The Differences Between a Curriculum Vitae vs. Resume

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Related: How to Write a CV for a Job Application: Step by Step Guide

Jenn shares the key differences between a CV and a resume and provides an in-depth guide to formatting and structuring a CV.

When applying for a job, there are several formal documents you need to prepare to send for your application. Two of these documents include a curriculum vitae and a resume. Understanding the differences and when to use each document can help you prepare for your job applications and send the appropriate information to potential employers. In this article, we discuss the primary differences between a curriculum vitae vs. resume, identify the definitions and content of each, and explore several tips when writing either document.

What is the difference between a curriculum vitae vs. resume?

When writing a curriculum vitae vs. a resume, it's essential to understand the significant difference between the two documents. You can use either document when applying for a position. The differences between them, however, include the length of each, your experience and type of career you are applying for, and the geographic location of the job:

Length of document

One of the primary differences between a curriculum vitae also referred to as a CV, and a resume is the length of each document. A resume is a short and concise history of your work experience and skills contained within a maximum of two pages. Many recruiters and hiring managers prefer a resume that is condensed onto one page when possible. A curriculum vitae, in contrast, can be pages long and has no page limit. Depending on the amount of experience and documentation you need to provide to a prospective employer, a CV can be 10 pages or longer.

Related: Q&A: When Can I Write a 2-Page Resume? (With Tips)

Experience and career type

When you are applying for a position in academia, such as an associate professor, researcher, or fellowship, you will use a curriculum vitae for your application. If you have a master's degree or doctorate, you use a CV to apply for grants, programs, research, or teaching positions. A CV provides detailed information and length to support publications, papers, and other critical data related to your career experience for these types of career positions.

In contrast, you would use a resume when applying for positions within non-academic positions, such as in public or private sectors of business. You may refer to these careers as "industry positions" as opposed to academia or research. You can often condense industry experience into one or two pages for an employer to understand your skill set and expertise.

Related: How To Write an Academic CV That Helps You Stand Out

Geographic location

Depending on where in the world you are sending your job application, the terms resume, and CV can change. For example, in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and parts of Europe, the job market uses CV to describe CV and resume-style documents. These areas don't use the term "resume" at all. In other areas, such as South Africa, India, and Australia, resume and CV are interchangeable. In Canada and the United States, a curriculum vitae and a resume to two separate documents used for different purposes.

What is a curriculum vitae?

A curriculum vitae, also known by the shortened term CV, is a Latin word meaning "course of life." A CV is a highly detailed professional document outlining the academic background, work experience, and career achievements. You can use a curriculum vitae to highlight your professional accomplishments, such as published papers, coursework, or research grant acquisition. When writing a CV, you list your professional background in chronological order, starting with your education. It is typical and expected for a CV to be several pages in length.

Read more: How To Write a Curriculum Vitae (CV) Template

What do you include on a CV?

A curriculum vitae contains many similar sections to that of a resume. For example, you begin your CV with your name and detailed contact information. You also include your educational history and work experience. There are also several sections to a curriculum vitae that rarely appear on a resume. For example, you include grants, scholarships, and published works to give a complete account of your academic and practical skills and expertise. The sections you can highlight on your CV include:

  • academic history

  • professional experience

  • qualifications and skills

  • coursework or fieldwork

  • research and academic projects

  • awards and honours

  • publications and presentations

  • professional associations

  • grants and scholarships

  • licenses and certifications

  • professional references and referral letters

Related: Guide to Writing a Professional CV (With Steps)

What is a resume?

A resume summarizes your professional work experience, skills, and educational history in a one or two-page document. Today's term resume comes from the French word résumé, meaning "abstract" or "summary." You can use a resume to highlight your career achievements and practical hands-on experience while providing details about your knowledge and competencies. When applying for a position, a cover letter usually accompanies a resume to expand on specific core skills that the employer has identified.

Read more: How to Write a Resume

What do you include on a resume?

When writing a resume, you begin with your full name and detailed contact information. Then, you often include a resume summary or objective statement. A resume summary details what skills and expertise you can offer a new employer. Interns and newly graduated students typically use an objective statement to explain what they are seeking. The remaining resume comprises your work history, academic background, and specific skills related to the job application.

When to use a curriculum vitae vs. a resume

When applying for a position, you may ask yourself which document to provide with your application. Here are several questions you can ask yourself to determine whether to use a curriculum vitae or a resume:

What type of job am I applying for?

The type of job you are applying for can impact the document you use during your application. Review the job posting to see if the organization has indicated which form they prefer. Often companies will include instructions in the job posting for candidates to be considered. If the employer hasn't specified and the position is academic, they likely expect you to submit a CV. For example, suppose you are applying for an associate professor, research instructor, or other academic position in a post-secondary institution. In that case, the hiring committee expects a CV from the interested applicants.

In contrast, if you are applying for an "industry" position where you need hands-on experience and competencies, a resume is the document you use. A resume is a perfect way to summarize your work history and essential skills on a single page. You use a resume to get your profile noticed by the hiring manager to secure an interview with the company.

Where is the job located?

Another question you can ask yourself when deciding whether to submit a CV or a resume is to inquire where the job is located. As you now know, the term curriculum vitae and resume can be transferrable or mean two different things. Understanding the location of the job and hiring office can help you determine what the recruiter or hiring manager is asking for regarding the application.

For example, if the company's head office is in New Zealand and the position is for an international sales manager, you want to send a resume. We know this because New Zealand uses the word CV in place of a resume and a sales manager position is an industry-type role. If you doubt what documentation to send, you can always reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager to ask for clarification.

Tips for writing a curriculum vitae or a resume

Below are several tips to help you when writing a curriculum vitae or a resume:

Customize your application

Regardless of which document you are using to apply for a position, it's essential that you tailor each application to the job. The best way to customize your CV or resume is to review the job description and select keywords and phrases to reiterate in your document. Look for critical skills or knowledge that the employer is seeking and highlight those strengths in your application. While it is common to use a template to write your resume or CV, be sure to customize it for each job application.

Make your application ATS-friendly

Many organizations use an ATS, or applicant tracking system, to digitally review resumes and CVs submitted for a job posting. An applicant tracking system is a digital software program that screens applications for specific keywords and phrases, usually related to the skills or qualifications of the position. Those CVs or resumes not containing these keywords don't make it past the software program, and a hiring manager may never see the application. This is a fundamental reason to customize each application according to the job description and organization.

Use simple formatting

Your resume or CV is not the place for creative formatting, fonts, and colours. It's best to stay with a concise and straightforward design when writing your professional documents. Using simple fonts, such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri in size 10, 11, or 12, is easy to read and looks professional. Stay with a simple black font to keep the look consistent. In addition, you can use bold or underline to signify section headers.

Explore more articles