Perhaps one of the most commonly asked job application questions is how resumes and CVs differ, and which one to use. Generally speaking, Europeans use CVs and Americans use resumes, but there are key cultural differences to be aware of.
This article will review the main differences between a resume and a CV and explain when to use each one.
Should I use a CV or a resume?
Your first step is determining which document you should use, and the decision largely depends on where you are applying for a job. When applying for a position in the U.S. or with an American company, you should use a resume. Asia, Australia, Canada, and South America also use more of a resume format.
When applying with a British company or a company headquartered in Europe, a CV is your best option.
However, please be aware that universities and research institutions worldwide also use the term “CV” to mean a totally different document that is 5+ pages long and includes additional information such as publications, research, presentations, awards, and more.
Components of a CV
The components of a CV are very similar to those seen in a resume. Each section is comprehensive and is composed in reverse chronological order, with most recent items listed first. Here are common sections included on CVs:
- Contact information
- Personal profile or summary
- Work Experience
What makes a CV different that a resume?
Now that you know which document you need to make, let’s talk about key differences. It’s important to pay attention to these details because both European and American employers have certain expectations for your application materials.
- Regional preferences
The United States, Canada, Asia, Australia, and South America all use a resume format (though they may call it a “CV”). In the United Kingdom, Europe, and Africa, a curriculum vitae or “CV” is used.
- Language differences
Given the regional split between resumes and CVs, you also want to consider whether to use “British English” or “American English.” There are many differences in terms of vocabulary, grammar and spelling, so review (or learn) these differences and take them into account when writing your CV or resume.
If you are a non-native English speaker, you may want to hire a freelance writer or editor to review your document for proper language.
- Length of the document
An ideal CV is usually two or three pages long, while an American resume is often one page long. However, two-page resumes are acceptable for professionals with lots of experience.
- Paper size
Because CVs are more common in Europe, it is standard to format your CV on an A4 document. For resumes, use standard American Letter size (8.5”x11”).
- Use of a photo
It is common and even recommended to include your photo on a CV. However, do not put a photo on a U.S. resume! Employers will immediately put resumes with a photo aside because they do not want to risk being accused of discriminating against someone because of nationality, skin color, age, or religion.
- Personal Information
Just like a photo, Americas believe listing personal information on a resume is unprofessional or even risky. When creating a resume, avoid listing gender, nationality, age or date of birth, and personal interests.
On a CV, listing the above information is increasingly optional, but may not cause immediate concern. In any case, you should never include the following information: religion/belief, marital status and number of children.
- Personal profile
A personal profile is a short, personal introduction to yourself in which you tell who you are, what you are good at and what your ambitions are. On a CV, personal profiles are recommended though not mandatory.
Resumes, on the other hand, tend to have objectives or summaries that are focused on professional achievements. See our full article on resume objectives.
- Work experience
While both CVs and resumes require a work experience section, you will likely include comprehensive information about responsibilities, tasks and roles on a CV. On resumes, it is more common to write 5-7 bullet points highlighting specific achievements.
First of all, this is a prime example of the differences between British and American English. What the British call “courses,” Americans call “education.”
On a CV, you will include your high school and any post-secondary courses. On a resume, you should only list post-secondary education unless you don’t have any, in which case you would only list high school.
Download free templates of both resumes and CVs.
As a recruiter, I have been helping candidates find a new job for over ten years. On this website I share my knowledge to help you make a good resume.