Believe it or not, a resume and a curriculum vitae are two entirely different things. Typically, people think they’re the exact same document, only that the UK uses the latter and places like Canada and the US use the former. But there’s a bit more to it than that, with some fundamental differences you should probably be aware of before submitting your next application.

What is a curriculum vitae?

Curriculum vitae (or a CV as it’s most commonly known) means the course of your life in Latin. That alone should give you an indication that a CV is an in-depth document that can span multiple pages. It includes high-level detail about your career, achievements, education, publications, honors and pretty much any other accomplishment you can imagine.

All of this detail is why CVs can range from anywhere between two to eight pages, especially for academic positions.

Every time you achieve something new from an academic or working perspective — such as securing a new position, publishing a new book or adding another certificate to your collection — you’ll need to update your CV.

A CV will typically be organized in chronological order, where the reader can get an overview of your entire working career. 

What is a resume? 

Compared to a CV, a resume is a concise yet impactful document you create for a specific job. It’s a much shorter document than a CV (no more than two pages) and is designed so readers don’t have to spend too long reading through it, with the ultimate aim of it being to help you stand out from others vying for the same position.

It still includes essential information, though, despite it being concise. Education, working history, credentials, skills and achievements are all vital. You can also add summary statements and objectives to separate yourself from the crowd further.

You don’t need to order your resume in any specific order and it doesn’t need to run through your entire working career or education. It’s much shorter and tailored to the particular job you’re applying for, whereas a CV is static regardless of the position.

The key differences between a resume and a CV

As you can tell already, there are some pretty significant differences between a resume and a CV.

Length

This is the big one. Resumes are brief and usually no longer than one or two pages. The reader wants a quick snapshot of who you are, what your experience is like and if you’re worth considering for the job. 

On the other hand, a CV is much longer as it’s more in-depth. Staying true to its Latin origins, it’s literally a complete history of your education and work life, which is why you can’t and shouldn’t try to shorten it to feel or read like a resume.

Customization

By customization, we don’t mean one can have fancy graphics and another can’t. The crucial difference is that you tailor your resume to every position you apply for. That means your work history, education, achievement and skills need to link to that relevant job, as that’s what the reader wants to see.

A CV isn’t tailored to specific roles. It’s static and the only time you make changes is when you need to add something significant to your CV. The supporting cover letter — like the one you’ll also send alongside your resume — is where you can add specifics to the position you’re applying for.

Function

This is where it can get a little tricky, as a CV is very different in places like the UK. However, in certain countries, a curriculum vitae is used primarily for academic purposes. So, if you were applying to join a research program or Ph.D., you’d need to submit a CV. A resume is what you’d produce for pretty much any other job.

Order

A subtle difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae is the latter should have a clear structure. That being your entire career needs to be in chronological order without any gaps. You have more freedom with a resume, as you can shuffle information around and leave gaps if that’s what’s best suited to the position you want.

Overall, a CV is long, static and covers the entire duration of your career. A resume is short, customizable to your needs, with no formatting rules in place.

Despite the differences between a resume and a curriculum vitae, they both work hand-in-hand when it comes to landing your dream role. That’s because they both:

  • Don’t typically include your personal interests
  • Are used to land you an interview
  • Represent you as the best fit and most qualified candidate for the position

Why it’s essential to know the difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae

Many people are guilty of thinking they’re interchangeable. They’d be right to an extent, as some countries do use them interchangeably. Even if you think you’d never explore the academic world and would, therefore, never need a CV, it’s still worthwhile creating one.

The world of work has changed. Not every position requires you to be in an office or within a certain mile radius — you could be on the other side of the planet. If you’re applying for remote positions, then carefully read the descriptions. 

Just because you think you don’t need to submit a CV, it doesn’t mean the country where your company is located doesn’t require one — the wording and understanding might just be different. Or just ask them which one they need. Then work on that to stand the best chance of landing your dream job.

Along with knowing the differences between the two and submitting the correct one, another way to have a great chance of securing the dream job is to sign up to VanHack. The platform is designed to help people like you land the perfect job with innovative companies looking to grow.

On VanHack, you can complete your profile, create videos so recruiters can get to know you and complete challenges, too. If you need interview help to be fully prepared, the Premium Academy is also on-hand with example questions, answers and nuances to get you ready. Get started today.

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