Know when to use a CV vs a resume in your job search

Most of us will know that CVs are commonplace in the UK when applying for jobs, and the same for resumes in the US. But do you really know the difference between the two? And do you know where a CV and resume are used elsewhere in the world? We'll explain the main differences between a CV and a resume, which are key if you're looking for a job abroad.

What is a CV?

A CV is the most commonly used document for job applications in the UK and the rest of Europe. “CV” is an acronym for the Latin word “curriculum vitae,” which translates to “the course of one's life.”

Put simply, a CV is a chronological account of your career and qualifications – it gets longer and more interesting as you get older and wiser. That's why these documents can be two or even three pages long. 

Additionally, there are strict rules for writing a CV, such as what to include, the length of the document, the order in which you list things, and, most importantly, tailoring your CV to every job you apply for.

If you're a seasoned professional, you're likely used to writing CVs and know what format to use. As a refresher, here's what to include in your CV:

Essential CV elements

Optional CV elements

If you're unsure how to craft your CV or it's your first time to do so, you can look at some professional CV examples to help you get started. In the UK, there are also professional CV writers to help you out.

What is a resume?

Similar to a CV in that it's used to apply for jobs, a resume is the standard job application document in the US, Canada, Australia, and Asia.

Unlike a CV, a resume is just one page long and can take multiple formats. While CVs tend to have an unmovable set of rules, you're free to be more creative with your resume. In addition, a resume should only discuss the skills and experience related to the role. You don't need to list your entire work history on a resume. 

Confusingly, there's a document known as a CV in the United States that covers a person's entire work history and can be up to 10 pages long. It's typically saved for academics, like professors.

As some UK-based jobs now require you to use a resume document as part of the application process, learning how to convert your CV into a resume could be beneficial. 

In case you don't know, here's an overview of what to include in a resume:

Essential resume elements

  • Header (name and contact information) 

  • Summary or objective

  • Key skills

  • Work experience and achievements

  • Education

Optional resume elements

  • Languages

  • Certificates and awards

  • Volunteering experience

  • Hobbies and interests

  • Projects

  • Extracurricular activities

The main differences between a CV and a resume

While a CV and a resume have many similarities and are used for job applications, they are not the same. In fact, there are many broader international differences between CVs and resumes

To help you know which is which, here are the main differences between a CV and a resume you should know about:

The length

The most obvious difference between a CV and a resume is the length. 

A CV lists the majority of your education and work experience and tends to go 10 to 15 years back. That's quite a lot of information, and depending on the amount of jobs you've had or your experience level, your CV may be up to three pages long.

Resumes are typically one-pagers that showcase only your education and work experience achievements. You should make this document concise – short, snappy, and easy to scan.

The format

If you're writing a CV in the UK, you must keep things straight and simple. Word documents with very plain body text and headings are preferable. Recruiters want an easily scannable and digestible document that they can whip through to see if you're the best match for the job.

Alternatively, in the US, resumes can afford to be more creative. You can use various formats to highlight your skills, education, and work experience. Use colour sparingly, or pick a fun design that shows your creative talent – it's up to you! Your aim is to capture the attention of prospective employers and show them you're the right person for the role.


In the UK, New Zealand, and most of Europe, employers favour a “CV.” However, in Australia, South Africa, India, and other parts of Asia, the terms CV and resume are used interchangeably, although the default tends to be a CV. 

However, in the US and Canada, the definition of a resume is standardised as a short one-page document, whereas a CV is akin to a lengthy academic CV.

Career type

A CV is the most common document to use when applying for any job in the UK, regardless of the sector. In fact, their purpose is interchangeable with a resume in the US. 

However, academic CVs, or what is known in the US as a CV, are used when applying for research professions or doctoral programmes.

Recent similarities between a UK CV and a US resume

The inclusion of a headshot and personal information used to be a key difference between a CV and a resume. But recent changes have made this uncommon in either document:

A headshot

A headshot is not necessary on a CV. British employers are prohibited from basing their decisions on someone's physical appearance due to the 2010 Equality Act. Adding a photo to your application could muddy the waters. 

That said, adding your LinkedIn profile to your CV is acceptable, and you should include a professional profile picture on your LinkedIn page.

There are other reasons to avoid including a headshot on your CV, including to help your CV pass an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and to create space for more important details.

In the US, job hunters were encouraged to include a headshot on their resume, but strict labour and anti-discrimination laws in recent years have changed this. 

Similarly to the UK, though, a professional headshot on LinkedIn is acceptable.

Adding personal information 

It was customary to include your full address, marital status, date of birth, nationality, and driving licence details on a CV for a long time. However, today, personal information like this is limited due to protected characteristics listed in the 2010 Equality Act. 

In the UK, the only requirement is that your CV include your full name, phone number, email address, and location in the form of town and/or city.

The US also required the same intense detail of personal information until recently and for the same reasons. Similarly, a resume should only include your full name, phone number, email address, and location.

Note that there are always some exceptions. For example, specific jobs may require a full, clean driver's licence, and you are expected to provide details of this on your CV or resume.

When to use a CV vs a resume

Often, the differentiating factor between using a CV and a resume is the location of the company you're applying for. Here are a few situations to help you decide on the suitable document to use:

  • Applying for a role in academia in the UK, Ireland, or New Zealand: If you're eyeing a role in academia, research, or even a teaching position, you'll likely need a detailed CV. This document encompasses all your scholarly achievements, publications, presentations, and more. It's the go-to in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand.

  • Applying for a corporate or public service role in the US, Canada, or Australia: If you're diving into the corporate world or angling for a spot in public service, think of a resume. Short, snappy, and to the point, this document is your chance to showcase your professional prowess. Employers in the US, Canada, and Australia generally expect this condensed version.

  • If you're applying for a job abroad: Crossing borders? Things can get a tad murky. CVs are the norm in Europe, though you might hear whispers of "resume" occasionally. In Australia, as well as in India and South America, the lines blur even further. But fear not, a well-prepared resume-style CV can usually cover all bases.

Knowing the difference between a CV and a resume can make or break your application, whether you're a seasoned executive or fresh out of university. And if you're venturing abroad armed only with a short-form resume, it's time to craft that all-important professional CV. After all, being prepared is half the battle in the world of job hunting.

Want to perfect your CV for your next role? Let our experts help you out – get started with a free CV review now!

This article was originally written by Charlotte Grainger and has been updated by Laura Slingo.

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