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Ask Brian – What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

November 28th, 2007 · 2 Comments

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Reader Lee from Georgia writes:

“I have a simple question: what is the difference between a CV and a Resume? I’m in med school and they keep talking about CVs when we start our job search.”

Brian answers after the break…

Brian sayz:

First of all, I’m assuming you’re a North American looking for a job in North America. The reason I need to make that distinction is because a CV (aka, Curriculum Vitae) is what people call resumes in Europe. The formatting is different, as is the information you would provide. If you’re looking for a job in Europe, the employer will ask to see your CV. They might not even know what a resume is, because that’s very much a North American style document.

A CV is a more detailed, complex document than a standard resume. Standard practice for a resume is to list your career history, your professional skills and your career accomplishments. And that’s mostly it (depending on the career field).

A CV includes all of the above, but goes into far greater detail, outlining each and every thing you have done, down to the individual project, paper or professional association. Whereas North American resumes focus on job descriptions, CVs tend to de-emphasize this part and focus more on listing instead of describing what you’ve done. A CV puts a much heavier emphasis on educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations and the like. A CV can also encompass personal items about yourself that are considered too superfluous to be included in a resume.

In short, a CV is your job history and your life history. A resume tends to focus primarily on your job history. A resume is usually 1-3 pages (almost never more than that). In contrast, the last CV I did for a client came to 12 pages (he was an academic agricultural scientist).

So, CVs are not often used in the US… unless you have a very specific career.

So who might need a CV? If you’re an academic, researcher or scientist, you’re probably going to need one. CVs are also sometimes called for in the Education and Legal fields.

* By the way, Curriculum Vitae means “course of life.”

** When referring to your CV, always use the plural “curriculum vitae” unless you are using the shortened form. In that case, simply write: “vita.”

*** Shameless plug: does have CV writing services.

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Tags: Ask Brian · Job Search · Resumes