When applying for a non-academic job or an opportunity within academia, one of the most important documents you’ll need to submit is your professional profile. Depending on the country, field, or industry you’re applying to, you might be asked to provide a curriculum vitae (CV) or a resume. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, they have distinct features and purposes that can impact your chances of success.
Scholars transitioning outside of academia into a role in industry, nonprofits, consulting, or other fields often submit long, 5–15 page academic CVs with their applications, leading to missed opportunities and no callbacks. When applying for these roles, the applicant should instead send an abbreviated 1–2 page resume that highlights their fit for the specific role they’re applying for.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between a CV and a resume and provide tips on how to create each one effectively.
Length: CVs are longer than resumes
One of the most obvious differences between a CV and a resume is their length. While a resume typically ranges from one to three pages (maxiumum!), a CV can be many pages long, depending on your career trajectory, achievements, and qualifications.
This is because a CV is meant to provide a comprehensive overview of your professional history, including your education, research, publications, presentations, awards, affiliations, and other relevant experiences. A CV is often required for academic, research, or scientific positions, where employers need to evaluate all of your academic credentials, intellectual contributions, and potential for scholarship. They need to cover a lot of ground.
On the other hand, a resume is a condensed summary of your skills, experiences, and achievements, tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. Unlike a CV, a resume usually does not include extensive details about your academic or research background, unless they are directly related to the job requirements. Instead, a resume highlights your most relevant accomplishments and qualifications, such as your work experience, skills, and certifications. A resume is often required for business, government, or nonprofit positions, where employers need to assess your ability to meet their specific goals and needs—they don’t need (or want) the full picture.
Format: CVs and resumes have different structures
Another key difference between a CV and a resume is their format. While both documents share some common elements, such as your name, contact information, and education, they have different structures and sections that reflect their purpose and audience.
A typical CV may include the following sections:
- Personal information: your name, address, phone number, and email address
- Education: a detailed list of your academic degrees, institutions, majors, minors, and honors
- Research: a comprehensive description of your research interests, projects, publications, presentations, grants, and fellowships
- Teaching: a summary of your teaching experience, courses taught, student evaluations, and pedagogical strategies
- Publications: a comprehensive list of all of the books, articles, essays, and other publications you’ve authored and co-authored
- Service: a list of your professional affiliations, committees, conferences, and community involvement
- Skills: a section that highlights your technical, language, and interpersonal skills that are relevant to your field
A typical resume may include the following sections:
- Contact information: your name, address, phone number, and email address
- Professional summary: a brief statement that summarizes your career objectives, skills, and achievements
- Work experience: a list of the previous jobs, companies, dates, roles, and accomplishments you’ve had that are relevant to the job you’re applying for
- Education: a concise list of your academic degrees, institutions, and majors
- Skills: a section that highlights your technical and language skills that are relevant to the job
- Certifications: a list of your professional certifications, licenses, or training programs
- Teaching and publications: if relevant to the position, you might include some highlights of your teaching background and some major publications
Design: CVs and resumes may have different styles
Although the content of a CV is more important than its visual appearance, the design of your resume can make a difference in how it is perceived by employers or reviewers.
The design of your resume should be appropriate for the purpose, audience, and industry standards, while also reflecting your personal brand and style. Many applicants choose premade designs available on Canva or Etsy; Microsoft Word also offers some effective templates.
Here are some tips on how to design a resume effectively:
- Choose a professional and legible font that is easy to read and consistent throughout the document. Avoid using fancy or decorative fonts that may distract from the content or make the text hard to decipher.
- Use clear and concise headings that indicate the different sections of the document. Use bold or italic fonts to highlight the most important information, such as your name or job title.
- Organize the information in a logical and chronological order, starting with the most recent or relevant experiences. Use bullet points to break down the text into bite-sized pieces that are easy to scan.
- Use white space and margins to create a balanced and visually appealing layout. Avoid cluttering the page with too much text, images, or colors that may overwhelm the reader.
- Customize the design to fit the industry or field you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying to a creative or design-related job, you may want to use more colors, graphics, or fonts that showcase your creativity and style.
- Many templates include images of the applicant; the necessity of this will depend on your country and industry
Always be sure to check whether the resume will be reviewed by AI before embarking on a major design overhaul, though!
Depth: CVs require more depth than resumes
One of the key differences between a CV and a resume is the level of depth they require. While a resume provides a brief snapshot of your skills and experiences, a CV requires a more detailed and nuanced approach that showcases your expertise and potential for scholarship.
A CV typically includes a thorough overview of your research interests, methodology, and results, as well as your teaching experience and professional service. A CV also includes a comprehensive list of your publications, presentations, grants, and awards, which demonstrate your intellectual contributions and impact in your field.
On the other hand, a resume focuses on your most relevant and recent work experiences, skills, and accomplishments, and may not include extensive details about your research or academic background unless it’s directly related to the job. A resume should be tailored to the specific job requirements and highlight the skills and achievements that are most relevant to the position. A resume also should showcase your soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership, which are essential in any job.
Oftentimes, resumes don’t include any further information about one’s professional experience outside the job title, company name, and dates of employment. However, if you choose to include one or two bullet points, make sure they focus on your achievements in that role rather than simply describe your responsibilities.
Audience: CVs and resumes are read by different audiences
Another key difference between a CV and a resume is the intended audience. While both documents are used to showcase your professional profile, they are read by different audiences with different expectations and interests.
A CV is often read by academic or research institutions, funding agencies, or scholarly publishers, who are looking for evidence of your intellectual contributions, potential for scholarship, and fit with their mission and values. They are interested in your research interests, methodology, and results, as well as your teaching and service contributions. They also expect a CV to be thorough, detailed, and comprehensive, with a focus on your academic and professional achievements.
On the other hand, a resume is often read by recruiters, hiring managers, or human resource professionals, who are looking for evidence of your skills, experiences, and achievements that are relevant to the job. They are interested in your work experience, skills, and accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to meet their specific needs and goals. They also expect a resume to be concise, tailored, and targeted, with a focus on your most recent and relevant experiences.
If you want the latter audience to pay attention to your application, make sure you’re meeting their expectations in terms of the length, scope, and design of your resume.
In conclusion, a CV and a resume are two distinct documents that serve different purposes and audiences. A CV is a comprehensive overview of your academic and professional achievements, meant to showcase your potential for scholarship and research. A resume is a tailored summary of your skills and experiences, meant to showcase your ability to meet the specific job requirements.
About the author
Cara Jordan is chief editor and president at Flatpage. She has spent her career editing academic and artists' writings, primarily as a developmental editor and copyeditor. She received her PhD in art history from the Graduate Center, CUNY.