CV vs Resume: What’s the Difference?

CV vs resume? What’s the deal? You’ve probably heard these terms used interchangeably.

If you’re part of the crowd that’s been wondering if there are any real differences between a CV and a resume, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be exploring the origins of the terms “CV” and “resume” and digging into what sets these two documents apart, even if they look like identical twins right now.

CV vs resume: understanding each term’s origins

If there are two different terms, then there must be two sources, right? Yeap, you guessed it – “CV” (or curriculum vitae) originated from the United Kingdom, where the men and women speak the Queen’s English. And so do we, as a result of our colonial history (thanks, Britain).

So then that leaves the term “resume.” Care to make a guess? Well, don’t crack your skull too hard trying to figure it out if you’re stumped. “Resume” is largely an American term meant to describe the document we’re all thinking of right now.

Here in Singapore, there isn’t much differentiation between the two. We refer to our professional career summary as either CV or resume, and everyone more or less understands each other. But we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t tell you that there are, in fact, key differences between a CV and a resume!

CVs and resumes differ in three different ways

“You’re kidding, right? How different can they be?” You’ll find out in a bit. But in summary, there are three areas where a CV differs from your typical resume: length, purpose, and layout.

CV vs resume: CVs are WAY longer

Did you know that curriculum vitae actually means “course of life” in English when translated from Latin? Well, now you do – and you’re probably beginning to understand why CVs are thus much, much longer than a regular resume.

CVs are very thorough and detailed, leaving nothing out if it pertains to your career and main profession. This includes every single certificate you’ve ever gotten, whether vocational or educational, and can allow a hiring manager to trace the course of your life up till now.

Resumes, on the other hand, are shorter in length because people who craft resumes don’t need every single professional detail jotted down. This is why we’re always talking about making your resume relevant and taking out whatever you don’t need – resumes get straight to the point.

Typical CV page-length: More than two
Resume page-length: Usually one or two only

The purpose of CVs and resumes

With great length comes great responsibility… or something like that. Since CVs are much longer compared to resumes, they are used differently around the world. But don’t be confused – both the CV and the resume are used to apply for jobs.

Here are the main purposes of submitting a CV, going by region:

  • In the US and in Canada, jobseekers often use resumes to apply for jobs. Outside of their home countries, however, Americans and Canadians submit CVs for heavier roles, including academic and research-related ones.
  • Europeans default to using their CVs for any kind of job application, ever. Europe’s so serious about the CV, they even have an official EU format available for download.
  • Here in Singapore (and even in Australia), CVs and resumes bear little distinction from each other. Meaning to say if you call your resume a CV, no one will look at you weirdly. Feel free to submit a resume or a CV when you apply for jobs – there really isn’t a difference to employers. However, if you wanted to start making a clear distinction now, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so!

You might start calling your one-page document a resume now. That’s actually the proper way, but no one here will blast you for sending in a one-page CV. However, the document grows as you gain more work experience – and depending on the type of job you eventually want, say 10 years down the road, your resume might have to transform into a longer, more detailed CV.

The layout of a CV vs a resume’s layout

Because CVs are longer in length and contain much more information than your typical resume, their layout is just a little more restricted and fixed. This is because of the amount of information you have to put down for professional reasons – and because it’s a chronological document that helps you to track the entire course of your professional life thus far.

Basically, if you were looking to decorate a lengthy CV, you might want to hold your horses.

A resume, on the other hand, is a much more flexible document that grants you a bit of creative freedom. We previously talked about well-designed resumes in this article – check out some of the best designs Venngage picked out!

Because the amount of content and information in a resume is nothing compared to a CV belonging to someone of considerable experience, you get more flexibility when arranging the layout. A resume does not have to be as chronological as a CV, and you’re free to take out employment history that is not relevant to a specific job you’re applying for.

Recap: CV vs resume

CVs are…

  • Longer in length
  • Full of chronological information
  • Not documents you can decorate or design

Resumes are…

  • Short and brief
  • Full of relevant information (not necessarily chronological)
  • Able to be designed and decorated as you see fit

CV vs resume: So which one do I use?

There really isn’t a dilemma here, actually. First-time job-seekers can probably opt for the resume route, while more experienced professionals might want to craft a CV instead. This is especially if your entire career thus far has been highly relevant and focused on a single type of profession.

Fresh grads and young professionals, don’t sweat it. Stick to creating awesome resumes for now and use them to apply for jobs. The more you grow, the more your resume will grow with you.

After several years of hustling and adulting, you’ll likely come to a point where you’ll consider creating a CV instead of sticking to short resumes. Until then, keep working hard and don’t lose sight of your dreams.

Hop on our job platform now to explore thousands of opportunities! Who said there’s no such thing as a dream job?

Sophia Lee

I used to freelance exclusively for Glints - now I'm a content marketing intern working furiously in the backdrop. Talk to me about writing any time! (Or we could have a serious discussion about video games and e-sports... that's cool too.) Find me on Instagram (@pxtrx)!

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