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04 Jun 2020 Austin Belcak

What Is A CV (& How Is It Different From a Resume)?

To many people, the terms ‘resume' and ‘CV' are interchangeable. In fact, we often see the two words used in conjunction with each other.

For example, an online job application might have a box to “Upload Your Resume/CV.” So, the two documents are essentially the same thing, right?


In reality, there are some notable differences between the two, and understanding this distinction is important when you're applying for jobs.

In this article, we'll break down what a CV is, how it's different from a resume, and when you should be using each one.

What Is a CV?

‘CV’ stands for Curriculum Vitae, which is Latin for ‘the course of life.’ When taken literally, that’s about as open-ended as it gets. So, what does that actually mean in practice?

In a nutshell, it's a comprehensive timeline of your experience and achievements in both the professional and academic realms.

On the academic side, your CV should include any scholarships, degrees, research, published reports, etc.

On the professional side, you should provide a detailed overview of your work history and accomplishments.

Any awards you’ve won, any positions you have held, any publications your work has appeared in… your CV should serve as a complete record of it all.

Because of this, your CV can — and should — extend several pages in length (unlike a resume, which you should try to condense into only one page).

There’s no need to keep your CV brief and to-the-point. Instead, you should be using it to paint a thorough, holistic picture of your life’s successes.

Who Needs a CV?

While every job-seeker can potentially benefit from having a CV, it’s more applicable to certain fields.

Specifically, if you’re involved in the world of academia (grad student, professor, researcher, etc.), then you’ll need a strong CV to establish your credentials.

But other professionals should still have a CV on-hand.

Sometimes, hiring managers will use resumes to sift through the initial pool of applicants, then request CVs from shortlisted candidates for a closer look. Remember, your CV is a place to pull out all the stops and showcase everything that could be considered impressive or noteworthy.

If you’ve participated in extracurricular activities, non-profit organizations, or volunteer work, you can use your CV to highlight those experiences.

A CV or resume attached to a clipboard next to a computer on a desk

How Does a CV Differ From a Resume?

The difference between them mostly come down to details (and, consequently, length).

While a CV covers all of your experience and achievements, a resume is a more succinct, pertinent summary.

Another distinction between the two is the area of focus. A resume is often geared heavily toward your professional work experience, whereas a CV can be broader in its scope.

Generally speaking, your resume should be a clear, concise presentation of your relevant skills and aptitude for a particular job role.

**Tip: you should be tweaking your resume based on the specific job you’re applying to. A well-crafted resume is essential if you want to stand out among the (literally) hundreds of other applications!**

A CV, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be modified based on the context you’re using it in. The only time you’ll need to update it is to reflect significant career/educational milestones.

How Do You Know Which To Use?

There is no universal standard regarding which document to submit with your job application — often, it’s simply a matter of employer preference.

If the job posting instructs you to submit a resume, send your resume. The same goes for your CV.

In cases where the job posting is not clear about which document to send, there’s is no harm in reaching out with an email to clarify. It shows that you are diligent and detail-oriented.

But typically, a CV will only be required in academically-oriented fields. For example, if you have an advanced degree and are applying for a research position, a CV would be ideal in this scenario.

The situation changes when you’re applying for a corporate job, as most recruiters/hiring managers don’t have time to read through numerous pages for each of the hundreds of candidates that have applied.

That’s why, for most corporate job openings, a compelling one-page resume is usually your best bet.

two women sitting down discussing the differences between a CV and a resume

Resumes vs. CVs — Final Thoughts

To review, a resume is a succinct one-page document that showcases your relevant skills and qualifications for a particular job role.

Conversely, a CV is a longer, more comprehensive list of your academic, professional, and even extracurricular activities.

CVs are especially important within the realm of academia. But, regardless of your field, writing one out is a great way to organize all your achievements on paper — which can be helpful for interview preparation.

And, since you don’t need to tweak your CV every time you apply for a new job, you can keep it saved and ready in the event an employer asks for one

…and that moment might come sooner than you think.

Recent trends point toward a shift in which some employers may start to prefer CVs over resumes.

Managers are increasingly looking to hire well-rounded people that fit in with the company’s culture — and the more detailed format of a CV provides a wider window into who you are and what you’ve done in life.

So, ultimately, while you may find yourself using your resume more often, it’s certainly a good idea to keep them both handy.

Austin Belcak

Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.



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