What is a CV and how does it differ from a resume?

If you’ve ever been in the market for a new job, you may have come across employers asking for a CV or a resume and wondered what the difference is. Or you may have heard the two terms used interchangeably. 

CVs and resumes are documents you use to showcase your work experience and skills. But there are some situations where they can differ in content, format and use. Read on to learn the differences and similarities between a CV and a resume and when you might need one versus the other.

Key takeaways

  • The terms “CV” and “resume” are often used interchangeably. But the two documents can have distinct differences.
  • CVs are primarily used in academic settings, and resumes can summarize job experience in other industries.
  • A CV can vary in length. It’s typically recommended that a resume be no longer than two pages.

Student rewards credit cards

With responsible use, students can earn cash back rewards today while building credit for tomorrow.

Explore cards

What is a CV?

CV stands for “curriculum vitae,” a Latin term meaning “course of life.” Typically, a CV is a detailed representation of a person’s professional and academic history and achievements. 

You could think of a CV as a type of resume you might need if you’re seeking a job in academia or a research-related field. A CV might also be required when applying for:

  • Grants
  • Fellowships
  • Research positions
  • Teaching positions
  • Graduate programs
  • Doctoral programs

There are no set rules on how long a CV should be. The more you’ve achieved, the longer it might be.

CV format

CVs are usually presented in reverse chronological order, with the most recent information at the top. Sections can include:

  • Contact information: Your first and last name, phone number and email address. 
  • Education: Schools and universities you’ve attended, degrees earned, areas of focus, fellowships, clubs, study abroad and coursework.
  • Professional and teaching experience: Positions held and details of your experiences, plus notes on how you impacted or improved the department. Plus conference attendance, internships and work-study or shadowing experience.
  • Research experience: Any research projects or theses you’ve worked on and additional details about your experience.
  • Fieldwork experience: Any fieldwork projects, details of your experiences and results you discovered.
  • Grants: Dates and details of any grants received.
  • Publications and presentations: Dates and details of things like published articles and books, speaking engagements and lectures.
  • Honors and awards: Dates and details of any honors and awards you’ve received.
  • Professional memberships, associations and affiliations: Organizations and dates of your membership.
  • Other skills: Examples include languages spoken, software and computer literacy and leadership experience.

What is a resume?

A resume is a one- to two-page document that summarizes your skills and employment and education histories. It’s used when applying for most industry, nonprofit and public-sector jobs. 

With a resume, you’re a bit more free to tailor it to the particular job you’re going for. You could even have several different resumes—say, if you were applying for jobs in different industries and you wanted to emphasize distinct skills or experiences. 

Resume format

Generally, a resume is a condensed version of your employment and educational experience. Like a CV, it’s usually presented in reverse chronological order. It typically includes the following sections:

  • Contact information: Your first and last name, phone number and email address. 
  • Objective/professional summary: An introductory sentence that states your accomplishments and career goals. It can be tailored to each different position you’re applying for.
  • Education: Colleges and institutions you’ve attended and degrees and certifications received.
  • Professional experience: Jobs and dates of employment, freelance projects, volunteer positions, special training and military experience. 
  • Professional skills: Any skills acquired through education or experience.
  • Additional achievements: Sports, academic awards or other extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Hobbies and interests: Pastimes and pursuits you have outside of school or work.

CV vs resume: Key differences

In general, the following factors might separate resumes from CVs:

  • Purpose: A CV is tailored to the academic world. A resume is used when applying for most industry, nonprofit and public-sector jobs.
  • Length: It’s generally advised that a resume be fairly short—one to two pages in length. A CV is often longer.
  • Layout: A CV covers all of your professional life and experiences. A resume is a summary of your employment and educational background.

When to use a CV vs when to use a resume

If you’re not sure whether the position you’re applying for is calling for a CV or a resume, it’s a good idea to ask. You can also consider the following:

  • Academic and research roles—including those of professor, researcher and teaching assistant—probably require a CV. 
  • For most other industries and jobs, you’ll probably need a resume.
  • Depending on where you are in the world, it might not matter at all, as the two documents can be interchangeable.

Whatever the circumstances, you might even find it useful to create both documents for yourself. Because a CV details all your history and accomplishments, it can help you reflect on your experiences and prepare for any job application or interview. And a resume could help you think about how to frame your experience for a particular employer or industry.

CVs and resumes in a nutshell

CVs and resumes are both documents you could use when applying for a job. They both show your experience and skills. But they might differ in the details provided. And depending on the job you’re applying for, one might be more suitable than the other.

A polished CV or resume and a well-written cover letter may help you secure an interview. And if all goes well, you may find yourself considering a job offer. If that’s the case, these tips to negotiate salary can help prepare you to get the salary you deserve at your new job.

Related Content