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Resume or Curriculum Vitae – What Is the Difference?

The answer comes down to the type of role for which you apply. One of these documents works best for industry, with the other being preferred for academic roles. As a result, making the wrong choice will result in your application getting discarded without any chance of you getting an interview.

Here, you’ll discover the differences between these documents and – crucially – when you should use each. But first, you need to know what they are and how they’re similar.

side by side image comparing the difference of a resume and Cv with the words "Resume or CV?"

What Are Resumes and CVs?

On the surface, resumes and CVs serve similar purposes. Both are documents designed to showcase why you’re the best candidate for a role, with each being tailored to the specific role for which you apply. The intent behind each is the same, too – get an interview for the role.

It’s the nature of the roles that differ.

Resume comes from the French word for “summary,” which aptly defines the information that goes into this document. It’s intended to be a summary of your work and educational history that an employer can use to determine if you have the skills required for a specific role.

As for curriculum vitae, it’s a Latin term that roughly translates to “course of life.” That translation indicates that it’ll be a more detailed document, though it doesn’t tell you that this document will focus solely on your education. Rather than summarizing your work history and skills, you’ll use a CV to deliver more concrete information about where and what you’ve studied.

However, there’s a wrinkle to these contrasting definitions – location.

Several countries – including New Zealand, the U.K., and several European countries – use CVs instead of resumes. In those countries, a CV is a summary of your work and education, making it synonymous with a resume in the United States.

The Differences Between CVs and Resumes

Presuming you’re applying for roles in the United States, there are clear differences between resumes and CVs. One of those has already been discussed. A resume is a summary of your career history, with a CV being focused exclusively on your academic achievements. That’s a “broad strokes” definition of the difference, with the following being a more defined list of the key differences between the two.

image with the words curriculum vitae or resume and length, content, and purpose

Difference 1 – Length

A typical resume is either one or two pages long. There’s some debate over which length is more effective, with entry-level roles typically requiring shorter resumes than those written for managerial roles. Still, there’s a defined length for your resume – going over two pages usually means you’ve gone too long.

There’s no such limit to a CV.

A CV should contain every relevant piece of information you have about your academic career. This extends beyond a recitation of schools and courses and into descriptions of research projects you’ve completed or articles that you’ve had published. The intent is to showcase your academic acumen as clearly as possible, meaning the length is determined by your scholastic history.

The more you have to say about your educational accomplishments, the better your CV will be. The reason for that comes from the next difference.

Difference 2 – The Target Audience

That’s all of the time you have to impress a hiring manager with your resume, which also indicates the purpose of this document. It’s intended to be a summary of what makes you a good candidate for an industry role. Hiring managers don’t want to know everything about you. They just want to know what makes you a good fit for a job, and they’ll discard resumes that go into detail about anything that they don’t deem relevant.

So, your target audience with a resume is somebody who may be scanning hundreds of applications for a single role.

That’s sometimes the case with CVs, too, only with a big difference – the role is academic. Your target audience is academics who are considering you any of the following:

  • Postdoctoral roles

  • Grants

  • Fellowships

  • Tenure

  • Research roles

  • Teaching or research positions

Detail is key for these roles. While those who examine your CV still do so with the intent of finding the best candidate, they take a more detailed look at the information you provide. For them, more information suggests a better candidate, so you’re more likely to have a CV discarded if you summarize rather than expand.

Difference 3 – Level of Customization

Think of a CV as an academic diary.

It covers all of your qualifications, certifications, and achievements, with little need to edit once something has been added. In fact, you’ll typically only change your CV whenever you have a new qualification or achievement to add or, in some cases, you want to emphasize a specific accomplishment that’s relevant to your desired academic position.

That’s not the case with a resume.

Resumes are constantly evolving documents that you’ll customize to the specific role for which you apply. For instance, keywords matter with resumes. The information in a company’s job description indicates what words they want to see you use in your resume. Plus, you’ll tinker with roles and qualifications to emphasize those that are most relevant and cut any that take up space.

image with the words on it that says "Basic Components of a CV" with images of a resume, briefcase, cap, lightbulb, and heart

Difference 4 – Order of Work and Education

As soon as you have any experience in industry, your work experience takes the lead with a resume. That’s not to say that you don’t discuss relevant academic accomplishments. But a hiring manager wants to see evidence of your skills in practice, with your education taking a backseat and only being relevant if the role calls for a specific qualification.

With CVs, education is front and center. In fact, work experience will often only be mentioned if the work relates specifically to academia, such as research that you published in service of a product.

Navigate the Differences Between Resumes and CVs

Assuming that resumes and CVs are the same in the United States is a mistake that can lead to your application for a role being rejected outright. To ensure you don’t make that mistake, remember the following – resumes are for industry and CVs are for academic roles.

Now that you understand the differences between the two, you need help writing whichever is relevant to you. That’s where Expert Resume Pros’ resume and CV writing services in Denver Colorado come in. Both are backed by experts with decades of experience helping our clients in Denver land their desired roles. And both come with our 45-day guarantee – you get an interview within 45 days or your money back.

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