What is a résumé?
A résumé is a short (one or two page) document that highlights your qualifications for a particular job. It generally includes your contact information, educational history, and recent and/or relevant job history. You may choose to include sections on any presentations you’ve given, articles or books you’ve published, skills you’ve acquired, or awards you’ve won. Résumés are generally skimmable, often employing bullet points and bolded text to showcase what you want the hiring manager to see.
Your résumé will change depending on your age and the job to which you are applying. For example, if you are a college student, it’s perfectly acceptable to include the name of your high school and your GPA at graduation in your educational history. If you’ve graduated from college, however, high school information should generally be dropped. Likewise, if you’re applying to a job in a STEM field, it’s probably not necessary to include your summer gig at McDonald’s. Résumés are tailored to a particular job and are always changing.
If your résumé is way longer than one or two pages, you need to start getting familiar with your delete key. First, delete any job experience that isn’t related to the job for which you’re applying. The exception to this is if you have worked for another company for a significant period of time. You don’t want to be explaining why you have empty years on your résumé. Review your skills section to see if you’ve included anything outdated. Your knowledge of Microsoft Word, for example, is probably assumed. Likewise, if you can’t speak more than one language, it’s unnecessary to include a language section. By paring down your education, job history, skills, etc., to the essentials, you’ll be under the page limit in no time.
- For a sample high school résumé, click here.
- For a sample college résumé, click here.
- For a sample professional résumé, click here.
What is a CV?
CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, a Latin phrase that means “course of life.” It is a detailed, chronological document that details your educational history, past jobs, accomplishments, publications, awards, presentations, etc. In general, nothing is left off of a CV (barring, of course, irrelevant details about jobs you held in high school or college), so CVs can be quite long. Generally, the older you are and the more you’ve accomplished, the longer your CV will be. A CV will never shrink, but only expand as you accomplish more in terms of education, publications, awards, and jobs.
CVs are used worldwide, but in the United States they’re primarily used when applying for academic, scientific, or research positions. Since hiring managers at these types of institutions want to know an individual’s entire academic and professional history to make an accurate hiring decision, CVs are unlikely to change and don’t need to be tailored to a particular job. Test scores and GPA, as might be included on a résumé, tell one story, but where an individual has managed to publish their articles and whether they’ve published books tell an entirely different one, and those publications, once they’ve occurred, won’t change. Hence the static nature of a CV.
When would I need a CV?
CVs are more common in the rest of the world than they are in North America. You will generally need to submit a CV in response to a job opening if you are applying for a job in Europe or elsewhere in the world (though you should check with the hiring manager directly; some countries use “CV” and “résumé” interchangeably). CVs are used in the United States and Canada when the job in question is an academic, scientific, or research position, for instance if you are applying to be a professor at a university or a research scientist at a national laboratory.
When would I need a résumé?
If you are American or Canadian and you are applying for a job in North America, you will generally be asked to submit a résumé. If you’re applying for a job outside of North America, however, you’ll likely be asked for your CV. The same goes for academic or scientific positions within North America. When a university is looking to hire a new professor, they want to read a detailed account of the individual’s dissertation, research, publications, academic history, and previous jobs, hence the need for a CV instead of a résumé. Almost all other jobs, however, ask for a résumé and a cover letter.
Are résumés and CVs interchangeable?
Not really. If you submit a CV when you were asked for a résumé, you’re likely to be put into the discard pile. This is for two reasons, the first being that you can’t follow directions. The second? You’ve submitted a document way longer than anyone who asked for a résumé is willing to read. If you submit a résumé when you were asked for a CV, you’ll probably get the same response. Someone who wants to read a CV is looking for more detail than it’s possible to provide in a résumé.
What are the main differences between a résumé and a CV?
Résumés are always shorter than CVs. Generally a résumé fits onto one page (or two pages if you’re pushing it), while a CV is as long as is necessary to fully describe your education, accomplishments, publications, awards, etc.
Résumés are meant to make you stand out from other applicants. A hiring manager doesn’t spend much time reading an individual résumé, so you need to highlight the best and most relevant parts of your job and educational history as a form of self-advertising. CVs show your entire history, so a hiring manager will read the entire thing if they’re seriously considering you for the position. CVs are often accompanied by a summary that condenses the material down to a page and acts as the prequel to your CV. This is what needs to grab a hiring manager’s attention.
Finally, you may change or tailor your résumé to fit the position to which you are applying, but a CV doesn’t much change; it just grows. As mentioned before, a CV is a complete record of your job history, while a résumé is just a brief list of your previous jobs and achievements. That being said, a CV doesn’t have to include the time you spent mowing lawns for pocket money or working at the local movie theater. Your history needs to be complete, but it doesn’t have to be so complete that you include high school jobs. This goes for a résumé, too. At a certain point in your life, it will be unnecessary to include any jobs that you worked before college.
Are there similarities?
Both résumés and CVs are used when applying for jobs and both tend to be arranged chronologically. The chronological layout isn’t a requirement for a résumé, however. If you want to showcase relevant jobs on your résumé, you may skip a few or highlight the most long term job first; time doesn’t always have to be linear.
Similarly, you may choose not to list certain positions on a résumé that you would generally include on your CV. For example, the fact that you presented a scientific paper at an academic conference may not be relevant when you are applying for a job as a restaurant manager, so you could save space on your résumé by leaving it off. If you were applying for an academic position at a university, though, it would be important to leave this on as part of your CV.
The information contained within both documents, too, is similar. You want to include your name, contact information, educational history, job history, skills, accomplishments, etc. A résumé just does this in a much briefer form than a CV. There are also similarities in the information that you should not include: a photo, your salary history, the reason you’ve left previous jobs, and references.
The takeaway: Whether you’re asked for a résumé or a CV, you have all the necessary information to write them both. As an American who doesn’t work for a university and doesn’t foresee the need for a CV in the future, I keep a résumé on hand and update it every six months. I do this so that my résumé reflects my most recent positions and showcases an up-to-date skillset. If necessary, I could take this information (and a bit of time to remember the past) to construct a CV. I recommend this approach to anyone who anticipates applying for a job in the future. It’s much easier to take the 20 minutes to update your résumé every six months than it is to think back on all your previous jobs and accomplishments to write a résumé from scratch each time you apply for a new position. Good luck!