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Resumé vs. curriculum vitae: What’s the difference?

Sharp dressed black woman handing over her resume

At a glance

  • Both resumés and CVs are useful when applying for jobs, but they are not the same thing.
  • Resumés are a concise overview of your professional credentials, while a CV offers a fuller history. A resumé is typically used when applying for a job. A CV is often used to apply to graduate school or an academic role, or roles in medicine law and research outside of academia.
  • You’re going to want to update both your resumé or CV each time you apply so you can tailor it for the specific requirements.
  • Sign up for University of Phoenix’s LinkedIn® newsletter to receive career planning tips, resumé help and more.

Resumés and curriculum vitae (CVs) are both tools professionals use to demonstrate skills, accomplishments and work history. They help candidates explain to potential employers why they’re qualified for an opening, and a CV also may be used to apply for grants and fellowships.

Both resumés and CVs showcase your strongest professional abilities, but they’re very different documents. A resumé is meant to serve as a snapshot of your professional credentials, while a CV offers a full history of your qualifications.

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What is a curriculum vitae?

A CV is a document that outlines a person’s educational and professional history. It’s typically used when applying to graduate school or for an academic position in teaching or research. This can also include applying for a fellowship or grant. In addition to education, job history and professional experience, a CV usually includes things like qualifications and skills, awards and honors, teaching experience, publications and presentations, professional associations, grants and scholarships, licenses and certifications.

Both a resumé and CV tell the story of your professional background, but the distinction is that a CV is a much more exhaustive listing of career achievements. Think of a CV as a complete account of everything that qualifies you as an expert in your field. With a resumé, you would tailor your professional experience to fit the requirements of the position.

What to include in your curriculum vitae

Your CV should have several key pieces of information to provide a complete overview of your professional experience, including your contact information, education details, skills and job history. Those, however, are just the basics. You also want to include awards and honors, leadership experience, publications and presentations, professional associations, licenses and certifications.

Contact information

Provide basic contact information on your CV. Include your full name, phone number, location and email. Many applicants also include their LinkedIn profiles to help employers learn more about them.

You can also include your website or digital portfolio to provide additional background on your work experience. Linking to a professional website or portfolio gives hiring managers a chance to learn more about you, your accomplishments and anything else you want them to know.

Education

Your CV should clearly showcase your educational credentials. This encompasses any level of college education you have, alongside any type of certificate program you’ve completed. If you’re currently completing a degree program or a professional credential, add it to your CV with the anticipated completion date. This lets employers know when you’ll be fully certified for their position.

Even if you haven’t completed a degree or certification program, you can still optimize your CV in a way that highlights your skills and qualifications. Add any vocational or technical training you’ve received, even if it’s not completed yet. You can also list training sessions and workshops that provide some of the same skills you’d gain in a college program.

Skills

One of the most important functions of your CV is to list your skills. This helps employers identify overlaps between your experience and their open position. Be specific about the skills you’ve gained and provide examples that demonstrate how you’ve used your skills to help previous employers.

Make sure to highlight skills that would be applicable in your next position. Read through job listings to identify the skills that current employers are looking for, then prominently list any of yours that align.

Hard skills — specific technical abilities that help you complete tasks — form the backbone of a CV. These skills usually can be quantified and measured. For example, you might highlight specific computer programming languages you worked with or particular algorithms you implemented. This is your opportunity to add any facts or figures that represent your success at a past position.

Soft skills — non-technical skills that help you interact with others — are also vital when creating a complete CV.

Soft skills help you stand out to potential employers in different ways. For example, describe soft skills that demonstrate your leadership abilities, communication skills, time management capabilities and any other strategies you use to solve problems and collaborate with co-workers.

Experience

Potential employers want to see how your past experience might contribute to your next role. Listing work experience helps employers understand where you’ve worked, what you accomplished, how you’ve grown as an employee and why you’ve decided to find a new position.

While relevant work experience belongs on your CV, you should include all of your work experience even if it’s not directly related to the position or field so you can highlight a variety of skills. Add experience that employers can read, understand and verify. For example, you might add a list of academic works you’ve published, scholarships or grants you’ve received, work benchmarks you’ve achieved or awards you’ve won. You can also list professional or academic associations you’ve joined and contributed to.

