A Resume and a CV are NOT the Same Thing

Resume vs CV with Career Incite

The terms resume and CV (curriculum vitae) are often used interchangeably but, they are actually not synonymous. Apples and oranges are both fruits and comparable in shape, but we all know they are not the same thing. One might argue that a MacIntosh apple and a Granny Smith apple, although both apples are very different. In fact, that is perhaps a better analogy for the comparison of a resume and a CV. Suffice it to say, a resume and a CV are not the same thing either.

Job postings will sometimes say to apply for the job by sending a CV, but most employers really want a resume. How do you know which to use?

What’s the Purpose of a Resume vs a CV?

The purpose of a resume and a CV are essentially the same. They provide an overview of your suitability as a potential employee. You want both a resume and a CV to catch the interest of recruiters and employers so they will want to invite you to an interview. Although a resume is only one or two pages highlighting your professional strengths, a CV is much longer and goes into much more detail. The details should include items such as any major presentations and lectures that were given, research conducted, and papers published. If in doubt as to whether to apply using a resume or a CV, remember that whoever is initially reviewing applications will generally only spend a few seconds on a first “read”. Therefore, resumes are more often preferred.

Which One is Preferred?

Although a resume is what is most commonly used in a job search, a CV may be needed for certain positions. These may be in the academic, research, scientific, or medical fields – but often not in the initial application stage. If you find yourself wanting to apply to a position in one of those fields, and you think there is a possibility they may want a CV right off the bat, try your best to find out for sure. Call the company and ask who might know if a resume or CV is preferred.

If you can not reach anyone who knows, perhaps one of your Linkedin contacts can connect you with someone at the company who may be able to offer that advice or find out on your behalf. If you absolutely can not verify if they truly want a CV as a first step in the process, send both your resume and your CV and indicate in your cover letter that both are attached. That way, they have a choice of which to read and are not annoyed that the only document provided is much longer than the one or two pages they have time to glance at.

What Should be Included in my CV?

The focus of a CV is usually on professional involvement and accomplishments following post-secondary education. Noteworthy accomplishments and relevant coursework while in post-secondary education are also often included. Also, think about grants received, a thesis or dissertation description, and laboratory experience. There is no limit to the length of a CV. So take note that formatting and organization of your information, with clear headings and subheadings, is key. You can also find examples on the Internet of the proper formatting for citing published papers, articles and research.

So What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

There are a number of identical elements in a resume and a CV. For example your name and contact information at the top, employment and/or volunteer experience, technical skills, and education. However, there may be additional sections in a CV. These could include professional memberships and certifications, research (completed or in-progress), published works, teaching/lectures, and major presentations. The CV is more comprehensive. It is strongly advised that you tailor a CV for each and every opportunity you will be applying for.

In a job search, you will definitely need a resume. But it would not hurt to create both a resume and a CV. Keep them both handy to customize whichever you need as you apply to specific opportunities. Even if you never use your CV, creating it will remind you of all you have achieved thus far. This can assist to build your confidence and help prepare you for interviews.

How to Stand Out

Although a resume and a CV will follow one of three basic formats, there are ways in both cases to make yourself stand out from the competition and catch the reader’s interest. For example, research the company to which you are applying. Try to use some of their keywords in your resume and CV to highlight your knowledge of their field and match your qualifications to the employer’s needs.

Also, start each experience point with a past-tense verb (action word). Avoid starting with “Duties included…” Focus on what you accomplished, the purpose of the task, and/or the transferable skills you developed or demonstrated. Remember, it is all about what you can bring to the employer in the new role. Your past experience and accolades are simply evidence of those skills and your ability to apply them.

It’s Not About Your Life Story

The primary goal of a resume document is not to relay your life history – but simply to get you an interview. Once you get an interview, it is up to you. While a CV will include much more detail and information, it should still not include your whole life story. Just the professional and academic portions of your life. Interestingly, while a resume and a CV are not the same thing, one will help you write the other.

A resume is a short synopsis of your qualifications. It can be the starting point from which to expand into a CV. If you begin with your CV and edit it down to one or two pages of essential skills and employment highlights, you will likely have a solid resume. However you choose to write your job search documents, the basics apply in all cases. Spelling and grammar matters! Consistency and formatting are important. And it is never a bad thing to seek help (ask friends to proofread, hire a Career Coach, utilize your school’s Career Centre, etc.).


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