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What is the Difference Between a CV vs Resume?

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This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
Top 13 Resume Mistakes (That Kill a Good Resume)
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Is a resume the same as a Curriculum Vitae or CV? 

Short answer is no—they're not the same. Each is used for applying to different types of jobs. Also, in various countries formatting and best practices differ.

What is the difference between a CV and a Resume? 

A Curriculum Vitae is longer and more details than a resume. In Europe and parts of Asia, the terms resume and CV refer to the same document. Granted, the resumes or CVs they use look a tad different from what is standard in the U.S. Even in the US though, CVs are used in academia and the sciences, so in those fields they are a popular alternative to the standard resume

CVs are multiple pages long and used to detail your entire academic and work history. Whereas, a resume is a shorter form document and used for specific job targeting. The two forms are quite unique.

what is the difference between a cv and a resume
What is the difference between a cv and a resume? Which is best for your situation? (graphic source)

In this comprehensive guide to CV vs Resume, discover more details on what a CV is and how it differs from a resume. Also, get step by step instructions on how to make a CV (Curriculum Vitae) and customize it to your field, specialty, and country.

What's better between a CV versus Resume? The answer lies in your goals. Your field of expertise. Also, where you're applying. Dig into this guide to learn more.

Definition of Terms: CV vs Resume

What is a resume? In the U.S., resumes refer to a one or two page file applicants tailor for every job application. A good resume convinces a recruiter to interview you. 

What is a CV? Curriculum Vitae or CV means ‘course of life’ in Latin. Good resumes are succinct, but CVs can span five or more pages, giving a detailed account of the applicant’s work history, academic achievements, honours, publications, and more.

Dr. Dani Babb of The Babb Group Inc., a company writing CVs for academics says,

“The CVs we get the best response to are rich in details. Some interviewers ask our clients, ‘Tell me about yourself, because I know everything I need to know about your work after reading your CV.’ That’s when we did our job well.”

CVs are often called living documents because they’re updated as you publish more papers, work in more jobs, attend more conferences, and master more skills. Unlike resumes, a CV isn’t customized per job application. Instead, a separate cover letter details the most relevant work or achievements.

Europass CV is the recommended resume format of the European Union to help everyone communicate their professional value in a transparent and consistent manner across the continent. I’ll go into more details about this CV format in the comparison below.

Detailed Comparison: CV vs Resume

Points

What is a CV?

What is a Resume?

Goal

To give a detailed account of your professional work history, in and out of school. 

Paints a brief and catchy snapshot of your career that helps you stand out among other candidates.

Updates

Not tailored per job application

Updated when you publish a new paper, attend or host a conference, work in a new job, earn a certificate, and more.

 

Applicants customize their work history, skills, and certifications, with keywords from the target job ad.

If you move to a different industry, some of your jobs and skills may be omitted to give room for what’s relevant.

Resume writers also suggest omitting job titles held ten or so years ago, especially if they’re no longer relevant to your career goals. It also prevents ageism.

Formatting or Layout

Formal and logical format without unnecessary graphics and color. Check out this collection of professional looking templates.

Chronological work history includes at least the month and year

Customized for industries that value creativity.

You can use unique resume templates to showcase your style and stand out against applicants with plain resumes.

Emphasizes notable achievements instead of the most recent ones.

Note: Complete dates aren’t required in functional resumes.

Basic Parts

Inclusions vary per industry, but in general these are the components you can expect, in no chronological order:

  • Name and contact information
  • Education (often listed before work history)
  • Professional history, sometimes listed on a per project or research basis. For those in academia, this is often labeled as “Academic/Teaching Experience.”
  • Specialized or technical skills
  • Awards and honors
  • Presentations
  • Publications
  • Grants and funding
  • Research interests
  • Conferences attended or facilitated
  • Licensure and certification
  • Professional organizations and affiliations
  • Consulting
  • References
Optional Sections:
  • Pro bono work
  • Foreign languages spoken
  • Media mentions
Fresh graduates don’t use all these subheadings on their CV.

Note: Scroll down to find out what’s included in some of these sections.

Writing a resume is easier compared to writing a CV because it has fewer sections:
  • Name and contact information
  • Summary statement
  • Work history, sometimes includes volunteer work
  • Skills
  • Education, including seminars attended and licenses, if any  
Optional sections:
  • Portfolio
  • Hobbies or personal interests
  • References or testimonials

Level of Detail

Comprehensive, includes everything about your work, education, and parts of your personal life.

Concise. Think of it as a teaser, meant to give the recruiter a preview of your skills, so they’ll be curious to interview you.

Note: You’ll have a chance to discuss the rest of your professional merits during the interview.

