A common belief is that the difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and a résumé (commonly written as resume) is that a CV is used in the UK while a resume is used in the US and occasionally elsewhere globally. That is true but there are differences between the two documents though it is important to stress that not all recruiters would agree – as with most things – that the differences are either fixed or always applicable. Broadly the distinctions are “fixed” but there is a degree of latitude in interpretation.
A resume is typically not more than a page long, and contains a summary of a person’s relevant job experience and education. A CV (Latin “course of life”) is a longer document, usually detailing important but relatively less relevant things – generally more detailed descriptions of education, publications, awards and other academic accomplishments.
Roughly – again, differences abound:
- two pages or a little more
- contents – name, contact information, education, work experience and relevant work-related skills
- a summary of academic background as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards and other details
- one page, perhaps two
- contents – name, contact information, education, work experience and relevant work-related skills; focus is on work experience, listed in reverse chronological order
In Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, employers expect a CV. In the U.S., a CV is used primarily when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions.
When to use a CV vs. a resume:
In the U.S., a CV is used primarily when applying for international, academic, education, scientific or research positions or when applying for fellowships or grants. For most other jobs, a resume is the convention.
A CV describes or lists out all the details about your career. A résumé is a precis of your working life, presenting all the details which are required, usually for a specific job. A CV is comprehensive while a résumé is concise.
The CV emphasises academic details whilst a résumé is focused on non-academic details along with highlighting key skills and competencies, ideally to sell you for the particular job you are looking at.
A CV should really not be customised; it remains static, whereas a résumé is dynamic, and it changes according to the job: it is more job-specific.
The footnote, however, is that in many parts of the world the distinction is little known or used – people tend to refer to a CV or résumé based on where they live as opposed to its specific purpose. So, distinct yet often very similar or crossed-over. A little confusing but not something to be hugely worried about. HR departments will usually accept both types although most people tend to use the local version – not necessarily because it’s “more appropriate” but because it’s what they’re familiar with. It’s not that hard to convert one to another and most recruiters accept that, over the last, say, 15 years – and continuously – recruitment is so global (recruiters’ location and where candidates will go) that differences are perhaps not always crucial.
To complicate things a little further, there are differences beyond the US. A good example is the “Europass” format, used by a lot of recruiters in mainland Europe, never in the UK or elsewhere; and generally hated by those other than writers who specialise in them: they are notoriously difficult to format, very restrictive, and, crucially to some, very difficult to interpret unless they are all you use.