Resume vs CV: What is the Difference? A Guide
Written by Mike Potter, Author • Last updated on 6 May 2024

Resume vs CV: What is the Difference? A Guide

In the UK, you might see job adverts asking you to submit a CV, while other employers may ask for a resume. Both documents look similar and provide summaries of your work experience and skills. But are there any differences you should be aware of? In this article, we discuss the key features of CVs and resumes and answer the question: CV vs resume – what is the difference?

What is a CV?

‘CV’ is the term you’re most likely to see when you’re applying for jobs in the UK market. It stands for ‘curriculum vitae’, which means ‘course of life’ in Latin. As such, CVs have traditionally tended to be detailed documents outlining your employment history, skills and career achievements. In the past, these could run to several pages in length.

However, with the competitive nature of the modern jobs market, recruiters and employers may receive hundreds of applications for a single job. Reviewing those applications is a lengthy and demanding process, and hiring managers may not want to read long documents in detail. As a result, shorter CVs have become more common.

While the length of the CV has changed over time, its purpose remains the same. Your CV should offer a summary of your work experience and skills, and show why you’re a good fit for the job. It should be easy to read and grab the attention of the reader. Most CVs include a header, a CV summary or personal profile, a work experience section, a summary of education and a list of skills. There can also be optional sections, such as certifications, languages, hobbies or voluntary work.

What is a Resume?

The term ‘resume’ is not widely used in the UK jobs market. However, when job adverts include it, it usually means the same thing as a CV. The word ‘resume’ derives from the French word ‘résumé, which means ‘summary’. The traditional meaning of ‘resume’ is, therefore, different to the traditional meaning of ‘CV’. While CVs were longer, detailed documents, resumes were a shorter summary of your career and achievements. However, with CVs becoming shorter over time, the two terms are now interchangeable in the UK, and broadly across Europe.

Some countries still use the terms ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ to mean different things, which might be useful to know if you’re applying to work abroad. The USA and Canada are two countries that still use ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ to mean different things. The former refers to a short summary document, while the latter refers to a longer employment history. Employers in these countries might favour CVs over resumes for academic or very senior positions.

Resumes typically includes the same sort of information as CVs. This includes a header, a resume objective or summary, an employment history, your qualifications and your skills. It could also include optional sections such as certifications, languages, hobbies and volunteer work.

Expert tip:

Both CVs and resumes are summary documents, with limited space to delve into the details of your career and skills. If you want to elaborate or emphasise a point, you can do this in your cover letter. Focusing on one or two key skills and career milestones in your cover letter can help keep your CV as concise as possible.

Resume vs CV: A Detailed Comparison

When comparing resume vs CV, the first thing to remember is that in the UK, there are virtually no differences between the two documents. Employers and recruiters tend to use the two words interchangeably, and the content of each document is more or less the same. However, it’s also worth considering the differences between the two documents for foreign job applications, or in the rare circumstances that a UK or European employer might refer to them as different types of document.

Length of document

Today, both the CV and resume are short summary documents outlining your work experience and skills. While CVs were often long, detailed documents in the past, the recommended length of a modern CV is one or two pages of A4. Employers who may favour the longer form of a CV include traditional professions such as law, finance, academia or government. Organisations in these sectors may require a more thorough account of your career and achievements. However, for most employers in the UK, a shorter, more concise CV is likely to be more effective.

The word ‘resume’ means ‘summary’. As such, these documents have always been short career outlines that are quick and easy for employers to read and understand. It’s common for resumes to be no longer than one page of A4. Most industry sectors in the UK now favour this type of career summary document.

Purpose of resume vs CV

Both CVs and resumes share broadly the same purpose. This is to showcase your experience and skills, to help convince an employer you’re a suitable candidate for a job. However, as we’ve seen, there can be certain situations when the traditional interpretation of a CV is required, instead of the modern version of a CV or resume. If you want to communicate a deeper and more detailed account of your employment history, your skills and your achievements, a traditional, longer CV is the way to go. Otherwise, for most roles, a shorter, modern CV or resume is more suitable.

Content of resume vs CV

The content of a resume and a CV are broadly similar. To the untrained eye, CVs and resumes might appear to be the same. However, some elements of the traditional, longer CV can still appear in modern CVs.

Both documents typically have a header with contact details, a summary or profile, an employment history, education and skills. The short length of a resume tends to dictate that each of these sections is as brief as possible while still communicating all the necessary information. However, a CV is less restricted, and even a two-page document can create much more space for further detail. This could mean including greater detail in your employment history regarding your responsibilities and achievements. It might also mean adding further detail on your skills, whereas a resume may present this section as a simple list.

Usage in different countries

Resume and CV can mean different things in different countries. Here’s a summary of the usage of each term in various places around the world:

  • UK: In the UK, the terms resume and CV are generally interchangeable.
  • Europe: In most European countries, including Ireland, CV and resume mean the same thing.
  • USA: CV and resume are used to describe different documents. A resume is a short career summary, which is suitable for most job applications. A CV is a longer, more detailed document, usually used for senior or academic positions.
  • Canada: Across most of Canada, employers adopt the same approach as the USA, with CV and resume meaning different things. The only difference is in the territory of Quebec, where the two words are used interchangeably.
  • Australia: Both CV and resume are usually interchangeable.
  • New Zealand: New Zealanders tend to use CV and resume interchangeably.
To the untrained eye, CVs and resumes might appear to be the same. However, some elements of the traditional, longer CV can still appear in modern CVs.

When should you use a CV?

In the UK market, most job adverts call for a CV. As mentioned, this tends to mean the same thing as a resume, so a short document between one and two pages long is fine. There may be some situations where employers require a more complete, detailed document outlining your entire work history and other achievements, such as awards, publications, certifications and training.

The types of roles that might require a more traditional, lengthy CV include academic positions and professions such as law, finance or government. However, most other industry sectors favour the shorter version of a CV. If you’re not sure from the job advert whether the employer requires a longer, more detailed CV or a standard, shorter summary document, you can always contact the hiring company to ask.

When should you use a resume?

Although most job adverts ask applicants to send a CV, in the UK, this document is almost exactly the same as a resume. As such, you can use a resume format for most types of job application in the UK.

If you’re applying for jobs in the USA or Canada, it's much more likely employers will require a resume, so submit this type of document unless the job advert specifically asks for a CV. If you want to use a resume format but feel like you don’t have enough space to communicate all the necessary information, you can always use your cover letter to expand on the details you want to emphasise.

Resume vs CV: Key tips to remember

If you’re job hunting in the UK, remember the terms CV and resume generally mean the same thing. Both are summary documents, a maximum of two pages long. However, you may experience some situations where the meanings differ. This includes academic roles, or when you’re applying for jobs in the USA or Canada. Whether you’re writing a CV or resume, CVwizard can help you create a beautiful document that makes an impact with employers. Sign up today to access a wealth of tools and CV templates, and follow the simple steps to creating your winning CV in our CV maker.

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Mike Potter
Mike Potter
Mike Potter is an experienced copywriter specialising in careers and professional development. He uses extensive knowledge of workplace culture to create insightful and actionable articles on CV writing and career pathways.

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