CV v. Resume: When and How to Use Each

A resume and curriculum vitae serve very different purposes for very different audiences in the US and across the globe. Here is the difference and how to know which format is right for your job search.

Americans almost always use a resume when applying to jobs. In fact, the American resume is often more akin to what some countries view a CV. Yet, there are circumstances where employers and job seekers in the United States use a curriculum vitae. So, what is the real difference between a resume and a CV? And, when should a job seeker use a resume and when should they use a curriculum vitae in the US?


The biggest difference between a resume and a CV is the lendth. The general rule for a resume has been that there is typically 1 page for every 5 years of experience. Generally, entry level resumes are 1 page, but never more than 2 pages if the person has the experience to fill out the 2 pages. Most people with 5 - 30+ years of experience will have a resume that is 2 - 3 pages.

However, a curriculum vitae is typically much, much longer. Why? It is because the CV is a detailed account of that person's professional background. What makes a CV so long? Well, the answer to that question is really at the heart of what makes a resume unique from a CV - that is the purpose each document serves.


The biggest reason is that the content only gets longer as you grow. A resume is intended to dramatically change with each position and to capture only the most relevant portions of what you did in each role. To do this, you need to capture the right keywords and focus on the role you are applying to. (Check out how to write a resume that beats the ATS).

Yet, a curriculum vitae is written using a different writing style and tone than a resume. A CV is a static document that only gets longer over time as you add achievements to it. The more achievements the better when crafting a CV. Here are some of the most common achievements that get added to a CV:

*Courses Taken. An in depth list of your most relevant courses taken is expected on a CV no matter your experience level.

*GPA. Include your GPA for each degree on your CV. Unlike a resume, this information will stay long in to your career.

*Courses Taught. Adjunct and educators will typically include the names of the courses they have taught as part of their body of work.

*Continuing Education. Include a list of the names of courses, seminars, or other workshops taken since graduation.

*Competencies. This would be a list of substantive areas of expertise, tests administered, examinations, conditions worked with, surgeries performed - really a list of substantive knowledge within your field.

*Grants. Receiving a grant to support research or other work is an accomplishment to be listed on your CV. Make sure to include the name, amount, and awarding body of each grant.

*Awards. Make sure to include the name of the award, awarding body, brief explanation of why you received it, and the year.

*Speaking Engagements. List every speaking engagement on your CV. This should include the topic title, brief explanation of the topic if not self-evident, location/conference presented, and year.

*Presentations. Defending your dissertation? Presenting the ndings from a recent research project? These are examples of presentations that would get listed separately on your CV.

*Articles Published. Include a list of titles of articles that you have written or contributed to in any way. Consider adding hyperlinks to the titles of the articles if they are hosted somewhere that will be universally (and continuously) hosted online.

*Works Published. Composers, authors, and directors will all have different types of works that will get published beyond a brief article. Make sure to include the title of each of these works separately, the body publishing the work, and the year.

*Professional Memberships. Include a comprehensive list of all current or recent memberships in all outside professional groups. Make sure to identify any leadership roles in such groups.

*Committee Memberships. Add all committee involvement, the purpose of the committee, the method of your involvement (volunteer or appointment), any titles you have held on the committee, and years.

When to Use a CV

A resume is nearly always appropriate in the US when applying to a job or responding to a recruiter's request. Yet, there are times when the applicant should know that they are expected to submit a CV - even if they were asked to provide a resume (since Americans use the term "resume" loosely and interchangeably with "CV"). So, when is a CV the expectation?

*Academia. Professors (tenured or not), adjunct professors for nearly every subject, and anyone looking to work as research or teaching assistants should have a CV to apply for the desired role. Using a resume to apply for these types of roles will only serve to expedite your rejection.

*Higher Education. People looking at roles in higher education administration that are not faculty track (particularly department leadership roles) are often expected to provide a CV instead of a resume. This is often true for people looking to work in administration for prestigious schools of any size.

*Medicine. Doctors, surgeons, dentists, psychologists, and other medical providers (other than nurses) will be asked to provide a CV rather than a resume.

*Research. Anyone applying to a fellowship or in R&D should have a CV. Basically, anyone that will be working in a capacity to create or validate the innovation funded by the special funding should be prepared to produce a CV.

*Science. People applying to roles as a scientist are often expected to provide a detailed account of their professional experience and methodologies. This wouldn't be a "lab scientist" role, but instead a role in a particular discipline as a scientist (i.e. hydrologist, cryogenics, biologist, data scientists, etc.) In some cases, people applying for such jobs may be asked for more of a hybrid CV/resume than a true CV.

Thus, the key to determining whether you should have a resume or CV is a decision that you need to make based on what you will do with the document and who will be reviewing and why. In some cases, a pure resume is perfectly fine. In other cases, the CV is expected. But, in some circumstances you may need a document that blurs the line between resume and CV to best capture your message. That decision is entirely up to you and it should be driven by clear intention about what you want to do and how you are going to get there - instead of mistakenly thinking that a resume and CV are the same thing.