What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume in 2021?

What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume in 2021?

If you’ve done any research into the different types of resumes, you’ve likely heard the term CV before. A CV is a type of document with a much more specific purpose than your standard resume. In this article, we will cover exactly what a CV is, how it differs from a resume, and when to consider using one.

Written by Ed Moss • Last updated on May 27, 2021

What is a CV?

“CV” is an abbreviation for Curriculum Vitae.

The CV is a long-form resume generally used in the fields of science and academia.

A standard resume focuses almost entirely on an applicant’s relevant work experience.

By comparison, a CV provides a broader and more in-depth overview of a person’s entire career.

Additionally, a CV will place a much greater emphasis on the applicant’s academic background.

Standard resumes may only list what degree you earned and what school you went to.

A CV will cover every single academic credential you possess.

This can include items such as publications, presentations, honors, and grants.

What are the Different Types of CV’s?

CVs can differ somewhat drastically in what information they contain.

This will ultimately depend on the applicant and the position they are applying to.

However, most CVs fall within two main categories:

  • Chronological: Chronological CVs describe a person’s career in order from start to finish
  • Functional: Functional CVs will still describe a person’s entire career, but may do so out of order. This format is often preferred by professionals who have had gaps in their employment. These gaps can occur due to sabbaticals or other life circumstances.

What is the Difference Between a U.S. and an International CV?

Did you know that the term CV means different things depending on where you are in the world?

CVs can be further divided into two separate categories depending on your geographic location.

These categories are:

  • U.S.-Based CV: The U.S. version of the CV is primarily used for the fields of academia and science. It is rare to see a CV appear in a job application outside of these fields.
  • International CV: Most international locations use a CV format for almost all fields and industries. This is particularly true for European countries.

In Europe and other international destinations, a CV is the standard resume format expected by employers.

Comparatively, most employers within the United States prefer a one-page resume over a multiple-page CV.

What is a Resume?

A resume is a short document used primarily within the United States and Canada.

Unlike the CV, a resume will take only the best parts of a person’s career and summarize them within a concise, one-page format.

The general goal of a resume is targeting a specific job.

You should always tailor each resume you write to fit the job description.

The key to writing a strong resume is to focus on simplicity and relevance.

You should include only your most relevant work experience and skills.

Additionally, resumes should be highly skimmable.

This means they should have clearly labeled sections with bullet points that are easy to read quickly.

What are the Different Types of Resumes?

There are three main types of resumes. They are as follows:

  • Reverse-Chronological: This type of resume focuses on work experience. It should start with the applicant’s most recent job and list jobs in backward order from there.
  • Functional: The functional resume takes the focus off of work experience. Instead, it focuses on skills and unpaid experiences, such as volunteer work or internships. Applicants with limited work histories and recent graduates often prefer this format.
  • Hybrid: A hybrid resume will combine elements from both of the above-listed formats. This is a good option for people with some work experience or those with gaps in their employment.

Are you still unsure which resume format will suit your needs the best? Read our guide on How to Choose the Correct Resume Format in 2021 (with Examples)!

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What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

Aside from being the standard in different geographical locations, there are 3 key differences between a CV and a resume.

They are as follows:

  1. Length: A resume will be between one to two pages, while a CV can have upwards of ten pages in some cases.
  2. Field or Industry: Resumes are the standard for corporate and service industries. CVs are the standard for the fields of science and academia.
  3. Competency vs. Credentials: A resume is more concise and focuses on the applicant’s competency. By comparison, a CV assumes the applicant is competent and instead focuses on all of their credentials.

The layout of each will also have significant differences.

This is because a resume is comprised of only a few main sections.

A CV, comparatively, will have many sections that each need a full explanation and in-depth detail.

What are the Key Sections of a Resume?

A CV will have many different sections, which we will cover later in this article.

When it comes to a resume, there are only a few core sections that you need to include. These sections are as follows:

  • Name and contact information
  • Resume objective or summary
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Awards and Achievements
  • Certifications
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When Should I Use a CV Instead of a Resume?

When choosing between a CV and a resume, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. Is the job I’m applying to entry, intermediate, or senior-level?
  2. Is the job I’m applying to within the fields of science or academia?
  3. Does the job listing ask for a specific format?

Here are 3 use-case examples to demonstrate when to use a CV and when to use a resume:

Example 1: You are applying for a Department Head position at a local university

Incorrect: You choose to use a resume, thinking the conciseness of this document will give you a leg up on the competition.

Why It’s Wrong: While there may be hefty competition for the position, the scrutiny of applicants will be much more intense than a lower-level job. Opting for a resume in this scenario will likely leave the employer lacking the proper amount of information needed.

Correct: Anytime you are applying for a position with the realm of academia, we recommend using a Curriculum Vitae.

Example 2: You are a recent college grad applying to an entry-level position as a consultant at one of the Big Four accounting firms.

