Resumes vs. CVs: A Comparison

By Ashley Paskill on July 26, 2019

Applying for jobs or internships can be overwhelming and confusing. One of the toughest things to decide is whether you should use a resume or CV. While it may seem like they are interchangeable, they are actually quite different in many ways. Knowing which one to use in your application can ensure that your application stands out and makes it to the next round of the hiring process.  Make sure you give the hiring managers what they are looking for. Do not send a resume if they specifically request a CV and vice versa.

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What to include

One of the major differences between resumes and CVs is what is included and what they need to focus on. While resumes are popular among applying for a variety of jobs, CVs are common among academics (though they are used by others as well). They each contain different pieces of information and have different focuses.

Resumes are used most often. They include information such as education, job history, professional memberships, accomplishments, and sometimes even volunteer experience. Most employers expect resumes to only be one page in length. Resumes tend to only include the most recent information instead of every single position a job candidate has ever had. On resumes, applicants typically start with their most recent positions first and keep going reverse chronologically. They are used to highlight skills you will be able to bring to the company and the specific position without going too much into the position or what you have achieved in your time with the company. Resumes should only contain your most recent academic degree and should not go into too much detail about coursework unless prompted to do so. You can expand on this in your cover letter. In a resume, you should avoid including references. Even saying “References provided upon request” can be a bit much to include since it is assumed that you can provide references.

CVs, short for curriculum vitae, are used most often by those in academia, such as graduate students CVs include academic achievements, awards, experiences, publications, employment history, education, and contact information. Due to the in-depth information that is included, CVs are allowed to be more than one page. Unlike resumes, you only have to update the CV once you have to add an achievement. Because of space, those applying for positions with a CV can list their experience chronologically. Unlike resumes, CVs seek to highlight things you have accomplished in a current or previous position. Since CVs are mostly for academic and specialty careers, it is expected that you go into all of your academic accomplishments. It is expected that you will go in-depth with your work experience and career accomplishments, documenting anything you published, speaking engagements, and other experiences. On CVs, you are free to include a list of references that the employer can contact about your work experience in a position.

What Not To Include

One of the similarities between resumes and CVs is that they both need to be focused on a specific area of focus or position. Therefore, it is important to only include information that is relevant to a specific area of study or positions that relate to the position you are applying for. A CV can be longer, but it should still be relevant. If you have accomplishments in a variety of fields, make separate CVs for each so you can refer to them when you are creating resumes. This will help you stay organized so you can find exactly what you need.

For resumes, it is important that you make sure your resume highlights the aspects of the job description you are applying for that you have done in previous positions. Therefore, it is a common practice to keep your list of responsibilities to three or four bullet points. Since you do not have a lot of space, you may not be able to make the bullet points too long, so make sure you focus on what the most important elements of your previous positions are in terms of the job you are applying for.

Since CVs are longer, they are able to have a longer list of specific responsibilities you had in a position. You do not have to worry about keeping your CV to one page like you do a resume, which gives you more freedom to highlight all you did in a position. This gives you plenty of room to show off your past and all of what you have accomplished.

Location, Location, Location

Many times, a job posting will list resume and CV interchangeably, but they are not necessarily synonymous. This is because different locations, regions, and countries use either one and they mean their differences. It is important to know where the company you are applying to is located because that will determine whether you submit a resume or CV. Even if you are doing remote work, it is important that you submit the proper application documents.

In various parts of the world, whether they apply with a resume or CV depends on where they live. In the United States and Canada, applicants send a resume unless they are applying for a job abroad or a position geared towards academia or research. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand, CVs are used in all contexts and they never use resumes. In Germany, they use a CV (called Lebenslauf) among several other documents they must include in the application.

What Each Is Used For

As mentioned before, CVs and resumes serve different purposes. Knowing what kind of position you are applying for will help you determine whether you need to submit a resume or CV. Even in the same country, different fields or job types require one or the other. In other countries, they choose one or the other.

