Resume vs. CV: What are the differences?
Updated 8 February 2023
It's common to think that a curriculum vitae (CV) and resume are the same thing, as employers often use the names of these documents interchangeably. However, there are a few key differences between these types of application documents to take note of. Whether you're applying for a position overseas, searching for a job in the UK or applying for an academic position here or abroad, you may have come across conflicting information online. In this article, we explain the differences between a resume and a CV and when to use them.
What is a CV?
A CV is an abbreviation for the Latin term curriculum vitae, which translates to 'course of life'. It's a comprehensive document detailing both your academic and professional achievements. This concise outline of your accomplishments is typically formatted as a chronological list, describing your education and summarising your workplace experience. In the UK, an employment CV is typically one to two pages long, similar to a US resume. However, an academic CV can be any length and usually range from between three and ten pages.
What can you include in an academic CV?
An academic CV is typically submitted when applying for post-graduate education, a higher education institution or a research position. As these positions are often highly competitive, an academic CV provides an opportunity for you to prove you're a high-quality candidate in your field. To attract employer attention, you can list all of your academic achievements, such as your education, awards, research, publications and any teaching experience you have in a higher education setting.
What is a resume?
A US resume and UK employment CV are essentially the same documents. The word resume originates from the French word résumé, which means 'summary' or 'abstract' when translated. Both documents summarise your career history, education and skills in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent and relevant achievements first. You may also choose to include additional sections detailing any relevant volunteer work, personal projects or professional associations you have been a part of. It's not uncommon for applicants to also include a description of their hobbies and special interests to differentiate themselves from other candidates.
Resume vs. CV
A US resume and UK employment CV are very similar documents. However, there are some key differences that separate them from an academic CV. In the US, it's notable that a resume is a concise summary of your professional work experience, relevant skills, and qualifications. A CV, or academic CV, is an in-depth description of your academic and professional credentials, experience and accomplishments. Some of the main differences to note include:
A US resume or UK employment CV is a tailored document listing only the relevant skills and qualifications for the specific role you are applying to. As such, they are typically only one or two pages in length. A US CV or academic CV doesn't have a required maximum length, as the information provided is much more detailed than that of a resume or employment CV.
In the UK, New Zealand and parts of Europe, employers rarely use 'resume'. However, it's understood to be the same as a typical employment CV. In Australia, India and South Africa, the terms resume and CV are used interchangeably to describe resume-style documents. There is a distinct difference between a resume and a CV in the US and Canada, with the latter resembling a typical academic CV. In parts of Asia such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, people have begun applying for jobs using 'biodata' rather than CVs or resumes.
In the UK, an employment CV is most commonly used when looking for new employment in the private or public sector and resumes are used in much the same way in the US. Academic CVs, or what is known in the US simply as a CV, are used when applying for academic roles such as research or teaching positions. They are also used when applying for a master or doctoral programme or when making an application for a grant or fellowship.
When to use a resume vs. a CV
You may be unsure when to use a CV or a resume. The following questions can help you to determine what the employer may require:
What type of work are you applying for?
When applying for academic roles, whether as a researcher or as an educator within a higher learning facility like a college or university, you typically need an academic CV. For jobs based within the public or private sector, a resume or employment CV is usually sufficient. In some instances, education institutions provide further guidelines for what they expect to be detailed within your CV which you can often find on their website. If you're unsure, ask the recruiter or your potential employer for the relevant information before applying.
Where is the company located?
Depending on where the company is located, a 'CV' may refer to the more concise resume style document or it could also refer to a longer-formed academic CV. Consider the type of work you may be carrying out. If it's a research or academic position, the employer may require you to submit a more detailed CV. If it's a role within a business or a public service position, the employer most likely prefers a short form resume-style document instead that they can quickly scan to evaluate your qualifications for the position.
To help you determine which you require, here is a guide that may help:
If you're applying for a job in the UK, Ireland or New Zealand**:** You may require an employment CV or academic CV.
If you're applying for a job in mainland Europe: CVs are used in most contexts, although some employers may use the term resume when requesting an employment CV.
If you're applying for a job in the US or Canada: You may require a resume or CV for academic-oriented positions.
If you're applying for a job in Australia, India or South America: The terms CV and resume are used interchangeably in these regions. The term resume is typically used for private-sector jobs, and CV is more commonly used for public service roles.
If you're preparing to work abroad and have a short-form resume style CV, but not a longer-form academic style CV, you may want to consider writing one. This ensures you're prepared to provide it quickly if the employer requests it.
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Tips for writing CVs and resumes
While CVs and resumes may differ worldwide, there are a few universal tips that you can apply to your documents when applying for your next job. These include:
Check your spelling and grammar
Ensure that your spelling and grammar are suitable for the region that you are applying to. This is particularly important if you're applying for a position abroad. For instance, if you're from the UK but are applying for a position in the US, adapt your employment CV into a US resume that you write in US English.
Tailor your CV or resume to the job you're applying for
Ensuring that you tailor your CV or resume for a specific role makes it easier for recruiters to see how your experiences align with the position you are applying for. Highlight your most relevant accomplishments rather than detailing unrelated responsibilities that don't demonstrate your value to the employer. Mirror the language used in the job description to make your CV or resume stand out to the recruiter and increase your chances of being invited to interview.
Showcase results, not just responsibilities
While it's important to explain the duties that you performed in your previous employment to emphasise your competency for the role, recruiters also want to know what you've achieved. Quantifiable and concrete achievements, backed up with numbers or statistics, help to show employers what you've achieved in your previous positions. Providing tangible results can help potential employers understand how you could add value to their organisation.
Ask others for help
It's very easy when proofreading your own work to miss a mistake that you may have made. You might want to consider letting somebody else read over your CV to help you correct any errors that you haven't spotted yourself. If you have a friend or relative with relevant industry experience, you can ask them to read your CV or resume and provide you with feedback on its content. Revising your CV or resume with the help of others can help boost your confidence in earning the position you want.
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