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What is a resumé?

A resumé is a document that highlights your most relevant career experience and skills. Unlike a CV, this document is brief and identifies the main reasons you deserve consideration for a particular position. Your resumé is a concise, ordered list of professional qualifications, a one- or two-page document that employers can easily read to learn more about you.

What to include on your resumé

Education, work history, job credentials and applicable skills are several key pieces of information that typically appear on a job candidate’s resumé.

Education

Just as with a CV, add relevant details about your education to your resumé. Keep details about your education brief, making sure to focus on aspects that employers will want to see. Emphasize the degree you received and the institution where you studied.

If you don’t have a college degree or certification program to list, you can still mention other details of your education. Consider adding the highest level of education you did complete, the school where you studied and any other details that emphasize your candidacy for a particular role.

Work history

It’s also important to outline your work history. To keep details brief, focus on aspects that created specific results. For example, you might identify how you helped a particular employer scale revenue, lower costs or improve efficiency.

Pick and choose the work history that best demonstrates your aptitude for a job. Instead of providing details about every job you’ve ever worked, only do so for the positions with skills you can apply to your next job.

Credentials

You might choose to include a wide range of credentials on your resumé, such as projects you’ve led, academic or professional works you’ve published, awards you’ve won or other recognitions that indicate your experience.

Improve your resumé by listing any professional associations you’ve joined. Associations, particularly exclusive programs, indicate to potential employers that you have the experience and the dedication for a particular role or career trajectory.

Skills

Skills should have a prominent place on your resumé. Take the time to list all the skills that you feel make you a high-quality candidate for the job. This means including both hard and soft skills, which together demonstrate your ability to communicate, lead and accomplish tasks in your industry.

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Tips for enhancing your resumé or CV

Keeping your resumé fresh and updated can help you find new opportunities to enhance your career, no matter your level of experience. Strengthen your resumé and CV by using keywords that are in the job description of the role you are applying for, adding any new credentials if you have them.

Make sure it fits your desired position

It’s important to refresh your resumé and CV whenever you want to change careers or companies. Update details on your skills, work history and experience to ensure both documents reflect your current professional profile.

Once you’ve identified the position you want, update your resumé and CV to fit it. Read the job description for clues about which skills and experience you should highlight (e.g., skills required by the role you have). Tailoring your documents to fit a particular position helps recruiters and hiring managers identify how well you would fit on their team.

Use keywords

Resumé keywords are particular words or phrases in a job description that describe skills or experience an employer is looking for. Use these keywords to potentially catch the attention of a recruiter, hiring manager or application tracking system. Keywords can help get your resumé and CV in front of an employer’s eyes, even when you’re up against many other applications, especially if others are not practicing keyword inclusion.

Choose keywords carefully to increase the chances that a particular employer will read your resumé. This means choosing industry-relevant, job-specific terms that match a listing. Depending on the position you’re applying for, you might include specific skills, languages, job titles and academic institutions.

Add new credentials

Add additional credentials to your resumé or CV. Earning a new certification or accreditation indicates your skills in a particular field and can help employers identify the most qualified candidates for a role.

Being able to add a master’s degree or a doctoral degree to your resumé, for example, lets you clearly indicate to employers that you’re dedicated to your field. A postsecondary degree also helps deepen your knowledge of a certain discipline and can teach you new strategies or skills employers in your field might need.

You can also add new credentials by completing a professional development program. These programs provide classes and training in a shorter period than a traditional, four-year college degree program. Other candidates might choose to participate in a certificate program that provides an industry-recognized specialization in a specific discipline.

Keep it up to date

Keeping your resumé, CV and cover letter up to date is one of the simplest ways to showcase your credibility. Add new skills as you acquire them and correct any details that might be outdated. You may also need to update terminology, formatting and references.

Use a resumé guide and other career tools for additional help in updating your professional documents. Make a note to refresh any certifications that might be nearing expiration. While this might take time, updated certifications help to keep skills fresh and employers interested.

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