Ever wondered why a Brit applies with a CV and an American with a resume? And why does an Aussie apply with both? There are a few differences between the two types of application documents and this article will straighten out your queries as well as tell you where in the world you are likely to use which document. Let me kick off the bonanza by introducing the contender in the blue corner…

CV:

A CV (Curriculum Vitæ, which means course of life in Latin) is an in-depth document that can be laid out over two or more pages and it contains a high level of detail about your achievements, a great deal more than just a career biography. The CV covers your education as well as any other accomplishments like publications, awards, honours etc.

The document tends to be organised chronologically and should make it easy to get an overview of an individual’s full working career. A CV is static and doesn’t change for different positions, the difference would be in the cover letter.

Resume:

A resume, or résumé, is a concise document typically not longer than one page as the intended the reader will not dwell on your document for very long. The goal of a resume is to make an individual stand out from the competition.

The job seeker should adapt the resume to every position they apply for. It is in the applicant’s interest to change the resume from one job application to another and to tailor it to the needs of the specific post. A resume doesn’t have to be ordered chronologically, doesn’t have to cover your whole career like and is a highly customisable document.

Differences:

As stated, three major differences between CVs and resumes are the length, the purpose and the layout. A resume is a brief summary of your skills and experience over one or two pages, a CV is more detailed and can stretch well beyond two pages. The resume will be tailored to each position whereas the CV will stay put and any changes will be in the cover letter.

A CV has a clear chronological order listing the whole career of the individual whereas a resume’s information can be shuffled around to best suit the applicant. I would say the main difference between a resume and a CV is that a CV is intended to be a full record of your career history and a resume is a brief, targeted list of skills and achievements.

Let’s revise:

CV – long, covers your entire career, static
Resume – short, no particular format rule, highly ccustomisable

Usage around the world:

cv or resume? luke likes the old lebenslaufA resume is the preferred application document in the US and Canada. Americans and Canadians would only use a CV when applying for a job abroad or if searching for an academic or research oriented position.

In the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, a CV is used in all contexts and resumes aren’t used at all. The CV prevails in mainland Europe and there is even a European Union CV format available for download.

In Germany, the CV is more commonly known as a Lebenslauf (true to the latin origins) and is only one of many application document the poor German job seekers must produce to get an interview.

In Australia, India and South Africa, the terms resume and CV are used interchangeably. The term resume is used more for jobs in the private sector and CV is more commonplace when applying for public service positions.

Question:

So what gives if you apply for an American company in Europe or vice versa? The jaded folks in HR will accept both types although I would recommend you use the local version. It’s not that hard to convert your document after all and if you hit a brick wall, just ask me for help.

Which do you prefer, the CV, the resume, both, none? Please share your experience in the comments!

More resume (or was it CV) tips: Why Your CV is Boring and Ineffective.

photo by: JD Hancock

The original Undercover Recruiter, after 7 years in tech recruiting Jorgen now runs Link Humans, a social media agency in London.