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Resume 101

What’s the Difference Between a Resume and CV?

CV stands for “curriculum vitae,” which translates to Latin for “course of life.” On the other hand, “resume” is French for “summary.” Job applicants submit these documents along with other materials to obtain an interview. The information they contain should reflect the candidate’s best skills and experiences, with emphasis on how these qualities make them the perfect person for the position in question. While some companies and organizations use “resume” and “CV” interchangeably, significant differences exist between these two terms.

Resumes and CVs differ in length, with the former ranging from 1-2 pages and the latter regularly exceeding two pages. Length ties in with content. A resume is short because it should contain only the academic history, professional history, and demonstrable skills relevant to the position. CVs provide more details because they reflect a professional’s full academic credentials, including their education, research experience, publications, and official accolades.

In general, candidates submit resumes for nonprofit, public, and industry work. They provide CVs when applying for academic careers, fellowships, and grants. These differences predominantly exist in the U.S. and Canada. Asian, European, and African companies operate using distinct standards that job seekers should confirm prior to sending in their application materials.

1. Check Out Samples Resumes and Cover Letters

Job seekers often find it challenging to create cohesive resumes and cover letters, a process made even more difficult if they have to stare at a blank page. Fortunately, online samples abound and provide a starting point that candidates can use to jump-start their own applications. Job listing and professional networking websites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn offer resume and cover letter samples for all career fields. In addition, college students can look to their university’s career center for examples of effective application materials. Candidates should also ask their network (like colleagues or fellow members of professional associations) for successful resume/cover letter samples.

Templates are useful for helping job seekers visualize the basic structures of resumes and cover letters and layout their own qualifications in a way that best emphasizes their strengths. This guide examines formatting in the next section.

Resume/cover letter templates also give job seekers a good understanding of industry-specific terminology. Recruiters often scan for these terms because they indicate a prospect’s hands-on experience in the field. Using the correct language can also assist with meeting the standards of a company’s applicant tracking system. Ultimately, templates help job seekers display information cogently. Professionals should still take the time to personalize their resumes and cover letters to the specifications of individual positions.

2. Explore Formatting Options

After job seekers explore available resume and CV types, they should pick formats that align with both their qualifications and the position in question. At best, these document types offer malleable frameworks that enable professionals to set themselves apart from other keen applicants. At worst, they are a crutch. Overreliance on a particular format or template can lead to a generic application that recruiters quickly toss aside.

Professionals should ensure resumes and CVs reflect their unique skills and experiences while maintaining a uniform visual appeal. In general, resumes offer more variability for structure and content than CVs. The following sections examines resume and CV formats and the differences between the two documents.


Dos and Don’ts

Do Don’t
  • Personalize the resume and cover letter for each application
  • Conduct thorough research on the position and company
  • Provide detailed but concise information
  • Proofread for grammar, spelling, and content
  • Use weak verbs, generic phrases, cliches, or jargon
  • Include too many colors, pictures, or complex/inconsistent formatting designs
  • Lie or otherwise provide misleading information