Resume or CV: What Should I Be Using?

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on February 8, 2016

We are all unique. We’ve had various life experiences, different education levels, and have made separate life choices, which have brought us to where we are today. The primary life component that we all have in common, though, is that, at some point in our lives, we will have to get out into the business world and apply for a job. And, regardless of what position you are applying for, most jobs require a summary of your previous job history and your qualifying education. This offers employers a window into your life, telling a story of your accomplishments thus far, therefore helping the hiring manager determine which candidate would fit best with the team.

For many of us, a resume is that summary. Your very first opportunity to prove to the organization that you are the best fit for the position; your moment to shine. But times have changed and job seekers are finding themselves working harder to prove their abilities. Many companies are now including online tests as part of the hiring process and utilizing keyword searches in resumes and cover letters in an attempt to narrow down the candidate pool. As part of these changes, some companies now ask for a CV in lieu of a resume.

But what exactly is a CV? How is it different than a resume? And how do you determine which you should be utilizing?

What Are the Differences Between a Resume and a CV?

During the hiring process, most recruiters have tens, if not hundreds, of candidates to sift through. The resume is a quick and easy way to weed out the individuals unfit for the job, offering more time to focus on those more qualified. The information is offered in a concise, easily read format; typically in bullet point form to allow for easy scanning. It is limited to one page and includes a summary statement, work history, education, and special skills. And this is where the resume ends and the CV, or curriculum vitae, begins.

Curriculum vitae is Latin for “course of life.” For your CV, the above content is just an introduction. The CV should tell a detailed, iStock_000084015603_Large.jpgchronological story of your professional and educational journey, offering insight into how your efforts have made you who you are today. If well written, your summary statement will pique the hiring manager’s interest, making them want to learn more about you. The next pages should be spent highlighting your many accomplishments. Academic background should be a focal point of your CV, but you will also want to go into detail for the following: research and teaching experience, publications, presentations, grants and fellowships, professional associations and licenses, awards, letters of recommendation, and other information relevant to the position you are applying for.

When writing your CV, it is important to remember that, unlike a resume, less is not more. Depending upon your area of expertise and background, a curriculum vitae ranges anywhere from three to ten pages in length, although some have been known to extend as long as twenty pages or more. Your CV should make a lasting impression, proving to the hiring manager that you are the most solid candidate; one who would be a valued leader in the position you are applying for.

Before applying for the position, take care to read the instructions provided in the job posting. Pay close attention to what attributes the ideal candidate must possess, as this will determine the order in which you lay out your CV or, in the case of a resume, which experiences should be included.

How to Determine Which is Appropriate

Unless otherwise stated, a resume is still the preferred method of applying for most positions in the U.S. and Canada. If you are applying for an international position, a fellowship or grant, or are in the academic, law, scientific, or research profession, a curriculum vitae will likely be required.

For our readers outside the United States, the rules vary from country to country. In the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, a CV is used by all hiring professionals. A European Union CV format is even available for download for those in mainland Europe.

True to its Latin origins, the CV is most commonly known as a Lebenslauf in Germany and is among the laundry list of items job seekers must submit to be considered for an interview.

Living in Australia, India and South Africa? Both the resume and CV are used, with resumes most commonly used in the private sector and CVs more widely utilized when applying for positions in the public service sector.

As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, we may start to see the CV gain more traction in the U.S., so it’s a good idea to maintain a running list of accomplishments, speaking engagements, and published works you have accumulated over the course of your career. This will make it much easier if you ever do find yourself in a position where you need to create one. Maintaining an up-to-date resume at all times will also help in generating a curriculum vitae should the need ever arise. And, remember, its a reflection of how well a match you are to the position, so make sure you have lots of examples, but make sure they pertain to the desired job. Make a CV a regular part of your resume and portfolio and set yourself apart form the crowd.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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