what’s the difference between a resume and a CV, and which one do you need?

We’ve all probably created a resume at some point in our lives. We know that a resume is a document summarizing our work experiences, skills and history. But what is a CV and when is it appropriate to use one?

difference between resumes and CVs

the difference between a resume and a CV

The short answer is length. CVs are longer and more detailed than resumes. A resume is a brief (1 to 2 page) document that highlights why you’re right for a particular job. A CV is a complete rundown of your career and accomplishments.

writing a CV

CV is an acronym for curriculum vitae, which means ‘course of life’ in Latin. As might be expected from a document that lays out the course of your life, a CV is a lot longer than a resume. A CV can easily extend past the 2 page limit for a resume. If your resume is considered a brief summary of your work experience, your CV is a complete rundown of your career.

It contains detailed information about your achievements, education, publications, awards and any other professional accomplishments. It’s usually written in chronological order. Unlike a resume, your CV isn’t tweaked to fit the job you’re applying for. Since your CV is fairly objective, it only needs to be updated as you gain new experience or qualifications. So, the longer your career, the longer your CV will be.

Elements that may be included on your CV:

  • Brief summary statement
  • Detailed work history
  • Awards, honours and grants received
  • Professional certifications or licenses
  • Scientific or research projects
  • Info about your thesis or dissertation (for Master’s and PhD degrees)
  • Academic presentations, speaking engagements, etc.
  • Published books, papers, etc.
  • Professional associations
  • Letters of recommendation/references

writing a resume

Your resume is a concise document that is sent to recruiters and hiring managers to showcase why you’re the right choice for a particular job. It’s written with the express purpose of convincing the recruiter that you’re the right fit for the job. It should be short, no more than 2 pages, though sticking to a single page is highly recommended. Your resume should be a brief overview of your most recent and/or most relevant professional experience. For the best results, it should be customized for every job that you apply to. No two job descriptions are identical, and you should be tailoring your resume to reflect this.

Need some help perfecting your resume? Check out our tips for perfecting your resume.

do recruiters prefer resumes or CVs?

In North America, resumes are the go-to document for evaluating candidates in most jobs. CVs are usually only required for positions where more detail about your qualifications and work history is needed, such as for academic and research roles, or highly technical jobs.

Quebec is an exception. In Quebec, the terms ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ are used interchangeably, though recruiters are most likely looking for a document more along the lines of a resume.

Outside of North America, CVs are much more common. If you’re applying to international jobs in Europe or the Middle East, you may want to consider having a CV.

should you have both documents prepared?

It depends on what field you work in.

For most professionals, a detailed CV is not necessary. Unless you’re working in academics, research, science, or another technical role, it’s unlikely you’ll be to submit a CV for most jobs. A resume should carry you through your career just fine. That said, it never hurts to have a complete CV for your own reference.

looking for a fresh start in a new job?

search for a job now