Common belief is that the difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and a résumé (commonly written as resume) is that a CV is used in the UK while a resume is used in the US. While that is true, there is actually a small difference between the two documents.
A CV (Curriculum Vitae, which means course of life in Latin) is an in-depth document that can be laid out over two or more pages and it contains a high level of detail about your achievements, a great deal more than just a career biography. The CV covers your education as well as any other accomplishments like publications, awards, honours etc.
The document tends to be organised chronologically and should make it easy to get an overview of an individual’s full working career. A CV is static and doesn’t change for different positions, the difference would be in the cover letter.
A resume, or résumé, is a concise document typically not more than two pages, as the intended the reader will not dwell on your document for very long. The goal of a resume is to make an individual stand out from the competition.
The job seeker should adapt the resume to every position they apply for. It is in the applicant’s interest to change the resume from one job application to another and to tailor it to the needs of the specific post. A resume doesn’t have to be ordered chronologically, doesn’t have to cover your whole career like and is a highly customisable document.
The three major differences between CVs and resumes are the Length, the Purpose and the Contents.
Length: A resume is a brief summary of your skills and experience over one or two pages, a CV is more detailed and can stretch well beyond two pages. The resume will be tailored to each position whereas the CV will stay put and any changes will be in the cover letter.
Purpose: In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and New Zealand, employers expect a CV. The CV prevails in mainland Europe and there is even a European Union CV format available for download. In the U.S., a CV is used primarily when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions.
A resume is the preferred application document in the US and Canada. Americans and Canadians would only use a CV when applying for a job abroad or if searching for an academic or research oriented position.
In Germany, the CV is more commonly known as a Lebenslauf (true to the latin origins) and is only one of many application document the poor German job seekers must produce to get an interview.
In Australia, India and South Africa, the terms resume and CV are used interchangeably. The term resume is used more for jobs in the private sector and CV is more commonplace when applying for public service positions.
Contents: A CV contains items like Name, contact information, education, work experience and relevant work-related skills. Includes a summary of academic background as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations and other details while a Resume contains items such as Name, contact information, education, work experience and relevant work-related skills. Focus is on work experience, listed in reverse chronological order.