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Should you use a CV or a resume?


Curriculum vitae or resume

Should you use a CV (Curriculum Vitae) or a resume when you apply for a job? Well, it depends. If you are applying for a medical, scientific, or academic position, or for a position outside the U.S. or Canada, you may want to use a CV. For other positions, a resume is generally preferred.

So what’s the difference?

“Curriculum Vitae” is Latin for “course of life”. It is an in-depth document that covers the full record of your academic and work history as it relates to the general types of positions that you want. Typically applicants use the same CV for every application and only change their cover letter to emphasize their specific suitability for a position.

"Résumé" is French for “summary”. It covers only the highlights of your work and educational history and why you are the best candidate for the job. Applicants should (honestly) modify their resume to best match each opening.

My opinion: Unless it’s required for the position, use a brief (1-to-2-page) resume rather than a CV because resumes are more targeted, succinct and interesting than a CV.

What to include in a CV:

  • Your detailed academic and employment background separated by topical subheads, including degrees, research experience, work experience, awards/achievements, publications, presentations, patents, grants, fellowships, professional/academic associations, affiliations and/or memberships, licenses, training classes, professional development programs, and teaching experience. Put the most important and relevant categories first, such as teaching experience, if you are applying to be an adjunct professor.
  • Length: Varies. It will grow longer as you gain education, achievements and experience.

What to include in a resume:

  • Your education and relevant professional experience within the last 10-15 years.
  • Headline and summary emphasizing why you are the best person for the job, plus (briefly) relevant skills accomplishments, and achievements.
  • Length: 1-2 pages. Remove early, irrelevant experience to make room for later, more relevant experience and proof about why you are the right candidate for the opening (specific skills and accomplishments).

What to include in both:

  • Your name, contact information (city/state, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile address).
  • Your education, skills, experience, and significant achievements (in detail for CVs, briefly in your resume).

Other tips:

  • Search Google or other search engines for CV or resume examples for your field. Use the best practices that you discover for formatting and wording.
  • Organize your work history in reverse chronological order rather than by category. (Online applicant tracking systems universally prefer your most recent jobs first, etc.) List your most impressive education experience first.
  • Don’t include personal information, such as marital/family status, health issues, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or religion, unless including such information could help you get the job.
  • Don’t include “References available upon request.” Either include your references or submit them when a potential employer requests them later.
  • Use one readable font and be consistent about point sizes and formatting throughout the document.
  • Include the words “Contract” or “Temporary” when relevant so employers understand why you had short tenures.
  • Don’t include your salary history. 
  • Don’t include why you left positions unless you’ve had too many jobs (and then only explain as briefly and positively as possible). Examples: “Part of a 25% staff reduction”, or “Supervisor elected to choose own person.”
  • For resumes, start sentences with action verbs and keep entries short (preferably one line each). Don’t use “I”. For CVs, use full sentences.
  • Number pages after page 1.

The bottom line: Choose the right format for the job opening and then "work it" to maximize your chances of landing the position that you want! -- Kathy

Kathy Bernard is the CEO of WiserU, a career coach, LinkedIn expert and LinkedIn profile/resume creator. She is also the creator of the WiserU Career System to train college grads, the unemployed and miserably employed how to land a meaningful, high-paying career. She speaks regularly to conferences, companies and groups about LinkedIn and career topics. Feel free to invite her to connect on LinkedIn.


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