The Long and Short of It: What is the Difference Between a Resume and a CV

The words  “resume” and “curriculum vitae” are often used interchangeably. They are both used in job applications and share the same intent — to communicate an individual’s professional background, accomplishments and experience. However, in the world of human resources they are not the same thing. Key differences between the two are length, how they present the facts and the inclusion (or absence) of personal information.

Resume, CV … what’s the difference?

A resume is typically shorter than a CV. It’s a summary that provides a snapshot of a person’s education, work history, relevant skills, and professionals accomplishment. It’s not uncommon to re-organize your resume — or even create several versions — so that it is relevant to the position you are applying for or better reflects the perspective of a company you’re interested in working with.

A curriculum vitae (CV), on the other hand, is typically longer and bears all of your information. It includes every detail of education, employment, achievements, any publications you’ve written for or have been featured in, speaking engagements, affiliations, special training and seminars, volunteer work, etc. Because of its breadth, it’s not uncommon for a CV to be 6-8 pages.

“In the United States, the biggest difference between a CV and a resume is structure,” says Master Resume Writer, Debbie Ellis of the Phoenix Group. “Typically required for medical practitioners and academics, a U.S. CV – when written correctly- follows a very specific, defined order of presentation that, by nature, tends to be quite long. A resume, on the other hand, is a more informal marketing tool that can be written in as many ways as there are writers. It can include anything you want, and be long or short, depending on the mood of the market.”

Which one do I need?

In the United States, most hiring companies will ask for a resume. A CV is often used when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions. They are also relevant when applying for fellowship or grants. CVs are much more commonly requested in Europe, the Middle East, Africa or Asia.

What information do I include?

In the United States it is not customary to include personal information such as age, race, religious affiliation and marital status. In fact, in an effort to ensure fairness in assessing and reviewing candidates, including such information is generally discouraged. Professional? Yes. Personal? No thank you. As Oprah Winfrey might say… it’s TMI (too much information)!

However, in many foreign countries, the exact opposite is true. It IS customary to include personal information on a CV and can sometimes be your global golden ticket to landing a job. Examples could be your photograph, age, place of birth, personal hobbies and marital status. Yes, that’s right…I did say photograph, age and marital status!

Keep in mind that other countries are not bound to the same Equal Opportunity Employment (EOE) laws we have in the United States.

If you are a candidate applying for international positions, be sure to do your homework and tune in to what hiring companies expect in that country.  You will want to research whether it is best to apply using a resume or CV, what format it should take and what kind of personal information to include.

One of my favorite resources for country specific career and employment  information is Mary Ann Thompson’s The Global Resume and CV Guide. It covers over 40 countries and includes job sources, Internet sites, work permit and visa requirements, and more. She also has an information-rich website,

Have questions or a comment? Please post them below. I’d love to hear from you!