The differences between a CV and a resume. The truth? There is no difference at all

Executive CV Template
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So, are there any real differences between a CV and a resume? Not at all.

Many companies, in fact, most companies will argue that there are distinct differences between a CV and a resume, but the truth? There are no major differences between the two and both are used to outline your key skills and experience as part of a job application. How you refer to it, well, that simply depends on where you live in the world.

 

So what is a CV?

A CV is a document that is used to showcase your key skills, experience and achievements; it is abbreviated from Curriculum Vitae, which means ‘Course of Life’ in Latin. The CV is usually presented over one or two pages and used to apply for employment opportunities. It is widely considered a more detailed alternative to a resume, however, there is no significant difference between the two.

 

Ok, so what is a resume?

‘Resume’ is French for ‘summary’, which again, is used to summarise key skills, experience and achievements. Despite popular belief that it is usually shorter in length than a CV, this is not the case. A resume, the same as a CV, should be presented over one or two pages.

resume template

So what are the widely believed differences between the two?

 

  1. The resume is a brief, one or two page summary of your key skills and experience, whereas a CV is more detailed and can stretch well beyond two pages.

 

False: It is important that you do not exceed two pages. Both a CV and resume should be clear, concise and to the point. Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning over a CV so should it exceed two pages, it is likely to lose its appeal. Don’t forget, the sole purpose of the CV is to secure an interview. It is at the interview that you expand on your experience, use examples to present achievements, show your charisma and really sell yourself!

 

  1. A resume should be tailored to each position whereas the CV should remain as is with any changes being made to the cover letter.

 

False: It is important that the CV and resume are both tailored accordingly. Whilst the cover letter is still often detrimental and a required part of the application process, this should act as an introduction to invite the reader to scan your CV or Resume. Therefore, the CV or resume needs to back up the information highlighted in the cover letter. These documents need to complement, not contradict each other.

Then there are ATS systems to consider, which is used to scan CVs and resumes, not cover letters. So if you haven’t tailored them towards the job description, you will not be shortlisted. It is that simple.

 

  1. A CV should be listed chronologically and clearly, including the entire career history, where the information on a resume can be listed in line with applicant requirements.

 

False: Be it a CV or resume, employers are primarily interested in your last 5-10 years’ experience.  Stagnant skills acquired from your role as an Apprentice Plumber upon leaving school 20 years ago will be of very little interest to recruiters and employers today. Therefore, it is important to list your recent experience first, in reverse chronological order. There is no need to go into too much detail about your entire career history in either document. Keep it relevant and keep it recent.

differences between a CV and a resume

To summarise:

A CV is not intended to be a full record of your career history, this would be far too time-consuming for any busy recruiter, and the resume is NOT a targeted list of achievements. They are one and the same, and should both be used to outline recent experience and key skills. Both documents should be tailored according to each application, follow formatting rules, and be concise and to the point. The only real difference? Applicants in America, Canada, South Africa and Australia call it a resume. Us Europeans? Well, that very same document is referred to as a CV.

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