What’s a CV, and how does it differ from a resume?

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Don’t make the mistake of using these terms interchangeably.

What's a CV, and how does it differ from a resume?

CV is short for curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life.”

Most job seekers can tell you what a resume is—after all, it’s your golden ticket to capturing the attention of hiring managers—but start throwing around the word “CV” and you’ll see a lot of people scratching their heads.

One reason for the confusion is because some people—both job seekers and hiring managers alike—make the mistake of using the words CV and resume interchangeably. Though they have a lot in common, they’re also two distinctly different documents. So what is a CV? And how does it compare to a resume? These are two questions you may encounter during a job search.

What is a CV?

A CV (short for curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life”) is an in-depth look that maps out the whole course of your career. Essentially it’s a biography of your career that provides a full history of not only your work experience but also your higher education and academic accomplishments.

CVs often include these sections:

  • Employment history
  • Skills
  • Degrees
  • GPAs
  • Academic awards and honors
  • College courses taken
  • Theses or dissertations
  • Research experience
  • Teaching experience
  • Fieldwork
  • Published works
  • Licenses
  • Certifications
  • Presentations and lectures
  • Grants and scholarships
  • School affiliations (i.e., Phi Beta Kappa)

When are CVs used?

CVs are most commonly used for job hiring in academia, such as researcher, professor, or teacher positions. CVs typically begin with your education, which may include the name of your academic advisor and the title of your dissertation if you wrote one.

Because CVs offer a complete picture of your career credentials and academic history, they tend to be two to six pages—or longer depending on your level of experience. In contrast, most resumes are only one to two pages.

Generally, your CV grows over your lifetime. Most CVs are written in chronological order. Resumes, meanwhile, tend to have more flexibility.

Whether an employer asks for a CV or a resume can also depend on where in the world you live. In India, New Zealand, Australia, most European countries, and the UK, and Ireland, CVs are used in all contexts; the word “resume” is rarely used in these regions.

CV writing tips

Like a resume, a CV should be crafted carefully. These tips will show you how to write a CV that makes a great impression:

  • Include the nitty-gritty details. Sit down and create a full catalog of your career achievements and academic experience. Remember: Your CV should provide a comprehensive history—not an overview—of your life’s work. For example, if you tutored undergraduate students while in grad school, you might specify on your CV the subjects you taught, how many students you tutored, and what skills you personally gained from tutoring.
  • It’s OK to start with a template. You don’t have to write a CV from scratch. In fact, you can save time and ensure you cover all of your bases by using Monster’s CV template.
  • Beat the robots. An employer may run your CV through an applicant tracking system, which means your CV absolutely needs to have relevant keywords to get past the robots, and seen by human eyes. Mine the job description to find keywords to weave in.
  • Strongly promote your academic honors and awards. Your CV is an opportunity for you to tout your achievements, so take full advantage of that, especially when highlighting any academic honors you’ve received. Use specifics when possible. For instance, if you earned straight A’s every year in college, you’d write “Dean’s List (all semesters).”
  • Choose your font wisely. If a recruiter or hiring manager can’t read your CV because you chose a funky font, that’s a bad first impression. Choose a font that’s professional and familiar to the eye like Arial, Calibri, Cambria, or Times New Roman.

Whip your resume into shape, too

In addition to having a great CV, you ought to have a great resume. Need a little help to make your resume shine? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way to make sure your resume is polished, professional, and ready to get you an awesome new job.