Career Advice

What is the Difference Between a CV & Resume

min read
Vera Chan

In a pool of job openings, you may come across a role or two that you like. Next — you apply. How do you prepare?


The most important step is to decipher what document to apply with. Did you know that there is a difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and a resume? Many people make the simple mistake of thinking they are one and the same — but they are not. This even includes people in human resources. So, what exactly IS the difference between a CV and a resume? Is one better than the other?


We answer those niggling questions below and how you can best nail your job applications.

CV and Resume

What is a Curriculum Vitae?

A CV is credential-based. This is a longer piece of document that showcases detailed information about you. This includes your education, work history, and accomplishments. You can tailor your CV to the job description and it can be 2-3 pages long, or longer if necessary.


In the United States and Canada, a curriculum vitae is often used in academic fields. This is where a CV will show research experience, publications, and even grants.


What Does a CV Include?

Basic information includes your name, contact information, skills, plus education and work experience. It can include a personal statement and conferences you have spoken at. For academia, include publications you might have written and awards you have gained. Fellowships and research experience are worth mentioning too. Do not forget your skills and references are always a great add-on.


What is a Resume

A resume is competency-based. This is a shorter document that showcases your skillsets and work experience. It can also include your achievements. This is a personal marketing document at a glance, that is easy to read and skim through.


A resume is often 1-2 pages long and is concise. Organising a resume can involve different formatting to suit your needs. Using bullet points is common.


What Does a Resume Include?

A resume can include your basic information and a brief career summary. A recruiter or hiring manager will want to know where you have been and what you have done at a glance. This is a good way to highlight relevant roles to the job you are applying for. You can also mention accolades here. Showcase your work experience and education, plus skills.


As mentioned earlier, different formatting can serve different purposes. These can include chronological, functional, and combination.


A chronological or reverse chronological format is popular. It makes it easy to absorb information. Dates can start with your most recent or very first job experience. This depends on which one is most relevant to the job role you are targeting.


Functional formatting is useful for those who want to make a career switch or who have gaps in their resume. Candidates can use this format to draw attention to their skillsets and strengths. This shows aspects that you can contribute to the role, even if you have an unrelated work history. Be strategic and organise your resume by themes, such as skills and projects. You can top off your passion for the role by adding a cover letter.


Combination formatting is a mixture of chronological and functional formatting. You can pick and choose which are your stronger areas to highlight and mention on the first page, right at the top. After the resume summary, you can mention your themes first and then your work experience.


When to Use Which?

Use a curriculum vitae to tailor your job application to the role. The freedom on length will allow you to mention the whole course of your work experience in detail. You will be able to mention your educational successes at the same time. This is the place to mention achievements you are proud of and even projects or research you have done. You can use a CV when you are applying for a role in academia.


Use a resume when you are giving a brief overview of your work history. It could be a recruiter or direct hiring manager that is reviewing your document. Take out the guesswork. The many different types of formatting can support your strengths. Not to mention the ease of skim reading with bullet points.


Final Takeaway

With the above, you should be well prepared to apply to new career roles with a curriculum vitae or resume. Before you are well on your way, here are some final words of advice:


  • Proofread and edit — make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Consistency — make sure you align all the indentations and use the same formatting. If you start using bullet points, keep using them throughout.

Curate — tailor your CV or resume to the job role. Include keywords from the job description and show them what they want to see, so they do not need to go sifting.

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