CV vs Resume: What’s The Difference?

Use the right document for the right purpose.


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CV vs Resume: What's The Difference?
Irene McConnell
4 min read

September 16, 2020

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“There’s a difference between a CV and a resume?” I hear you ask. In a word, yes. Job seekers often use the terms “CV” and “resume” interchangeably – particularly in Australia.

However, knowing that there are some clear technical differences between the two can help you pitch yourself to employers with impact and confidence – especially if you’re applying for roles in academia or overseas.

In this article, I will show you the critical differences between resumes and CVs, then help you decide which one will work best in your situation.

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Resumes vs CVs: The Background.

For those of you who have ever wondered (and I know I have), curriculum vitae is a Latin phrase loosely translated to “course of life”.

As the phrase suggests, it provides an all-encompassing view of your life’s work and is traditionally required to apply for academic, as well as research, roles. A CV includes all your experience, publications, certifications – and even any conferences you have attended.

Taken directly from the French word résumé, which means ‘summary’ or ‘abstract’, a resume provides a curated view of your career.

A good resume is short and customised for each job application. It includes only the skills, experience and achievements that are relevant for the targeted role.

Key Differences Between Resumes and CVs.

The main differences between CVs and resumes are:

  • Length a CV can anywhere from 2-8 pages, whilst a resume is typically 1-3 pages.
  • Purpose a CV focuses on your career and achievements and is updated over time as you gain more skills, and experience, providing a complete overview of your career. That is not to say that it is a static document, however, and should still be tailored, to a certain extent, for each role you apply for. The purpose of a resume, meanwhile, is to highlight your skills and abilities within the context of a targeted role. A resume proves that you have experience and capability to do the job.
  • Layouta CV starts with education and academic achievements at the top of the page and includes sections for (what can be) an extensive list of criteria. A resume, on the other hand, gets straight to the point, starting with work experience and moving onto education, awards, etc. Both a CV and a resume should be in reverse chronological order (most recent roles and achievements first).
  • Regional context – here’s where it gets tricky. In Australia, India and South Africa, CV and resume are used interchangeably, but with a preference for the latter. In both cases, it refers to what I’ve defined as a resume. In the US and Canada, resumes are used for nearly all job applications. CVs are only used when applying for academic/research positions or roles overseas. Finally, in the UK, Ireland, Europe and New Zealand, CVs are used for the majority of job applications, however, resemble what I’ve described here as a resume. An ‘academic CV’ is the term that refers to a traditional CV. Still with me?

To illustrate my points, here are some examples of each:


Most recruiters understand the fluid, interchangeable nature of the terms. Using one or the other is unlikely to negatively impact your job application, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of cultural nuance.

What To Include in a CV.

As I pointed out above, a CV offers a broad scope and comprehensive insight into your professional offering. Here’s what you should definitely include ion a traditional CV:

  • Contact information
  • Research objectives
  • Professional profile or personal statement
  • Education
  • Professional, academic or board appointments
  • Published work (books, blogs, peer-reviewed publications, articles)
  • Awards and honours
  • Public speaking events
  • Conferences attended
  • Mentoring experience
  • Languages
  • Vocational memberships
  • References

What To Include on a Resume.

Unlike a CV, a resume is much more to-the-point. Traditionally, it only contains relevant work experience, skills, certifications and education. Here some typical inclusions:

  • Contact information
  • Profile
  • Recent work experience (up to 15 years)
  • Education
  • Achievements
  • Professional associations/volunteer work (optional)

Which One Should I Use?

As a general rule, you will use a resume for the vast majority of job applications. Whether you refer to it as a resume or a CV depends on the country you are applying for the role in.

In the UK, Ireland, Europe and New Zealand, use a resume to apply for roles, but call it a CV. In Australia, India and South Africa, you can use either, but resume is the preferred term, as it is in the US and Canada.

A CV, or academic CV, is typically only used for academic, scientific and research roles, as the recruitment process is far more rigorous and thorough.

I know what you’re thinking. What happens if you apply for a role at a US company in Europe? Or vice versa? In this case, adhere to the cultural norms of the country that the company operates in. If in doubt, you can always ask for clarification.

Should I Even Bother With A CV?

Good question.

Having a CV is not strictly necessary, unless you are applying for an academic role, fellowship or a grant.

On the other hand, having a comprehensive career document that covers your entire life’s work is arguably a very useful thing to have. It only requires the occasional update and gives you a ‘master’ document to use as a baseline to update your resume or tailor it for different roles. 

In Conclusion.

Regardless of whether you use a resume or CV, having a career document that encapsulates your professional value is crucial to getting noticed in a crowded job market.

However, creating a resume (or CV) is only part of the process to land your next exciting career opportunity. Today, simply sending out written applications for roles is simply not enough.

A great career document will help get your foot in the door, but to turn this opportunity into a job offer, you need to clearly articulate the value you offer to future employers

Furthermore, round out your job-seeking strategy by leveraging your professional network, and more importantly, building meaningful connections with recruiters and hiring managers.

In business, these kinds of relationships are worth their weight in gold and can be the difference between being passed over or getting through to the all-important interview round.

– Irene

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