Resume Tips

CV vs. Resume: 6 Key Differences

resume vs cv

If you are looking for a job, sooner or later you’ll notice this request –”please, forward us your CV.”

A CV? Cool video? Chief vocation? Cat Vest? (ok, nobody probably thought of the latter except me).

But seriously, what is a CV? And How is it different from a good ol’ resume you already know how to style and format

Here’s your quick CV vs resume comparison.

CV Definition

A CV is an abbreviation of “curriculum vitae,” a Latin word that means “course of life.” And in a way, it is kinda like that – you’re going to tell recruiters and employers all about the path your career has taken so far.

In particular, your CV should include:

  • Your complete educational background
  • A complete history of the positions you have held, starting with the very first one. And describe everything in detail.
  • Any publications, articles you’ve had; awards, accolades; etc.

Resume Definition

A resume is a one-page (rarely two-page) summary of your career history and education. It’s a snapshot of your skills and expertise, rather than a narrative book (like a CV).

The standard resume format assumes that your doc has the next section:

  • A header featuring your full name, contact details, and a short resume objective or professional summary.
  • The Work Experience section, featuring the latest, most relevant positions you’ve held with some “snackable” career insights.
  • Education, hobbies, skills – all mentioned briefly.

Your goal in a resume is to motivate a recruiter/employer to call you for an interview. That’s when you get to fill in the details.

job search bundle

In looking at these two definitions, think of a resume as a movie trailer and a CV as the full-length film.

CV vs Resume Length

  • There is no “best” length for a CV. Some are 2-3 pages if the job seeker does not have a long school and work history. Some can actually go many more pages because the person has a much longer history.
  • Resumes should not be longer than 2 pages. Employers spend about 8 seconds scanning through them. The longer you make it, the less interested they are in staying with your document.

CV vs Resume – Do You Have to Rework Them?

You may not have to change a CV as much as you will a resume. And here’s why:

  • You have provided a lot of detail about your education, degrees, research, publications, and every job you’ve ever had. There is less wiggle room to alter those details – you haven’t left out anything.
  • You will have to add items as you go along – a job, a piece of research that was published, a grant you got, etc.

A resume should be re-worked often. In fact, you will most likely revise it at least a little for each job posting your answer. Why? Because resumes offer a briefer version of your career history. Thus, you’ll want to pack them up with keywords that are specific to each job posting. Doing so will help you stand out more as an applicant.

CV vs. Resume – Where’s the Beef?

If you are writing a CV, you are writing a narrative. And that narrative is in paragraph form. So, dig in and just do it. Your CV has to be formal, and it has to be really well-written. Many people who will be reading it are academics, and they insist on those CV’s being near perfect.

That said, the “beef” of a CV is more on academic background, research, and publications, etc. than on the tasks of each job you held. When you talk about those jobs, talk about how they boosted your skills or experience.

Now, that resume. You’ve seen enough examples to know the format. You list each job and then put in phrases (in bullet points) that talk about your job tasks, yes. But you must also include what you achieved for the company – that’s the real “beef” you need.

CV vs. Resume – References

This may seem like a bit of a minor detail, but it’s important for the right format.

  • A CV always includes references and their contact information. Some candidates even include “testimonials” from a few references.
  • Do not put references in your resume. First, they take up precious space that you need for other things. Second, no employer is going to call those references until after an interview. If that employer is considering you seriously, then he’ll ask for them. All you need to do is have a reference letter ready.

When Do You Use a CV Rather than a Resume?

If you are applying for any job in the academic world, for some non-profit organizations, for a research grant, you will want a file CV. 

The other interesting thing is that a lot of private companies overseas will want a CV rather than a simpler resume. CVs are the go-to in European Countries (excluding Germany that uses a resume) and the UK.

Use a resume for most all other jobs. But here’s the thing: have you ever read a job posting that did not tell you how to apply? You’ll be told to submit your resume or your CV and then how to do that.


Most employers will usually tell you which document they prefer – a resume or a CV. If they don’t, then take some initiative and ask directly. In any case, you now understand the main difference between these two documents!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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