CV vs. Resume - When to Use Each

Ah, I see you have come to this page to learn the difference between a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a Resume and when to use each. Well you're in luck because we have the answers! Although it’s great to have both, you will be able to determine which one to use when applying for jobs after this.

CVs and resumes are documents submitted by job applicants when applying for an open position. So when do you use a CV or resume? CVs are exclusively used when applying to academia or when applying to work abroad, while a resume is used for all other job applications.

What’s the difference? Let’s dissect…

First, a resume is typically no more than 1-2 pages, where a CV can be quite long - 1, 2, 6, or even 12 pages!

The term CV is derived from a Latin word that translates to “course of life”. This translation should help you better distinguish a CV from a resume in that For example, Joe has experience as a line cook, waiter and a math tutor. He is applying for a job as a waiter at a fancy new restaurant. His resume will most likely include his line cook and waiter experience but not include his experience as a math tutor since that skill is not relevant to the job he is currently applying for. Where Joe would include his experience as a line cook, waiter and math tutor to his CV to list out all his work experience and accomplishments. In addition to past work experience, CVs also include an in-depth view of your academic experience, such as GPA, research projects and award/scholarships received.

Another distinction between CVs and resumes is that resumes will have a skills section. A resume’s skills section would normally include language skills, certifications, or technical skills. A CV would not highlight specific skills, instead it would establish an overall sense of competence and expertise in an academic field by listing absolutely every project you have ever taken part in.

Another helpful way to think about the difference between the two would be to think about it from the employers perspective. Imagine you are looking to hire a research assistant in your lab and you had to choose between Candidate A or Candidate B.

Candidate A:

  • USC Anthropological research
  • USC Genome Lab Experiment
  • Boston University Cancer Patient Recovery Data Entry  

Candidate B:

  • Oregon State Online User Experience Data Collection and Data Entry
  • SEO Consulting Intern for BuzzFeed
  • Princeton Computer Science Lab: User Research

As a research assistant, you may choose Candidate A since they have a more diverse background, plus they have lab experience.

In short, a resume should be 1-2 pages in length and be tailored for the job to which you are specifically applying to show your potential employer that you are organized, detail-oriented and experienced. Where as a CV should be used only when applying for academic, research-based jobs or applying to jobs abroad. CVs should be lengthy, displaying your life’s accomplishments, growth over time and vast experience. The more you include on your CV, the better qualified you will appear.

For most, resumes are a good way to go.  If you’re struggling to hear back on resume submissions, check out our flexible plans. Most people are given faulty advice on resume writing as most people don’t understand the systems that companies use these days to track, store, and rank applicants. We offer a Resume Optimization Playbook, a tell-all guide created by a former recruiter, to help any job applicant improve their chances of being selected for an interview by 76%.

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