the job’s requirements.
- In some parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia, a CV is the equivalent of a U.S. resume.
- A professional resume or CV template is the best way to build a custom document with the correct formatting fast.
- Don’t forget to write a cover letter and send it with your CV or resume!
CV vs resume FAQ
Does section order matter for a CV?
Section order for a CV largely depends on your profession and job requirements; however, you must place your contact information and professional profile at the top.
How to write a CV with no experience?
Follow these tips for writing the perfect CV with no work experience:
- Write a compelling profile that conveys confidence and enthusiasm.
- Follow your profile with your educational credentials, highlighting any academic awards, grants, fellowships and honors you have received.
- Create an impressive skills section that shows a range of traits and abilities.
- Wow them with extracurricular and professional activities, publications, thesis, and community service or volunteer activities that show you have the know-how to perform the work.
Which file format should I use for my resume or CV?
The first rule of thumb for file formats is to use the type the potential employer requests in the job ad. If a file format is not specified, then use Adobe PDF if you are sending your CV or resume through a job application portal and use a Word .doc file if you are sending your documents through email or mail.
What is the difference between a resume and CV formatting?
The rules of formatting do not change between a resume vs CV. Follow these tips for perfect formatting every time:
- Set margins at one inch on all sides.
- Use appropriate fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica.
- Stick to a font size between 10-12 on the body and 14-16 on section headings.
- Adjust your font type and size according to your document. If reducing the size or changing your font style helps condense your CV or resume, do so as long as your text remains legible.
- Use single or 1.5 line spacing.
- Save your resume as Adobe PDF, .doc or .txt and name it professionally. We recommend this formula: Your-Name_Target Job Title_Resume_Date.FileType. For example: Jane-Doe_Resume-Writer_Resume.doc
Do you need a cover letter for a CV and resume?
Yes, you must write a cover letter for a CV and a resume. Cover letters are necessary because they allow you to provide information, such as career changes, job gaps, and insight into achievements and professional activities that a CV or resume can not.
Plus, cover letters allow you to express your personality, connect with the hiring manager and show off your research skills by giving you space to display your knowledge of the company, organization or institution so you can match your skills to their needs.
We have 500+ professional cover letter examples to get you started, and when you’re ready to write, download a free template to match your resume or CV, or use our Cover Letter Builder to build a custom letter in minutes.