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What’s the Difference Between a Resume and a CV?

Resumes and CVs on a table

In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever to impress employers from the first interaction. This means sending them the correct document to show your work experience: either a resume or a curriculum vitae (CV).

Which should you choose? It depends on the job. Let’s take a look at the differences between a resume and a CV, and when to use each for your job applications.

What’s a Resume?

A resume summarizes your relevant experience and skills for the job you want. It’s sort of like a Facebook page, but for work. When someone looks at it, even if they’ve never met you, they can get a quick idea of who you are and what you do.

Resumes typically include things like work history, education, relevant skills, awards, and activities. Most resumes are one page and provide a short, compelling overview of why your experience is ideal for the job. You should tailor your resume for each job application to show how your experience is a good fit.

When to Use a Resume

A resume is the default choice for most job applications. Unless you’re applying in a field that specifically requires a CV (more on those below), use a resume.

What’s a CV?

While a resume presents a summary of your experience, a CV provides the full story.

CVs focus on your academic experience, but also include work and other activities. On a CV, you’ll list prior publications, scholarships, grants, projects, teaching experience, awards, and research, as well as the degrees you hold.

Like most resumes, a CV presents your experience in reverse chronological order. However, unlike most resumes, these documents tend to be several pages.

On a resume, you generally change what is included to suit each job application. With such limited space, you have to pick and choose the most relevant information carefully. A CV, though, will stay more or less the same for each application because it includes all of your potentially relevant information. It might still require some tailoring, but it probably won’t need as much as a resume.

When to Use a CV

Usually, you’ll only need a CV if you’re applying for a graduate degree or a job in academia. For example, if you’re applying for a Master’s degree or a college teaching position, you’ll most likely need a CV. However, some graduate programs do accept resumes.

If an institution doesn’t clearly state which document to submit, be sure to ask.

Should You Have Both?

For most job seekers, a resume is enough. The only people who need both documents are those who are looking for work in both academic and non-academic fields, which is rare.

Unless you continue your academic career immediately after graduation, you’ll start your career path with a resume. You may not consider a CV until later when you start thinking about applying to grad school or for a teaching position. However, if you think you might eventually want to work in academia or get a postgraduate degree, it’s good to start thinking about your CV early.

Even if you don’t make a complete CV right away, start a running list of your academic experience and achievements. Over the years, it’s easy to forget everything you did in school, but if you have an updated list going, you can easily reference it if you ever need a CV.

Although they’re very different documents, both CVs and resumes serve the same purpose—getting you in the door for an interview.

Check out this guide next to get ready for an interview!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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