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There has always been and likely always will be some confusion around CVs and Resumes. Occasionally I’m asked, “They’re the same thing right? In the US and Canada we call it a resume and in Europe they call it a CV and, at the end of the day, it’s all the same.” Well, the answer is no….they are actually quite different and you should know what circumstances dictate the use of either. So how do you know which one to use and what makes them different?

Let’s begin with the basics:

Definition of a CV.

We will start by explaining the CV, or Curriculum Vitae, (which translates to ‘course of life’ in Latin). This type of document really showcases on in-depth level on achievements and accomplishments, primarily within academia. CVs work very well for persons pursing positions in academics and/or research, because it focuses on projects and teaching. CVs do need updating frequently, as it’s more of a living document. Overall, a CV is lengthier than a resume – they can vary from two pages, for someone starting out in graduate school, to more than 10 pages for someone who has many years of experience and a long list of publications or projects. Typically, the information is laid out in reverse chronological format.

What information is housed in a CV?

Your CV will include education, grants, publications, research projects, professional memberships, employment experience, contact information, and your references.

Definition of a Resume.

A resume is a concise document used to showcase your work experience and work-related accomplishments. A resume will highlight your skills and experiences as it relates to the position for which you’re applying. Keywords are huge in a resume and will help to make it past the recruiter’s screening process. Resumes are typically one to two pages in length – anything more will be too much with this type of document. Typically, resumes are accompanied by a cover letter, as the cover letter will be a quick read that ‘sells’ the candidate and gives some highlights as to why they are the best candidate for the position and why the hiring manager should look no further. A resume’s formats can vary. There are functional formats – which will highlight your skills and experience; chronological formats – which will list your skills and main achievements (sorted by date starting with the most recent); or an endless blend of the two primary formats – whereby the focus is spread across both functional and chronological order to present a different focus for a targeted audience.

What information is included in a resume?
Name and contact information, work experience, achievements and education.

Now, with a more clear understanding of what CVs and Resumes dos and don’ts, we should define which format works best. Whether you’re applying for jobs, internships, graduate school, or various other exciting opportunities, the first step is to understand what the organization asks for. While resumes are perfect for 90% of job seekers out there, most collegiate institutions will require a CV. Make sure you are giving them what they ask for – that’s half the battle.

Who uses what?

If you’re a graduate student applying for admissions, a fellowship, research positions, grant-based or international…you’ll likely be using a CV. If you’re applying for a US-based position or simply getting yourself ‘out there’ via networking…it should be a resume in your hand.

I hope this helped to shed some light on the differences and, when in doubt, you can ask for the assistance of a professional resume writer and they will help you to determine which will work best.