The CV vs. Resume Dilemma

resume vs cv

If you’re like many young job seekers, you’re not completely clear on the difference between a CV and a resume.

Don’t worry: Many seasoned professionals are just as baffled.

You likely know that a CV is a type of document similar to a résumé. So today we’ll fill in the extra details that will help you understand the difference between a CV vs. a résumé.

And perhaps more importantly:

Which one is right for you.

So, what is a CV?

CV is short for “curriculum vitae.” It’s a document that details someone’s work history and related accomplishments.

You may be thinking:

So isn’t “CV” just another way of saying “résumé”?

Many believe that, but they’re actually two different tools.

A CV is a comprehensive listing of experience entailing a thorough documentation of a professional’s accomplishments. You can think of CVs as résumés on steroids, and for good reason as the CV differs from a résumé in the following ways.

What are the differences between CVs and resumes?

Length

A résumé should be typically one page, especially for new college graduates with little or no work experience. For more experienced candidates, it can go to two pages but no more.

A CV, meanwhile, usually starts around three pages for younger candidates with more seasoned professionals ending up late in their careers with CVs that are six to seven pages long. That’s a huge document, to say the least.

In fields that require a CV, sometimes anything less than three to four pages suggests a professional doesn’t have sufficient experience.

Details

Résumés and CVs both document work history. But if you compare a CV vs a résumé, a résumé often focuses on only the last ten to fifteen years of employment whereas a CV documents all relevant experience.

Why the difference?

The main reason is that professionals with more than twenty years of experience still list their initial jobs on their CVs as long as the work is relevant to their profession. But on a resume, you typically drop your earliest work experience and only keep the most recent experience.

Also, CVs list accomplishments including papers published, classes taught, papers presented, and continuing education completions. Those things should take up 25% to 33% of the CV because they’re critical to getting interviews such as in academia. While you could list those sorts of things on a resume too, normally they’re presented much more succinctly.

Do you need a CV?

For most working professionals, a CV is unnecessary. The résumé is the way to go.

A CV is usually the tool of academics, scientists, and other professionals who are expected to contribute to the development of their field including:

  • Archaeologists
  • Biologists
  • C-Level Business Executives
  • Chemists – Cultural Anthropologists
  • Education Industry Administrators
  • Historians
  • Medical Doctors
  • Physicists
  • Professors (any field)
  • Psychologists
  • Sociologists
  • Software Developers
  • Teachers

If you’re not sure, the best bet is to ask your professors while in college or seek out advice from seasoned professionals within your field soon after graduation.

And if you’re in one of the fields listed above, be sure to discuss CVs with professors in your major prior to graduation. They can help you identify what information you should definitely include. You might also ask professors for their CVs so that you have samples from your prospective field.

What are the elements of a solid CV?

You’ll likely find a variety of advice as to the right pieces to include in your resume. But we’ll cover here what are considered the core elements that you should consider.

Heading

Just like on a résumé, the heading of your CV should have a list of your contact information.

On a CV, it’s a smart move to include one to two identifiers after your name which denote expertise or advanced degrees. This isn’t as necessary on a résumé.

These identifiers include the following:

  • Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
  • Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology)
  • MD (Doctor of Medicine)
  • M.A. (Master of Arts)
  • M.S. (Master of Science)
  • M.S.Ed (Master of Science in Education)
  • CPCC (Certified Professional Career Coach)
  • CRW (Certified Résumé Writer)
  • CSMC (Certified Stress Management Coach)
  • LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor)
  • RN (Registered Nurse)
  • RPA (Registered Professional Archaeologist)

Most of these designations are attained through rigorous training and education programs in addition to regular college degrees. For those with more than two such credentials, just list the two most relevant to the position you’re applying to.

Here’s a common question:

If I don’t have a master’s or doctorate, should I add B.A. or B.S. after my name?

No. Many hiring managers and committees see the use of that designation as ridiculous. For that matter, some career professionals frown upon indicating a master’s degree too, but most hiring committees see no issue with this.

So, bottom line: Skip the bachelor’s designation but include anything beyond that.

Education

On both CVs and résumés, listing education is very important to show you have the educational foundation required for the job.

However, on a CV, the education section usually contains advanced degrees (above a bachelor’s) and certificates or certifications attained in addition to traditional college degrees.

Remember:

In the heading of your CV, you should only list up to two credentials after your name. But the education section should include all relevant training.

One thing for new graduates to keep in mind:

Once you start college, your high school or GED information becomes irrelevant. Don’t bother listing that information as employers will realize you completed a high school or equivalent education in order to be accepted into college.

Profile or Summary of Qualifications

As with a résumé, we recommend job seekers include either a “Summary of Qualifications” section or a professional summary. Adjust these sections to each job applied to, listing relevant training, field experience, and accomplishments.

The Importance of Resume Action Verbs” will show you how to utilize action verbs to create unique and professional accomplishments.

On a CV, this list can be a bit longer than a résumé, but a full page is likely overkill. For new graduates with little experience in the field, this portion of the CV can detail specific coursework completed in college that is connected to your career path.

Core Competencies

In addition to a professional summary or summary of qualifications, a “Core Competencies” section is worth considering. You wouldn’t generally include this on a résumé because space is more limited.

This section is essentially a listing of specific specialties a professional has. Use either one or at most a few words to identify each special expertise, and display them in three to five columns of no more than five lines in depth as in the example below.

For new graduates, listing major/career-related courses can help beef up this section. For example: Developmental Psychology, Invertebrate Biology, Forensic Anthropology, Occupational Safety, Organic Chemistry, etc.

This is also a good section for listing technological proficiencies in addition to expertise the job ad identifies as required or preferred credentials. For an example, review the following hypothetical list of competencies for a tax specialist:

Tax Preparation Mergers & Acquisitions Internal & External Audits
MS Excel & MS Access Computer Diagnostics Past Perfect
Mac and PC OS PowerPoint MS Word

Experience

Your CV should include most if not all experience relevant to the position applied to.

New graduates should exclude any earlier jobs that are unrelated to your career path.

For example, drop any references to your years as a dishwasher or cook at the local restaurant if you’re embarking on a career in archaeology.

The Three P’s

After the above sections, your CV should include sections for:

  • Publications: The key is to list those publications relevant to the position you’re applying to. Listing any novels you published won’t necessarily make any difference when applying for a professorship in biology.
  • Papers Presented
  • Professional Affiliations: These again should only include organizations you belong to which are relevant to the position you’re applying to.

Now:

For new graduates, don’t be concerned if you have no publications, professional affiliations, or relevant work experience right after graduation. Most students don’t.

Take the above listing of categories as a guide to the experience you need to seek out.

Look for opportunities to publish articles. Even writing blog posts as a guest blogger for an established, field-related site can provide a publishing credit, though publishing in peer-reviewed journals is the ultimate publication goal.

When acquiring professional affiliations, look for local associations connected to your major and career path, and from there, look into national and/or international associations.

For core competencies, ask professors what skill sets are most desired by employers and which skill sets are on the rise. Aim to get trained in those skills as soon as possible.

Final thoughts

Learning the difference between the CV and resume is crucial for your job application. Our “How to Write a Resume” and “Resume Samples and Templates” articles will help you if your job application requires you to submit a resume.

With the above outline, it’s easy to see how a CV grows to be multiple pages in length. For those in the early stages of your career, it’s always good to keep detailed records of all the above experience you compile just in case you’re ever asked to provide a CV instead of a résumé.

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