Length

A CV for a fresh graduate with an MBA but little to no work experience usually has five or six pages.

A professional with a PhD, published papers, and a decent tenure in the workforce can have a CV spanning 10 or more pages. 

One page is ideal, but two pages max.

Personal Information Listed

European and Asian CVs sometimes have personal information listed, such as:

  • Marital status
  • Age (common in Asian and European CVs)
  • Nationality (common in European CVs)
  • Date of birth (common in Asian and European CVs)
  • Gender
  • Religion (often found in Philippine CVs)
  • Hobbies
  • Number of children 

In South Africa, applicants are required to list their ID number on the CV to clarify their affirmative action status.

Nationality is often part of European CVs but it’s optional. Some experts say it’s used to confirm the applicant is from a country that is part of the E.U., which means they’re eligible to work in certain countries.

The Equality Act 2010 and similar legislation protect job applicants in UK from discrimination, so nationality and race aren’t required in their resume. Instead, many online application forms have a check box to confirm your eligibility to work there.

In many resumes, only the phone, email, and LinkedIn account of the applicant are listed. 

U.S. employers don’t have a legal right to know your marital status and religion. They will only ask for your age if the local or federal government requires it for a specific job.

Foreign Languages

While not required for all CVs, foreign language is part of the Europass document package, specifically the ‘language passport.

It’s a self-assessed section of the Europass document detailing the native and second or third languages you speak, including your level of proficiency in each.  Here’s a link to the self-assessment guide.

Included in the skills section of a resume.

If you took a certification, like Berlitz, you can list it as part of your education.

 

Photo

Some CVs in Europe include a picture, but it’s not in the E.U. administration’s Europass CV format.

For instance, in France and Germany, recruiters expect a professional looking headshot. The same is expected in many Asian countries, such as Japan and the Philippines.

Pictures aren’t attached in UK resumes.

Doesn’t include a picture, unless you’re applying for a modeling or acting job. In that case, your resume will be attached or printed on the back of an 8” x 10” close up picture.

Printing Dimensions

European CVs are printed on A4 paper measuring 8.27 x 11.69 inches. American CVs, however, are printed on ‘letter paper’.

US resumes are printed in an 8.5 x 11 inch ‘letter paper.’ A4 paper is recommended for resumes in Singapore.

References and Testimonials

References are required from previous professors or managers. It’s usually at the end of the CV, unless the job ad dictates you send a CV and a list of references, in which case you need to include a separate file.

References include:

  • Full name
  • Job title
  • Company, university, or association name
  • Work address
  • Work phone number
  • Email address

References are not listed. But some resumes have a testimonial.

Vital Information to Include in Key Sections of Your CV

I included this section to give you a better understanding of how to translate your professional merits under the different subheadings of a CV.

1. Research

This can be included as a standalone heading, or under your work history.

What to Include:

  • Summary of the research and its goals
  • Names of lead researchers and collaborators
  • Methodology used
  • Results, or where it’s going if it’s still in progress
  • Soft skills developed in the research: team management, problem solving, communication
  • Publications and citations – Where are your research findings published or mentioned?

Different Phrases That Convey Your Research Skills:

  • Conceptualized the problem
  • Lead a team of three in planning and researching the project
  • Ability to test hypothesis against different theories and methodologies
  • Selected the correct approach in identifying the key objectives of the research
  • Gathered and interpreted data
Research description
Snippet of CV listing research experience from Vitae © 2014 The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) Limited www.vitae.ac.uk

Description of Current or Ongoing Research Must Address the Following:

  • Goals and successes or milestones of the ongoing research
  • Techniques and methodologies tested
  • Technical skills used in the research

The snippet above shows research experience, including the applicant’s position, institution that sponsored or funded the research, a brief summary, and list of related achievements.

2. Teaching

It includes both paid and gratis (unpaid) positions, and an important section for academic, research, and scientific fields. If you didn’t spend much time in the classroom, just incorporate it as part of your professional history. 

What to Include:

  • The level of students you taught or supervised: undergraduate, post-graduate and their batch year.
  • Teaching materials or curriculum created, even if you only collaborated or assisted someone.
  • Experience in organizing field work, including the subject, the field work’s goal, and a brief description of the activity
  • Lab supervision experience, including technical skills mastered, equipment used, and level of students supervised
  • Experience in guiding students in their theses or dissertation
  • Classroom teaching or assisting experience, including the subject taught
  • Grading and evaluation techniques you’re familiar with
  • Lectures delivered
  • Experience in tutoring students

Different Phrases That Convey Your Teaching Skills:

  • Supervised students completing their theses (or dissertation) on (subject)
  • Member of the team that developed the curriculum for (subject)
  • Coordinated dissemination of new (title) policy across the university
  • Supervised faculty and teaching assistants for college of (subject or course)
  • Represented (University or Institution’s name) at (seminar or conference name)

3. Administration

An important part of the skills section of your CV is to showcase your organizational and management skills, which are sorely needed in academic and research jobs.

