What Is A Curriculum Vitae, And When Should I Use One Instead Of A Resumé?

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woman working on her CV

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Amanda Brown12
May 29, 2024 at 12:25PM UTC
When job hunting, even the smallest mistake can mean the difference between a hire and a rejection. And in an environment where women are still overlooked in favor of men with similar skills and backgrounds, the importance of creating a standout curriculum vitae or resumé can’t be overlooked.
But when should you use one over the other? And, more importantly — what is a CV?

Resumés vs. CVs

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What is a resumé?

The resumé format is what most people will be familiar with — think of it as a one-page advertisement, telling potential employers why you deserve the job. In a glance, recruiters and managers should be able to see: where you got your education, your most significant achievements, previous relevant experience and specific technical skills (keywords) mentioned in the job posting.
For most hiring managers, this document isn’t really the place to include personal interests and hobbies, but there is one major exception: if your hobby or activity has given you specialized experience in a particular skill. For instance, freelance writing could make you uniquely suited to a position where you would be communicating technical material to a general audience.

What is a curriculum vitae?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is essentially the story of your life (it literally translates to "the course of [my] life" from Latin). Unlike the resumé, the CV should contain everything: a list of publications, volunteer work, classroom and graduate research projects, professional presentations, copies of articles you’ve written, awards and honors and anything else you might consider an accomplishment.

Who uses a CV?

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It’s not uncommon for tenured professors at the end of their careers to have CVs more than 100 pages in length that cover their full teaching experience and work history. In short, while you can look up many sample CVs online, a job seeker who wants to create more than a resumé would do better to focus on how to write a CV in a way that very comprehensively covers your education, employment history, work experience, and professional qualifications, such as awards, skills, publications and professional memberships, to form a thorough documentation of your work history.
The CV template and format is often more appropriate for careers in academia or research positions, a job seeker for whom academic accomplishments are a large component of their work or other jobs that similarly encompass a broad range of topics and subjects. This format gives the employer an idea of your background by indicating how well you organize a large material set, as is required to prepare for a college course, and by highlighting publications since academia stresses publishing your research and work.

Key differences between resumés and CVs

Usually one pageOften several pages
Includes brief bullets about your work history and achievements
Includes a comprehensive overview of your work and academic history, awards, accomplishments, and skills
Adapted to the position for which you're applying
Doesn't change; new experience is added, but accomplishments are rarely removed

How do you get resumés and CVs noticed?

When it comes to job applications and cover letters, the difference between a CV and resumé (besides length) is customization. When applying for a new position, you’re still trying to beat the system. Often, algorithms determine whether or not job applicants will receive an interview, and the way to beat this system is to customize your resumé to meet exactly the requirements your potential employer needs. (Again, the CV involves little tailoring to specific jobs, as it is intended to be a comprehensive look at your achievements.)
Just a few years ago, the way to beat the system was to use invisible keywords — i.e. taking buzzwords from the resumé and skills that the employer wants to find and adding them in white font to the header or footer of your resumé. This way, when the algorithm searches for specific keywords, your resumé will be sure to have the necessary minimum requirements. But, as applicants became smarter, so did the algorithms. The sorting algorithms are now “weighted,” meaning that buzzwords in the middle of a sentence are “scored” higher than buzzwords found in a list of keywords.

Social media

If you want a leg up on your competition, you can also tailor your social media to your job application and add links to these accounts on your resumé. Most employers are going to look at your social media anyway. The manager who hired me made conversation about Doctor Who during my interview, for instance, because he checked out my Facebook page and saw that I was a fan.
Use privacy settings, and show your employer (via the “make public” option) professional photos, personal interests and hobbies, and PG-rated humor. Also, remember that your potential employer probably also has a social media account. You can utilize this to get a peek inside the types of events the company hosts and attends, the age range of the average employee, the culture of the institution and more.
Finally, don't underestimate the impact of a well-written cover letter.

The bottom line

By polishing your CV or resumé and going into an interview with knowledge of your future employer’s interests and activities, you’ll show that you’re interested in the mission and personality of the company, adding that extra bit of detail that a hiring manager is sure to remember.
Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a Scientific Computing Researcher living in Austin, TX. She is also the Advice Section Editor for the Scientista Foundation Advice Blog, Liaison to the Corporation Associates Committee of the American Chemical Society, and Chair of the ACS Central TX Local Section Women Chemists Committee. Amanda basically spends all of her time trying to tell everyone that women are awesome — because she has a daughter now and wants her to know that girls can do anything.

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