Have you ever wondered why Europeans apply for a job with a CV and Americans use a résumé? You probably thought it was just a play on words, that they’re both the same thing, right?
I get it: differentiating between a CV and résumé can be confusing. But that’s why we’re here!
In this article, we’ll show you the main differences between a CV and résumé, explain when each should be used and even give you a couple of résumé samples to get a better idea on how to write each.
But first, let’s start with the basics…
What is a CV?
A CV, or curriculum vitae, is an in-depth document that typically spans across two or more pages (depending on your experience) and contains a high level of detail about your work experience, education, skills and achievements.
When should you use a CV?
In the US, CVs are generally used when applying for academic positions or other specialist professions in science or medicine. They are highly detailed and usually run over four (or more) pages, covering personal achievements, awards, publications, honors, affiliations and memberships.
On the other hand, in the UK, Ireland, Europe and New Zealand, CVs are used more broadly by people at any stage of their careers, whether they’re applying for an entry-level position or higher position. CVs are typically one to two pages long and tailored to the specific job you’re applying for, ensuring that your experience and skills match the requirements outlined in the job description.
What does a CV look like?
Below is an example of a mid-career CV:
What is a résumé?
A résumé is similar to a CV, though it’s typically shorter (no longer than one page) and is generally used for job applications across North America.
As hiring managers only spend six seconds reviewing applications, résumés are intended to help jobseekers stand out from the crowd in just as little amount of time.
Like CVs, résumés should be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. Unlike CVs, however, they don’t need to be in chronological order or cover your entire career history and educational background.
When should you use a résumé?
Résumés are primarily used in the US and Canada and, to a lesser extent, Australia. That said, if you’re based in the US but applying for a job in England, for example, it would best advised to write a CV.
What does a résumé look like?
Here’s a sample of a mid-career résumé that could accompany a cover letter:
What are the key differences between a CV and a résumé?
If you’re still a bit perplexed, let’s go through the main differences between a CV and résumé.
- Length: The most obvious difference is the length of a résumé and that of a CV. A résumé is typically no longer than one page, whereas a CV usually spans across two or more pages, depending on the candidate’s level of experience.
- Layout: Each document is formatted differently. A CV generally follows a chronological order, whereas a résumé is much more concise and laid out in a way that makes your skills pop out.
- Education: A CV will typically provide detailed information about your academic background. A résumé, on the other hand, will usually only list your latest educational achievement. So, if you have a master’s degree, for example, this will be the only thing included here, unless you’re applying for an entry-level job, in which case you can list your entire educational experience.
- Work experience: A résumé will highlight your relevant work experience first and include a brief career summary. A CV, however, will list full details about your duties in previous positions and generally include facts and figures to back up your claims.
- References: Listing your references in a CV is acceptable but not so much in a résumé.
In summary, here are a few of the key differences between the two:
How does a CV in the US differ from one in the EU?
Here’s where things can get a little confusing. Aside from CVs being different from résumés, CVs can also differ from other CVs, depending on where you are based. To shed some light on the situation, we’ve created a list of five points that highlight the differences between a CV used in the US versus one used in the EU.
- In the US, CVs are used by scientists, academics, and medical professionals, whereas in the EU they’re used more generally.
- In the US, a CV will provide an in-depth look at your education and career history, whereas in the EU it will be much more concise.
- A European CV will typically span two to four pages even for the most seasoned professional, but in the US it can reach even ten pages in total.
- European CVs tend to be much friendlier and less formal in tone than CVs used in the US.
- As CVs in the US are primarily used by scientists and academics (who are advanced degree holders), they don’t typically include high school grades. In the EU, however, it’s not uncommon for school grades to appear on CVs, especially for recent graduates.
What else do you need to know?
Whether you choose to write a résumé or CV, here are some general writing tips we’ve compiled to help you stand apart from the competition:
- Tailor it to the job: Make sure you highlight your most valuable skills and experience to the position you’re applying for. If you’re still struggling, consider using a professional writing service.
- Include keywords: Check the job description for keywords and incorporate these into your document — remember: applicant tracking systems are designed to filter out applications that don’t “match” the ad.
- Use a simple layout: CVs and résumés that aren’t easy on the eye typically wind up in the trash, so make sure your document is clearly structured and easy-to-read. You could even use ready-made CV templates to help you out.
- Use the right format: For example, if you’re a graphic designer, consider using a skills-based or infographic CV/résumé. Similarly, if you’re a web developer, consider a video application. If you need help, consider using a free résumé builder.
- Proofread: Always check and double-check your documents for grammar and spelling mistakes.
And there you have it: everything you need to know about the differences between a CV and a résumé.
If you keep in mind what curriculum vitae and résumé stand for (“course of life” and “summary” respectively), it’s easy to remember that one is a much more in-depth document than the other. To summarize:
- While résumés are no more than a page long, CVs are very comprehensive and can be as many pages as they need to be.
- CVs list professional experiences in reverse chronological order, but résumés can take on any format, emphasizing the most recent and relevant skills.
- In the United States, CVs tend to differ from those used in Europe, being longer and more formal.
- Using CV or résumé templates in your job search is a good way of ensuring your application won’t be tossed aside based solely on looks.
- The only personal information you need to include on your CV are your contact details, such as your email address, phone number, and city and state. Keep in mind that some pre-employment inquiries are unlawful, like questions about your marital status.
Which style is the best for you? A CV or résumé? Let us know in the comments!
Originally published 22 May 2018. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.