In the United States, most jobs require a resume. However, some jobs may allow one or the other, depending on the field you are applying for. For Australia, India, and South Africa, CV and resume are used interchangeably. However, resumes are typically used for private sector positions and CVs are used in applying for public service positions.

No matter where you live, it is beneficial to have both. You might decide that you want to apply to a position in another country or you may want to further your education. Having a CV can be like a running list of all of your jobs and accomplishments, which can help make applying for jobs easier. That way, if a job wants one or the other, you can submit the CV. If a job requires a resume, you can use the CV to help you pinpoint the tasks and accomplishments you want to highlight in your resume.

Some companies say to attach a resume/CV. If you are unsure, consider what the position is for and where the company is located. Usually, this will help, but if not, contact the company to see what they prefer.


One of the most tedious parts of maintaining a resume or CV is changing them. Even if you change them every few months, the process of updating them can be overwhelming and time-consuming, making it difficult to carve time out of your packed schedule to do it. However, maintaining a CV requires significantly less work than maintaining a resume does.

Job applicants who use a resume are typically expected to change their resume to fit the requirements they need for the position they are applying for. Since they only have one page, the need to make sure the space they do have allows them to stand out to the employer. This means they need their resume and cover letter to have the keywords necessary to make sure they get seen. The applicant needs to tailor their resume to fit each employer and make sure their skills are highlighted, so they need to change their resume for each application. Resumes need to line up with the skills needed for a specific position, so it is important to change them.

However, for a CV, the list of employment and previous positions can be longer and the list of duties can be more detailed since there is more room to play with. Therefore, they do not need to change their CV that often. The only time the CV gets updated is if the person has an accomplishment or position to add. Otherwise, it can stay the same without needing to change it each time the person applies for a new position or job. If you are doing an overall CV, you do not have to change it too much. However, if you opt for a skills-based CV, you will need to change your CV to ensure that certain skills are highlighted within the document.

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Do Not Be Tense About Tenses

One similarity between resumes and CVs are the rules of tenses that are used. In general, current positions and work experience should be written in the present tense and past employment should be in the past tense. Previous accomplishments and projects that you include in your CV should also be in the past tense. If you want to end your verbs in “ing” instead of “ed,” you can say something like “Main duties performed.”

Format that!

One of the most common questions about both a resume and a CV is how to format them. However, they are actually quite similar. The only difference is that a resume may have multiple columns to help you get the most information possible onto the page. CVs have no length maximum, so they can span multiple pages.

For both resumes and CVs, the documents are initially scanned. Therefore, it is easier for the reader if you list items in bullet points. That way, they can easily look for things they want to read and get a quick overview of who you are. Keep each bullet point to no more than one sentence. Reading big blocks of text can overwhelm an employer who is sifting through several applications, so using bullet points can make their job easier. If you do need to use paragraphs, make them short and use short sentences. Making your CV or resume readable will help you stand out and will make the employer’s job easier.

Length matters

A major difference, as mentioned briefly above, is the length differences between resumes and CVs. In short, resumes are typically expected to not exceed one page, though two pages may be a rare exception. CVs are expected to be longer so that the applicant can show all of their experience.

Depending on experience, a CV can expand two or more pages. They are meant to document all of your accomplishments, positions, skills, and more that you have done. Some entry-level positions may even require a three-page or more CV. CVs are a look into what you have accomplished within your career and academics, so they are expected to be longer. In most cases, the longer the CV is, the better.

On the contrary, resumes are typically expected to not exceed one page. They are meant to be an overview of your skills, not a deep-dive into your career like a CV is. While some companies may be okay with a two-page resume, it is best to pair it down to one page. CVs may be a look at multiple facets of a position and your overall career, a resume is mostly focused on your skills and should be tailored for a specific position that you are applying for.

There are distinct differences between resumes and CVs. Which one you use depends on your career field, location, and other factors. If you are unsure of which one to use, look at the application requirements or contact the human resources department at the company you are applying for. In the end, having both on hand may help you be prepared for whatever comes up so that you are able to apply for any position you wish.

By Ashley Paskill

Uloop Writer

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