Job Seekers: Know When to Use a CV vs. the Resume

National Experts in Resume Writing & Career Coaching

Job Seekers: Know When to Use a CV vs. the Resume

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For most job seekers in the U.S., the resume is the more common document used. However, there are professions where a curriculum vitae (CV) is the standard form. Both documents serve to help the job seeker relay information about their professional and educational background as well as skills to prove their capabilities and qualifications for a job, but the styles of the two forms are drastically different from one another.

How is a CV and Resume Different?
While the resume can vary in page length, generally the advice is to keep it within 1-3 pages. A CV however can run much longer because it includes a high level of detail especially related to matters of the applicant’s academic background and scientific/medical work, which is not typically seen on the resume. Information on the resume can also be organized in different styles depending on the format, ranging from chronological, functional, or hybrid (combination). Information on a CV on the other hand tends to be organized in chronological order covering the applicant’s education and entire career history. A CV may also include research, awards, publications, and other academic achievements. In some instances, employers may ask for a one-page CV, which would be a summary of information you’d have on a traditional CV but compiled in a more condensed form.

When to Use a CV vs. the Resume?
For job seekers in the U.S. who are in the medical, scientific, and academic fields, a CV would be the standard form. If you’re applying for a job internationally, overseas-based companies may also request for a CV (also known as an international resume). Many other countries, especially in Europe use a CV as the standard form vs. the resume. Essentially, a CV will include sections you’d see on the resume like contact information at the top and then have sections categorized by subject, including experience, skills, education, research experience, published work, grants and fellowships, and other academic/scientific/medical work that is relevant to support your qualifications for the job applied to.

General Tips to Writing a CV
Like writing the resume, it’s essential to tailor your information. Show and detail information of relevance and importance to the employer for the job. Prioritize how information is presented. If you are applying for a job doing scientific research, start with information on where/what you studied, followed by scientific research conducted at the academic institution and through work experience. Other ways in which your CV can have greater appeal is to hone in on the keywords that matter. If the employer is looking someone with breast cancer research background, you want to focus the message on your work related to breast cancer, not osteoarthritis or other work topics. Like the resume, it is necessary to rewrite the CV for each job you apply to so that it’s customized to the employer’s needs and interest.

General Tips to Formatting a CV
Keep information presented in a logical order that’s easy to digest. Even with a CV that may run several pages long, it’s necessary to make information easy to find and take in. Use bullet points and short paragraph with a sufficient white space between information so as not to appear as though the document is a huge block of text. For additional CV formatting tips, also read: “Is Your Resume Easy on the Eyes?”

While the resume and a CV are two different types of documents, what they have in common is that they both serve as marketing document to help you get your foot in the door to a job interview. Whichever method you use as a job seeker (and depending on your profession), remember to focus the message on information that will matter to the employer to express you’re capable and well-qualified for the job.