You are ready to start your job search and you know that you need a sharp marketing tool to send to potential employers. Good for you for knowing the importance of a well-written summary of your education, professional accomplishments, and abilities. You might even have an old resume from the past, but that half-page resume you wrote for the McDonald’s job in high school won’t cut it now. With all of your accomplishments, a simple re-write won’t work either. Only a new document will do. But should it be a resume, or would a curriculum vitae (CV, or sometimes called a “vita”) be the best document to display your skills? And what are the differences between a resume and a CV?
Many people are confused when confronted with this choice. This is understandable given that it depends on what type of position you are applying to and where, geographically, it will be sent. In the US and Canada, resumes are the most requested job application tool whereas the vita has certain specific uses, such as applying for academic or research positions. In Europe and other parts of the world, however, the CV is standard even though the format might be more like the US resume. To add to the confusion, many people use the two terms interchangeably.
Since it takes time to format and write out your educational and professional accomplishments, and you really want to impress the potential employer, making a properly informed decision now is vital. Knowing the difference in each style can be helpful. Although not “cast in stone,” there are a few rules that might help you decide which to write based on content.
The most distinguishable difference between a resume and vita in the US is the length. A resume should be kept to one or two pages at the most. A CV is often three or more pages. The longer length of the CV allows for additional information to be included, such as teaching and research accomplishments, and a listing of publications.
Another difference is the identity you want to project. The resume displays a professional identity. The CV establishes a scholarly identity. Personal information is never included in a resume, but is often expected in a CV. Marital status, for example, is frequently included in a CV, but never in a resume. Why? It goes back to the identity that you are establishing (with a little bit of conventionalism tossed in).
So now you have a clearer vision of the some of the differences between a resume and a CV, but the question regarding which to use remains. It often depends on the field to which you are applying. Whereas a CV is required when applying to academic positions, recruiters in the medical field typically request a resume. Locating written samples of job applications in your field can be very helpful. Get as many recent samples as you can. Maybe some of your peers have been newly hired. Ask them if you can see their resume/vita.
Using recent examples of effective resumes/vitas to use as guidelines in writing your own resume/vita will give you an edge over other applicants. You can also use online tools to locate specific examples, or ask recruiters or professionals in your field for advice. By researching the current hiring expectations in your field and recent resume/vita examples, you will be able to market your skills with confidence.