What are the Differences Between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?

A resume and curriculum vitae may seem similar on the surface, but the differences are significant.  I have many clients who use the terms interchangeably, believing they are the same. Both a resume and curriculum vitae (which will be referred to as CV for the remainder of this post) can be used during the job application process. While a resume is more commonly used in the United States, a CV is accepted worldwide when applying for a job. However, a CV is used in the United States if you are applying for an academic position. So what are the differences between a resume and a CV?


Resumes are one to two pages in length and up to three pages at an executive level. They highlight key skills you have developed, your achievements, your education, and past employment information.  Resumes should be tailored to fit the position you are applying for.  Resumes are submitted with a cover letter that states a desire for the position and highlights key points in your resume related to demands of the job.

Resumes can be formatted following three main styles. A chronological resume lists skills, achievements, education, and experience in chronological order starting with the most recent and working backwards. A functional resume focuses on your skills and employment history. In this resume type, you are pulling the skills, achievements, and employment knowledge to show transferability of skills for the new job. Many people use this approach when there are gaps in employment, as it does not focus on including dates. A combination style format uses the chronological resume but also highlights your skills and employment history as the main points for your potential employer to review.  Employers and recruiters generally prefer chronological and combination style resumes over functional resumes, since they show a more complete work history.

Curriculum Vitae (CVs)

CVs are typically much longer than resumes and provide a very detailed representation of you. A CV is more than a brief professional overview. A CV provides an opportunity to know the applicant personally as well as professionally. CVs include your skills, qualifications, educational background and employment history, which is similar to a resume.  They also include additional information such as   scholarships or grants you have obtained, trainings you have attended, research experience, publications, presentations, dissertations, and your interests. By submitting a CV, you are letting your potential employer know all about your successes. Similar to a resume, a cover letter should be included with your CV to express an interest in the position you are applying for and to highlight aspects of your CV that fit with the demands of the job.

Like resumes, there are three different formats for writing a CV. A functional format focuses on your skills more than employment history or education. This is a great format for people who may not have the strongest background in those areas but have very diverse skills. A performance format highlights your achievements, education and employment history. Finally, an alternative format showcases your skills, education, and work experience with visually appealing design features.  This format is used by applicants who need to demonstrate creativity in the job application.  Examples of this would include people applying for marketing or graphic design jobs. For these jobs, catching someone’s eye is absolutely critical so using your CV to distance yourself from other applicants is a wonderful first impression for potential employers.

Both resumes and CVs are used by job seekers but they are used in different situations.  In the US, most employers ask for a resume. The resume is very brief and to the point, highlights your skills, and shows why you should be considered for the job. The CV is generally preferred, however, when applying for a job within academia. With the CV, you are giving potential employers a more detailed and in-depth look at you as an individual. Potential employers will see your skills and qualifications overall and not ones that just pertain to a certain position. They will also see all of the accomplishments you choose to include no matter how significant or not they may be. The main thing to take away is to know your audience when applying for a job. What is important to them? What are they looking for? If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is to call the company and ask them what they would prefer. That way, you won’t get tossed aside over something within your control.

Below is a short summary of what should be included on each document.


  • Summary (optional)
  • Skills pertaining to the job opening
  • Accomplishments
  • Employment history
  • Education

 Curriculum Vitae:

  • Summary/small biography. Include personal touches
  • Interests
  • Skills and qualifications
  • Education
  • Employment history
  • Scholarships/grants
  • Trainings attended
  • Research experience, publications, presentations, dissertations
  • Honors
Photo credit: flazingo_photos via Visual hunt /  CC BY-SA

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