What to Include:

  • Participation in school boards and committees, even as an undergraduate in a student association.
  • Experience in planning school events and conferences
  • Running a lecture
  • Assessing student exams and related paperwork
  • Experience as an exam proctor or facilitator
  • Checking or fact-validation of other people’s research
  • Contribution in writing research proposals
  • Experience in leading a team of researchers
  • Managing limited resources for a research project

4. Publications and Presentations

Publications include journal articles, published research, books or chapters, patents, and reports. Presentations are events where you’re a speaker, guest lecturer, or panelist. 

What to Include:

  • Name of the journal or magazine you are published in
  • Complete title
  • Complete list of authors
  • Publication date
Presentations
List of presentations from a student taking an MA in history, from Michella Chiu, Admissions Consultant and Chief Language Advisor at PROFEDVICE

Notes:

  • If you’re just one of the authors for a published material, list all the names of the authors then highlight your name in bold.
  • Pending publications may be included as long as you declare it as such. The phrases ‘in press’ or ‘forthcoming’ are used instead of the publication date.
  • You can list publications in two ways, according to date, or the type of publication—whether it’s a journal article, book, or research paper.
  • Presentations for small groups may be included, as long as it’s relevant to your field and the audience size is ample enough to justify inclusion.
  • Write publications in reverse chronological order.
Publications for a CV
List of researchers, publications and abstracts where the author’s name is in bold, from The Career Center of The University of Washington

5. Qualifications and Certifications

This includes any type of certification, licensure, or professional qualification required or valued in your industry.

Examples:

  • Medical state license
  • Project management certification, such as Project Management Professional certification (PMP)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Teaching license

6. Conferences and Courses Attended

List of conferences, seminars, and professional development courses you attended.

What to Include:

  • Event name
  • Event date (year)
  • Note whether you helped organize the event, or participated in any way

7. Funding

Includes scholarships, grants, bursaries, fellowships, or any type of funds you were awarded for work, conferences, and research projects.

What to Include:

  • Name of awarding institution
  • Amount
  • Date given
  • How the funds were used
  • Your role in securing said funding
  • Undergraduate prizes or funds won
Funding
Snippet of CV listing funding received from Vitae, © 2014 The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) Limited. www.vitae.ac.uk

8. Professional Affiliations

List all the memberships you hold for industry associations and academic or school related groups.

What to Include:

  • Name of organization
  • Position in said organization, if any

How Do You Know When to Use Each Format?

Resume vs cv get hired
CV versus Resume: which one do you need to get hired? (graphic source)

The document you use is largely dictated by your industry’s common practices.

It’s when you go abroad that things get a little tricky, as some countries use ‘resume’ when they’re actually referring to a CV.

In general, use a resume when you’re applying for most jobs in the U.S. and Canada, except for academic, research, and clinical work. Those in the creative profession may prefer using a portfolio to show tangible proof of their work.

For more information, check out these Tuts+ guides for making professional resumes:

What is a CV and When Should I Use One?

Specific Industries That Require the Use of a CV

Uses of CVs are not limited to these industries, but it’s where this document is commonly expected in job applications. 

What Is a Curriculum Vitae Used for in Academia?

CVs are popular among academics, specifically professors and graduate students, as they are constantly learning and publishing new works.

“Publish or perish” is a popular motto among many graduate students. An applicant’s number of published—and well received—articles and books signal competency, and validate their work in their respective fields. 

Dr. Babb says there are two more CV sections specific to academia:

1. Teaching Philosophy:

Babb says your teaching philosophy, “explains why you want to teach and how you go about doing it.”

It describes your passion for teaching, preferred methodology, and evidence of the value you provide as an educator.

Below is an excerpt of a Teaching Philosophy from Dr. Babb:

Professional mentor and coach, I have successfully served students in numerous capacities, including faculty mentor, dissertation and comprehensive examination committee member. I have a solid background and firm understanding of the process required to develop program objectives and map course curriculum to achieve desired student outcomes, and have put this into practice as a course developer and review committee member. My goal is to help students see the applicability of course room objectives in their own lives and careers and foster a classroom where critical thinking, professionalism and sharing is the norm. My belief that every learner has a unique story and professional goals that education can help them accomplish drives my desire to engage with students and model professional practices.

