Nov 24
“Should I use a CV or a resume?”
Rick M

That’s a question a friend posed to me before heading off to work as an elementary school teacher in the UK.  This is a bit of a tricky question, as the answer depends on a variety of factors:

  •   Where in the world you’re applying to work
  •             The type of position
  •             The industry or field

Before finding an answer to my friend’s question, what are the differences between a resume and a CV?

Resume: short and sweet, looser format, limited experience

A resume is a concise professional document that is typically no longer than one page (though it can be longer for more experienced individuals).

The format and style of the resume is not standardized, meaning that my resume may look radically different from yours.

The content of a resume is also quite dynamic and can be adjusted, condensed, expanded and/or positioned in countless different ways to more accurately suit the targeted position.

CV: long and lengthy, static format, full experience

A CV (Curriculum Vitæ, which in Latin means “courses of life”) is an exhaustive summary of one’s experience and skills.

It is at least 2-3 pages, though exceptionally experienced individuals’ CVs may extend to up to 20.

The CV’s format is similar to a resume’s, in that it lists Work History, Special Skills, and Awards. However, where the objective of a resume is to give a snapshot of only the important bits, the CV is an in-depth, comprehensive outline of everything you’ve accomplished: academic papers you’ve had published; letters of recommendation; professional development taken; thesis/dissertation outlines; etc. It is a full, detailed look at your life, experience, skills and achievements.

When should I use a resume or a CV?

First off, where are you in the world? If you’re in Canada or the US, you’ll almost always use a resume.

If you’re in the UK, Ireland or New Zealand, you’ll only use a CV. In some parts of the world, like Australia, India and the province of Quebec, the two terms are used interchangeably. The bottom-line: research which document is appropriate for geographical area(s) in which you are applying.

The next consideration to make is the position you’re after, as well as the industry/field it’s in. In Canada and the US, resumes are used for the vast majority of job applications.

The exceptions tend to be those applying for positions in academia or medicine. CVs are also popularly used when applying internationally and when applying for fellowships or grants.

So now we can return to my friend’s question about whether to use a CV or a resume. Since he’s applying to work in the UK, he needs a CV.

If you’re in a similar position and have only got a resume, there are many resources online explaining how to successfully convert your resume into a full, extensive CV, like this thorough instructional from

While the format differs based on industry and geographic location, the expectation of precise, engaging, high-quality writing is consistent. Whether you need a resume or a CV, consult a career services professional. 

Published in November 2016 by

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