What Is a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and How Is It Different from a Resume?

Have you ever applied for a job, scholarship, or grant that asked you for a curriculum vitae, also known as a CV? Maybe you wondered, what is a curriculum vitae? Is a CV different from a resume? Do I need a CV? Where can I get help with CV creation?

We’re here to clear up the confusion and answer those questions for you. You can also view online resume samples to help you get all the facts straight.

What Is a CV?

A CV is a document that serves as a short biography. When you write your CV, you’ll list all your work experience and education in reverse chronological order. You’ll also include skills and accomplishments.

How Is a CV Different from a Resume?

The truth is, there is very little difference between a resume and a CV. Both documents provide an overview of your background and skills. Both should also be tailored to the position, grant, or scholarship to which you are applying.

The main difference is that the resume is shorter, and the CV is longer. In fact, the word “resume” means “to sum up” – so keep your resume brief. One page is usually sufficient.

“Curriculum vitae,” on the other hand, means “the course of one’s life.” You might think of it as an extended resume. Resumes are usually just one page in length, while CVs are two to three pages.

Decades ago, many CVs were much longer than three pages – some were 15 pages or more! In today’s fast-paced and digital world, however, recruiters do not have time to read such long documents. As CVs have gotten shorter, they’ve come to closely resemble resumes. Short CVs and long resumes are almost indistinguishable.

When Should I Use a CV?

If you live in the United States, you should only supply a CV when expressly asked for one. Typically, CV usage in the U.S. is limited to academic contexts. Usually, employers expect the shorter, more concise format of a resume. If you give them something longer and more detailed, it might end up in the wastebasket.

If you live outside the U.S., are moving and applying for jobs abroad, or if you are applying for a remote work position with a company based outside the U.S., familiarize yourself with the job application standards in the country in question. CVs are typically expected in Europe, Asia, and New Zealand, while resumes are more common in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. In some places, such as Australia, India, and South Africa, the terms “resume” and “CV” are interchangeable.

Consider an example. You’re a remote worker and you’d like to apply for a position with the online journal GreatGameIndia. You notice on their “About” page that they are based in India. Since CVs are commonly expected in that country, you’ll want to supply a CV rather than a resume. Interestingly, functional CVs are preferred over reverse chronological CVs in India – meaning you’ll list experience with the most relevant skills first. And don’t include a photo!

What to Include in Your CV

Just as you temper your CV to suit the position you are applying for, you will also want to tailor it to the country in which it is used. For example:

  • Germany, France, and many Asian countries expect you to include a professional headshot photo, while this is not expected in the United States, Britain, or Australia (unless you are applying as a model or actor). In other European countries, the photo is optional.
  • In the U.S., U.K., and Australia, you should not include your age, race, religion, date of birth, marital status, or similar information due to anti-discrimination laws. In Asia and Europe, you may see this information on CVs, though it is not required. In South Africa, ethnicity and ID number are required.
  • In the U.S., high school/secondary school information is usually omitted when the applicant has a college degree, but this information is included in Europe. In Germany, you should also include your final grade point average (GPA).

In Conclusion

A CV is much like a resume. The main difference is that it is longer and more detailed. Resumes are expected in some countries, while CVs are expected in others. When a CV is needed, tailor it to the position to which you are applying and the CV standards common within that country.  

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