The example above explains the candidate’s teaching style and methodology, while providing a summary of the educator’s teaching experience in different subjects and capacities.

2. Learning Management System (LMS) Experience:

Refers to a “platform that online learners and educators use to conduct a class,” says Dr. Babb. It’s what many schools use to facilitate distant learning and open learning courses. Moodle, Edmodo, and Blackboard are examples of popular LMS

Teaching experience with LMS info
Example of Teaching Experience indicating LMS platform used, and a short course description from Dr. Babb. University name and course names were removed for privacy.

What Is a CV Used for in Different Research Jobs?

Researchers work both in universities and different industries through private or government funded projects. But their CVs will emphasize their research skills and results instead of classroom experience.

“For junior researchers with minimal experience, listing who you collaborated with in your projects is extremely important. Big names in your field add to the credibility and importance of your research work”, says Michella Chiu, Admissions Consultant and Chief Language Advisor at PROFEDVICE.

Emphasizing Research Skills, the Right Way

Realize that the HR manager or recruiter first assigned to weed out CVs from research applicants may not know enough about the sciences—or your specific field. They’re given a set of keywords to look for—skills, tools, or courses—to gauge whether an applicant meets their primary requirements.

Listing the projects you worked on, details on the species and theories you tested, and your results is just the start of a good CV. It should also include the research methods, tools, techniques, and other industry related skills you have.

Avoid writing about the minute research details, so you don’t sacrifice space for the keywords recruiters and Applicant Tracking System (ATS) look for. Learn more about the best format to use for ATS systems.

Compare the following lab experiences for a research job in Microbiology.

Applicant A

job description 1
Snippet of CV for Researcher in Microbiology from LabSpaces

Applicant B

job description 2
Snippet of CV that was hired for a Research position in Microbiology from LabSpaces

The first CV focused on the specie the research applicant used on a specific project, narrowing down her experience in the eyes of the person reviewing the CV. The only other research skill mentioned is the use of ‘protoplast transformation methods,’ which may or may not be valuable for the recruiter.

And even though it mentioned a breakthrough, it wasn’t elaborated. So instead of impressing the recruiter, the applicant didn’t provide details where it counted.

The second example, while generic in stating “disease-causing bacteria,” clearly described the applicant’s skills in microbiology research, such as bacterial culturing and DNA isolation. This list gave the recruiter a better idea of the candidate’s wide range of research and laboratory skills.

What is a Curriculum Vitae Used for in Medical Jobs?

For clinical researchers or non-practicing medical jobs, your laboratory skills, peer-reviewed articles, and presentations matter more.

But the focus shifts on your licenses, clinical experience, and certifications when you’re applying to be a physician. Hiring hospitals and clinics want to know if you have applicable skills, outside the ivory tower.

For resident physicians, surgeons, general practitioners, and other medical professionals, your publications and other research work are better suited at the end of your CV, or as a separate file so it doesn’t get in the way of your license information and clinical experience.

For work experience, list your internships, residency, and other experience in clinical practice. 

Include the Following:

  • Areas of specialty for all positions held
  • Facility: Was it a stand-alone clinic, ER, or hospital network?
  • The facility’s location
  • Start and end dates

If you’re still in residency, just include the date you started and when you expect to complete it. 

Professional experience
Example of Professional Experience for an Ophthalmologist

Then list certifications and university degrees in different sections. Include your license number, the month and year you received it, and its renewal date. Don’t forget to list qualifications for your subspecialties. For example, an Ob-Gyn’s may be trained in both Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Maternal/Fetal Medicine. 

Licenses and certification
Example of a physician’s CV – licensures and certifications, from the American Academy of Neurology

Undergraduate degrees can also be included, but only the GPA, dates, and majors. Provide a summary of the course only if it’s related to medicine.

After your licenses and education, it’s a good idea to summarize your skills into two categories, such as medical and management, so recruiters can easily see what you can do without slogging through a long CV.

Include professional affiliations, academic awards, teaching experience, and publications only after you’ve enumerated your value in a clinical setting.

Specific Situations

What Is a CV Used for in Fellowship Applications?

Professional organizations, like the Mildred S. Friedman Design Fellowship and KPCB Design and Engineering Fellows, and graduate offices of different universities hold fellowship programs for students and professionals in their industry. Because these programs sponsor participants for a few months—to a year—just to focus on their professional growth, the selection process is competitive.

Application requirements vary per fellowship program, but in general applicants submit the following: 

  • Letter of interest explaining their reason for joining the fellowship, and why they think they deserve to be accepted
  • Their curriculum vitae
  • At least two letters of recommendations from former professors, industry professionals, or work supervisors. 

What is a CV Used for in Immigration?

