A frustrated college professor recently sought my help in transitioning from academia to the corporate world. Her applications hadn’t produced any interviews six months into her search. The problem? The resume she had been submitting was, in fact, not a resume. It was her curriculum vitae (CV). Potential employers assumed she couldn’t follow their job posting directions, and, worse, they couldn’t quickly find her relevant qualifications.

This article will clarify the distinctions between a CV and a resume and when to use each in your job search.

Defining the Terms: Resume and Curriculum Vitae

What is a resume?

A resume summarizes your professional qualifications, education, and experience. It is used to apply for employment and quickly communicate your potential value to an employer.

What is a curriculum vitae?

A CV is a detailed record of your scholarly life. It lists your entire education (from your undergraduate degree forward), publications, presentations, accomplishments and awards, notable projects and research, and professional affiliations and services. This is a much longer and more exhaustive document.

Key Differences Between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae

Length and detail

Resumes showcase experiences, skills, and education related to a specific job opening. If you’re a student or a new professional, keep the length to one page. And if you’re a seasoned professional, maintain the document at two pages maximum.

A CV is much longer because the intent is to show all your scholarly accomplishments. It may or may not be tailored to a specific job and grows in length as you gain experience. There is no limit to the number of pages.

Purpose and use

Both documents serve to secure some type of opportunity. Use a resume when applying for professional roles in business and industry or nonprofit organizations. When applying for academic and research-oriented positions, fellowships, and grants, send a CV. However academic institutions will usually request resumes for their open administrative positions. If you’re an academic interested in either type of role, craft a well-written resume and keep it updated for when an opportunity arises.

Content and structure

Resumes typically include the following categories of information. Order Education, Experience, and Skills sections according to the relevance of each to the job. Each category lists content in reverse chronological order, from most recent to least recent.

  • Contact information
  • A summary profile
  • Education
  • Experience – paid and/or volunteer
  • Technology and language skills
  • Related professional affiliations and certifications

Group CV information using the classifications below. Aside from the Contact Information and Education, the order can be adjusted a bit for relevance. For example, if you are applying for a role at a teaching-intensive institution, place your teaching experience on the top half of the document, perhaps immediately after your Education.

  • Contact information
  • Courses taught
  • Education
  • Experience (teaching, research, professional)
  • Grants and fellowships
  • Languages
  • Professional affiliations
  • Publications
  • University service – such as committees, special projects, and initiatives

Customization for job applications

Review the job posting description for skills, abilities, and qualifications desired by the employer. Then emphasize your related experience and qualifications with the most relevant appearing in the top third of the document.

When To Use a Resume vs. a Curriculum Vitae

Some organizations use the terms interchangeably. However, in the U.S. use a resume when applying for positions in business, industry, and nonprofits. Apply with a CV when responding to academic, scientific, and research openings or applying for fellowships and grants.

Job Application in the US and Canada

If you’re a U.S. or Canadian resident, you’ll need a CV if applying to work abroad, specifically in the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand. According to Undercover Recruiter, in these countries, “a CV is used in all contexts and resumes aren’t used at all.” Moreover, “The CV prevails in mainland Europe and there is even a European Union CV format available for download.”

Tips for Crafting a Winning Resume or CV

For resumes

  • Your resume is like an advertisement — you have approximately six to 10 seconds to show your “potential buyer” what you offer. Consider it a print ad for your product (yourself) designed to attract buyers (potential employers).
  • Tailor your resume to each job posting for which you apply. Review the description for skills, abilities, and qualifications desired. Then, emphasize your related experience and qualifications, locating it in the top third of the document. After a general statement about your role and its scope, use bullet points to emphasize specific and relevant accomplishments, including percentages, numbers, and/or dollar amounts to quantify them.
  • Use an updated sans serif font, such as Helvetica, Calibri, or Century Gothic. A 10-to-12-point size for the body text is best. Avoid Gothic, Script, and Comic Sans fonts, which can be hard to read.
  • Refrain from using colored text, column formats, or fancy graphics. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) may easily misread them.

For curriculum vitaes

  • Organize the document to make your most notable skills, achievements, and knowledge areas readily apparent. This can be accomplished by placing them higher up on your CV.
  • Keep a master CV updated with all scholarly information. Even if you are not currently in the job market, you’ll be glad to have it ready if opportunity knocks.
  • Use your master CV to create an individually tailored CV for a specific position or opportunity.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

On resumes

  • Using a job objective at the top of your resume. Your application alone indicates you are interested in an organization’s advertised role. Also, you may forget to change that objective when applying for another job. Many a candidate’s resume has been tossed for this offense.
  • Listing work experience beyond the past 10 to 15 years. Doing so may invite age discrimination. There are exceptions to this rule, however, such as when:
    • The experience shows progressive responsibility necessary for executive roles.
    • You want to show previous experience in an industry or role you want to re-enter.

On curriculum vitaes

  • Assume a request for a CV means your entire document. Some grant and fellowship programs (and the occasional teaching posting) will request a document of specific length — two pages, for example. In that case, follow The Chronicle of Higher Education’s guidelines for length and content, and curate a shorter CV to highlight your most significant and relevant accomplishments.

On both resumes and curriculum vitaes

  • Including your full mailing address in the contact information section. If employers want to contact you, they will do so via email or phone, not U.S. mail. Save your precious space for other needed lines. You may want to include your city and state location to show proximity to an employer if you think it may benefit your candidacy. Also, your professional social media or LinkedIn URLs can be placed there.
  • Using weak phrases, such as “responsible for” or “in charge of.” As with resumes, begin each sentence or bullet point with an active verb, communicating agency, accountability, and involvement.
  • Failing to proofread. Ensure that your punctuation, grammar, and syntax are flawless. First impressions are hard to change, so show your attention to detail. Better yet, ask others to review it for errors you may miss.
  • Not saving and sending your document as a PDF. Formatting can change in transmission depending on the software used by your recipient. Avoid skewed text and make a good impression immediately.

Examples and Templates

See examples of CVs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois here:

Additional resources


Andrew Stoner

Executive Resume Writer and Career Coach

A resume should be a forward-looking value proposition that showcases your most relevant accomplishments for a target role — not a rear view summary of your previous roles and responsibilities.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Resumes Vs. Curriculum Vitaes

Can I use my curriculum vitae if a resume is requested?

No. Employers want to scan your application quickly for interview potential. The Ladders eye-tracking study indicated most spend only six to 10 seconds when assessing a candidate’s interview prospects. If you use a CV, your most relevant position information may be buried on the fifth page, which they will never see. See the exceptions to this rule above, under Job Applications in the U.S and Canada.

Should I include references on my resume or curriculum vitae?

Not on a resume. Create a separate document titled References of Your Name where you list three to five people who can speak to your performance on the job or in the classroom, along with your work habits and work ethic. Yes, on a CV. Regardless of the document, include each reference’s first and last name, title, organization, email address, phone number, and their relationship to you, such as “former supervisor” or “dissertation committee chair.”

Should I include personal interests on my resume?

If your interests indicate skills or mindsets related to the job at hand, yes. For example, if you are a ranked tennis player or regional pickleball champion, most readers will assume you have a competitive spirit, which will be useful in a sales role. Be selective, and if you do include them, place them in the last position on your resume.