What is the Main Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

The Prepared Resume: What is the Main Difference Between a CV and a Resume

Do you want to know the difference between a CV and resume? If so, you are in the right place. CV stands for Curriculum vitae which means “course of life” in Latin and means “summary” in French. (See the Wikipedia definition for more.) A CV is an academic summary used for different applications, such as medical fields, scientific research, and academia.

The word resume comes from the French language. It means an outline presented as a formal document that showcases a person’s career background, accomplishments, and skills using a functional and chronological format. In today’s article, I will tell you about the key differences between a CV and resume. Read on!

Difference between a CV and Resume

Many people don’t know about the difference between a CV and resume. I know I didn't. I am based in America and the common term in the market place is resume, not CV. They are similar but they are indeed different so before you begin using the terms resume and CV interchangeably, it is crucial to know their key differences.

A CV serves as a detailed description of academic activities and achievements, while a resume is a targeted and strategic summary of job experience and skills relating to job roles.

The Prepared Resume

Some of the key differences between the two document types include hallmark (traditional) characteristics, and differentiating factors for intent of use. Let's give those areas a closer look.

CV and Resume Hallmark Characteristics

As I mentioned before CV stands for curriculum vitae and it's designed intent is to serve as a detailed description of academic activities and achievements a person has accumulated during academic studies. Since the focus of a CV is academic in nature, it also includes detailed information about your educational experience.

For instance, a CV includes degrees, research, teaching experience, honors, awards, and professional licenses. It also focuses on your publications, presentations, skills, and other achievements.

On the other hand, a resume is a targeted, strategic, and concise summary of your skills. It focuses on your most relevant experiences, achievements, and skills related to a particular position or career to which you apply.

Main Differentiating Factors

Now let's examine some of the more detailed differences between a CV and a resume. Allow me to begin with a comparison table so you can quickly and easily see the key differences:

A comparison table of the key differences between a resume and a CV.
The Prepared Resume comparison table of the key differences between a resume and a CV

As you can see from the summary table, a resume is shorter, though many still incorrectly believe that a resume should only be 1 page long. Even though most resumes are shorter they focus more on your research, skills and work experience. A strong resume typically does not focus on your academic achievements, publications, awards, and conference presentations. Those items are typically seen on a resume but there is not usually a lot of detail and they are likely towards the end of a resume.

Your resume goes into less detail on the specifics of your academic achievements. Conversely, a CV gives a detailed outline of your research, publications, and academic achievements. Unlike a CV, a resume highlights the relevant and transferrable skills you developed through your work. On the other hand a CV presents a lengthy and complete history of your academic achievements.

It means the CV document showcases your credentials in different ways. Therefore, the CV document length can vary from candidate to candidate. And as you likely know, a resume presents a shorter and more brief outline of your qualifications and skills for a specific job.

Many job seekers who apply for positions in technology, finance, consulting, software companies, etc., will use a one-page resume. I believe these job candidates are likely missing out on properly displaying their skills at times because they are following an invisible rule (that a resume can only be 1 page) that does not exist.

Resume Pro Tip

Regardless of the length, always ensure you stick to a common font like Calibri, Cambria, Arial, or Times New Roman. Make sure the font size for your resume is between 10 and 12 points. And keep the font size consistent throughout your resume! Nothing drives me more crazy than when I am reviewing a resume and there are 7 different fonts and font sizes – it makes me nauseous like I'm riding a verbal roller coaster.

When should you use a CV and Resume?

A CV allows you recruiters to understand specifics of your accomplishments for academic, research, and even medical jobs. If you apply for a non-academic job where recruiters will have a similar background, your CV is likely acceptable to use. Remember, your CV must highlight your academic history, experiences, and accomplishments.

However, it is crucial to focus on the specific format accepted by the company. The majority of the time in the United States, the resume is the accepted standard format. If you are looking for a standard format to use for your own resume, make sure you check out my high-quality resume template bundles to get the job done.

One of the key differentiating factors to determine if you should utilize a CV is if you are applying to a job or role where a doctoral degree or Ph.D. is required. If that is the case you should likely use a CV. If the job is non-research or non-academic oriented, you want to use a resume.

Here is a rule of thumb though if you are applying to a position that is in the “gray” area where it's a research or academic role but does not have higher degree requirements: Recruiters, HR teams, and hiring managers usually don’t have enough time to go through your detailed CV. Therefore, a resume is the most viable option.


Since there are many questions around the difference between a CV and resume, allow me to recap: A CV is a lengthy academic document that details your experience, publications, and certificates. A resume is a targeted and strategic summary of job experience and skills relating to job roles. Select the right format for you as you pursue a job, and don't forget – Ace your resume so you can get noticed and get hired.

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