Immigration lawyers sometimes ask clients to prepare a CV to provide evidence of their professional history and working capacity. It’s not required but it’s a good way to show an applicant possess the skills needed to find a good job after emigration.  

According to Chiu, who also works at an immigration law firm, these are the groups that may be requested to provide a CV when migrating:

CVs for immigration purposes have more personal information because they need your date of birth, nationality, number of dependents, and marital status to confirm your identity, and eligibility for a visa.

CV Use in Certain Countries: E.U.  and Parts of Asia

Resume and CV refers to the same document in Europe, parts of Africa, Australia, and many Asian countries, such as Japan, Singapore, and Philippines.

In Europe, there are slight differences for CVs in different countries to reflect the country’s customs and HR standards.

In Germany, CV’s list personal details and education first, before work history. Hobbies and personal interests are also included.

Unless you’re fluent in German, having your CV translated into a “Lebenslauf” or a German CV, is a bad idea. The interviewer might assume you speak the language fluently, and conduct your interview in German.

You can still make your resume feel local with a simple compromise: use the Germantranslation for your CV’s subheadings. 

  • “Personal data: Persönliche Angaben
  •  Work experience: Berufserfahrung
  • Education: Ausbildung
  • Skills’ and extracurricular activities: Qualifikationen und Kenntnisse
  • Hobbies and personal interests: Private Interessen”

In France, it’s common for people to write their surnamebefore their first name on formal documents like CVs. Some French nationals have surnames that seem like first names. To avoid awkward situations, applicants write their surname on all caps followed by their first name, for instance, “MARTIN, Richard.”

The Europass helps applicants do away with these tiny differences. This document is accepted by employers operating in countries that belong to the E.U., and consists of five parts:

  1. Europass Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  2. Language Passport
  3. Europass Mobility – records time spent training, working, volunteering and studying in other European countries, besides where you’re from.
  4. Certificate Supplement – details about a candidate’s vocational training certificates. You can get it from your country’s National Inventories of Certificate Supplements.
  5. Diploma Supplement – provides additional information about the skills you learned from a specific degree. Your alma mater issues the diploma supplement along with your transcript and diploma, so it’s not a substitute for the latter. 

It’s easy to create a Europass CV and cover letter, just fill out the online template here. The mobility, certificate and diploma supplements are issued by authorized schools and training centers, and is handled by National Europass Centres throughout Europe.

In France, as in most of Europe, the educational system is different from the U.S. and Canada so you’ll need to find the equivalent of your degrees and GPAs in their system. For instance a grade of A+ in the US translates to mention très honorable’. Use the website Foreign Credits to translate your GPAs and other credentials.

What Is a Curriculum Vitae in Parts of Asia

In Japan, a CV includes a professional looking photo, sometimes a passport photo. The traditional 'Rirekisho' or Japanese CV is handwritten in black ink with no corrections, as traditional Japanese employers believe handwriting gives them an insight into a candidate’s personality and work ethic. It also shows your dedication to the job application process.

Tradition dictates the form shouldn’t be folded; it should be placed inside an A4 or B5 envelope instead.

Applicants in Japan are also expected to list an emergency contact person, and their reasons for leaving a previous employer. Most applicants, however, just write “isshinjouu no tsugou ni yori Taisha,” which translates to “I left for personal reasons." 

In the Philippines, applicants often include their graduation photo; along with a very detailed personal data section that often include their parents name, weight, height, and religion. Some applicants even include their tax identification number and social security number. Not all applicants include all this information but it’s still common among those applying for local and provincial employment. 

Excerpt of a CV from the Philippines that includes height, religion, weight and the applicant’s parent’s name and occupation, uploaded at Scribd

Should You Have a CV?

If you’re from any of the countries mentioned above, then yes. Same goes if you work in any of the industries mentioned.

But what if you work in IT, marketing, video editing, design, or finance? What if your job doesn’t put much value in publications and research work?

The HR experts I talked to still recommend having one, in case you chance upon a great opportunity to work abroad, or decide to work elsewhere one day. It also helps if you don’t think of it as a CV you’ll only use when a job application requests one.

Think of it as a ‘master resume’ that has all your details—extensive work history, awards, media mentions, extra-curricular activities, personal information, and more. Creating your own CV will give you a running list of everything you’ve ever done as a student and professional, so you don’t spend hours thinking of your accomplishments when applying for a new job or promotion. 

Now that you know what is the difference between a cv and a resume, you can make your's in the correct format needed. 

For information on how to make a traditional resume, refer to our ultimate guide on the subject. Also, jump over to Envato Market to find great resume template designs to make a stand out resume design quickly.

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