CV vs. Resume: Differences and When to Use Them?

What is the difference between a CV and a resume? Learn more about the two documents and discover when to use a CV vs. a resume.
1/24/2020 5 min reading time Karin Lykke Nielsen @KarinLykke
CV vs. Resume: Differences and When to Use Them?

Have you ever wondered why some job candidates talk about their CV while others talk about their resume? Both types of documents are used in job search situations, and cover many of the same aspects, but they’re not (always) interchangeable. 

In just 5 minutes you’ll know everything you’ve ever wanted to know about questions such as:  

  • What is a CV vs. a resume? 
  • What are the differences between a CV and a resume? 
  • When to use a CV vs. resume

What is a CV vs. a resume? 

This is the million dollar question (okay, maybe not quite but definitely still a great question). Let’s start with what a CV is. 

CV is short for curriculum vitae which is Latin for Course of Life. A CV is a very detailed document that describes your education, career, and achievements - both professionally and academically. A CV will usually be 2-3 pages long but can be more than 10 pages too if you have a long career and education behind you. There’s no real limit regarding length. 

What to include in your CV

Below is a list of sections to include in your CV.

  • Contact Information
  • Research objective, professional profile, or personal statement
  • Education
  • Professional academic appointments
  • Books
  • Book chapters
  • Peer-reviewed publications
  • Other publications
  • Awards and honors
  • Grants and fellowships
  • Conferences
  • Teaching experience
  • Research experience / lab experience / graduate fieldwork
  • Non-academic activities
  • Languages and skills
  • Memberships
  • References

A resume, on the other hand, should never be more than 2 pages long. In fact, the optimal length for a resume is one page. A resume is a concise document with the sole purpose of providing a potential employer with a brief review of a candidate’s work history. 

What to include in a resume

Below is a list of sections to include in a resume.

  • Contact information
  • Resume profile
  • Employment history
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Additional sections (could be awards, courses, publications, certificates, conferences)

To see what it looks like, check out the resume example below. 

reverse chronological resume example

What are the differences between a CV and a resume? 

Even though both types of documents are used in job search situations there are several differences between them. 

First and foremost the differences consist of length, content, and purpose. 

Below we have gathered a list of the differences between a CV and a resume to give you a quick overview: 


  • Usually 2-3 pages long but really has no limitation regarding length 
  • Credential based: focus is on academic work and achievements
  • Used to apply for academic positions 
  • Includes all of the candidate’s details 


  • Usually one page long but can in some cases go up to two pages
  • Competency based: focus is on your work history and skills
  • Used to apply for jobs 
  • Is tailored to the specific job ad and position

When to use CV vs. resume? 

Now here’s the real question. When should I use a CV and when should I use a resume? Basically, this will depend on where in the world you are. In the US and Canada, a CV is used only for academic purposes: academic jobs, grants, research fellowships, etc. And a resume is used for all other job purposes.

But, in the rest of the world, a company will by default most often ask you to hand in your CV. That’s because the term CV is used as an equivalent to the American resume - a short targeted document that you use to apply for jobs. 

This holds true for most European, African, and Asian countries where they utilize a CV the same way that you use resume in North America. In these countries a CV is structured and formatted much the same way a resume is in the US and Canada. Meaning it’s competency based and not credential based. 

CV. vs. resume key takeaways

I hope this article has helped you clear up what’s up and down when it comes to CV vs. resume. Here is all you need to know about the differences between a CV and a resume. 

  • In the US a CV is used for academic purposes - include lots of detail
  • In the US a resume is used to apply for a job - keep it concise and tailor it
  • In most European, African, and Asian countries a CV is the same as a US resume

Are you ready to create your own resume or CV? 

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