Incorrect: Thinking it will help you to show how qualified you are for the position, you choose a CV format over a resume.

Why It’s Wrong: Anytime you are applying to an entry-level job, it is in your best interest to use a resume format. Not only is this the standard that hiring managers have come to expect, but it will ensure your resume is not thrown out by Applicant Tracking Systems for being too long.

Correct: Use a reverse-chronological resume if possible. This is the standard format that hiring managers expect. You want to provide clear and concise information that is easy to skim.

Example 3: You have over 10 years of experience in a corporate industry and are applying for a C-Suite or management position.

Incorrect: You use a one-page resume to succinctly summarize your greatest accomplishments and qualifications.

Why It’s Wrong: While corporate jobs may generally prefer a resume format, using a one-page resume does not give you enough space. You want to be able to show your credentials through your 10+ years of experience and a one-page resume does not allow you the wiggle room to do so.

Correct: In this scenario, you could use a CV or a multi-page resume. A multi-page resume will be easier to tailor to show work experience. Comparatively, a CV is more focused on academic success.
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When to Use a Two-Page Resume Instead of a CV

There are not many scenarios in which a two-page resume will be preferable over both a one-page resume and a CV.

Nonetheless, there are certain circumstances where a two-page resume can come in handy.

If any of the following use-cases apply to you, you may want to consider crafting a two-page resume:

  • You have 10-15 years of experience at one company or within one industry
  • You are applying to a high-level management or C-Suite position
  • You are applying to a job that requires many certifications, which you list on a separate page
  • You are applying to a federal job that requires a more in-depth look at your professional background

For more help crafting a well-written two-page resume, check out our guide on How to Write a Two-Page Resume (with Examples & Tips).

What are Some Tips to Write a Strong CV?

Even though a CV will often be much longer than the standard resume, focusing on the writing quality is still paramount.

While you may be providing a much greater level of detail within a CV, it is still important to keep it succinct and cut back on the fluff.

If an employer is having to read the same statements about yourself over and over, they will likely toss your CV out. You should always double-check and edit your writing to be as clear and concise as possible.

Here are 3 additional key factors to keep in mind when writing a CV:

  1. Tailor Your CV to the Position: Anytime you write a CV, you should try to tailor it to the position. This means finding ways to tie each section into a relevant theme. You want the CV to have an overarching message that makes it obvious that you are the most qualified candidate for the job.
  2. Use Compelling Language: You never want to bore the person reading your CV. Using compelling language and action verbs will help to keep your CV engaging and interesting.
  3. Stick to Consistent Formatting: When using a CV format, you will be writing many different sections and pieces of information. Keeping a consistent format between each section will not only make it more readable but will help with the overall visual flow as well.

Need advice on how to make the language in your CV more compelling? Take a look at our list of 350+ Action Verbs to Make Your Resume More Effective in 2021.

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What Do I Include in a CV

A strong CV will cover every aspect of your professional career.

In short: a CV should include everything.

Your Curriculum Vitae should be a collection of your entire body of work and professional experience.

This will serve as a one-stop shop for every element and achievement within your career.

What are the Key Sections of a CV?

The core sections of a CV should include:

  • Your Name and Contact Information
  • Academic Background
  • Work Experience
  • Publications and Presentations
  • Research
  • Awards and Honors
  • Grants and Fellowships
  • Professional Affiliations and References

CVs will also typically include a summary of some kind.

This summary will be one to two pages in length and provide a condensed version of the information found in the entire document.

This helps employers to quickly determine which candidates are likely the best fits before taking a more in-depth look at what each individual has to offer.

However, on most CVs, you will also find a selection of additional sections as well.

These extra sections can include:

  • Teaching Experience
  • Memberships
  • Languages
  • International Work Experience
  • Philanthropy
  • Skills
  • Hobbies

Final Takeaways

Understanding when to use a CV and when to use a resume is crucial. You don’t want to use the wrong format and end up squandering your chances of landing your dream job!

Here are 5 key takeaways about how and when to use a CV:

  1. Always use a CV when applying to jobs in the fields of science or academia
  2. Provide a more-in depth explanation of your academic credentials when writing a CV
  3. Include more sections in a CV than you would on a resume
  4. Keep your formatting consistent throughout the CV to keep it as readable as possible
  5. Add extra information, not fluff – you should still focus on keeping your sections concise when writing a CV

For more help creating your ideal resume, don’t forget to take a look at all of our free guides and resume examples.

If you are looking for extra help writing a CV but don’t know where to start, check out our professionally designed CV templates!

Ed Moss is an author for Easy Resume

Ed is a co-founder of Easy Resume. His background in scaling teams at tech startups over the last decade has given him extensive experience and knowledge around how to hire top talent and build successful teams. He enjoys mentoring, coaching, and helping others reach their career goals. When he's not writing about career-related advice, he's playing with his dog, Lilo, or going on long hikes in upstate New York.

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