During your job search, you’ll come across a sea of abbreviations and acronyms. Some of them are easy to figure out, like HR and PT. Others can be tricky.
One common abbreviation that gets tossed around a lot is CV. Despite its popularity, not many people know what it actually means.
In this post, you’ll find detailed answers to the following questions: What does CV stand for? Where did it originate? Is it the same as a resume?
- What is a CV?
- What Does a CV Stand For?
- What is the Difference Between a CV and Resume?
- Which is Better: CV or Resume?
- How Do You Know Whether to Write a CV or a Resume?
- What is the Best CV Format?
- What Should Be on a CV?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
What is a CV?
Most of us have heard about, written, and submitted CVs without digging into the definition of a CV.
At its core, a CV is a formal summary of someone’s professional life directed to an employer as part of a job application.
The exact length, format, and outline vary depending on the industry and the applicant’s experience.
Yet, most CVs have a few aspects in common. For instance, work history, qualifications, and relevant skills are essential for almost all CVs.
What Does a CV Stand For?
The term CV stands for curriculum vitae. Note that vitae is pronounced “vee-tie” or “vai-tee” in the UK and the US, respectively.
In Latin, the phrase “curriculum vitae” roughly translates to “course of life,” but the CV is hardly used to summarize a course of life as a biography would.
Instead, it’s more focused on professional life, especially career and education. This aspect makes it closer to a resume (from the French résumé) than a biography.
What is the Difference Between a CV and Resume?
Although we use both in job applications, there are a couple of key differences between CVs and resumes.
Length: CVs Are Longer
Usually, a CV takes up two (A4 or Letter) pages, but it’s not uncommon to see a three-pager.
In fact, some seasoned professionals in academic fields use CVs that are well over the ten-page mark.
Meanwhile, a typical resume is a one-page overview. Exceptions can be made in some industries to allow for a two-page resume, but it’s still shorter than a traditional CV.
Purpose: CVs Focus on Academics
In the US, the primary purpose behind CVs is academic applications, while resumes work for industries.
Although you still need to include relevant formal education on a resume, it’s never the document’s focus. The education section doesn’t even need to come first.
One more factor to consider is that resumes are often customized (or at least tweaked) for each job application. That’s not the case with CVs since they’re more comprehensive.
Which is Better: CV or Resume?
It’s hard to say conclusively that a CV is better than a resume or vice versa. It all boils down to the purpose behind the formal document.
For instance, if you’re applying for a role in academics or a research position, a CV is your best bet. In other situations, a brief resume would do the trick.
Either way, it’s a smart idea to include a cover letter with the application, which is also different than a resume.
Since resumes and CVs are relatively lengthy, cover letters serve as a brief introduction. They highlight your best features to the recruiter and help you land an interview, where you can discuss the nitty-gritty details in your CV.
If you’re not sure how to craft a cover letter that complements your resume or CV, try using cover letter creators.
How Do You Know Whether to Write a CV or a Resume?
Knowing when to use a lengthy CV during your job search and when to settle for a brief resume can be tricky, but there are a few nifty tips to help you out:
Follow the Job Application Instructions
Sometimes, employers specify whether they want a CV or a resume in the job posting. They’ll either mention the document type explicitly or let you know the expected length.
They’ll also let you know if you need to include a cover letter—spoiler alert: cover letters are usually necessary!
Ask the Point of Contact
Don’t hesitate to ask your point of contact (POC) if the job application doesn’t provide details about the required documents.
Who is your POC?
Well, the first person (usually a recruitment coordinator) that gets in touch with you during the application process is considered the POC.
If no one has contacted you yet, direct your question to the hiring manager who posted the job listing. You could find an email in the post, too.
The Country Where You’re Applying for Work
If you’re applying for jobs in the US or Canada, you have to watch out for the difference between a CV and a resume. In these countries, you need a CV mainly for academic positions only.
In the UK and many places worldwide, the term CV can refer to a one-page or two-page resume.
What is the Best CV Format?
The top CV formats are:
- Reverse-chronological: lists the most recent experiences first
- Functional: organizes the CV by skill rather than by date
- Combined: uses a functional layout for skill sets followed by a reverse-chronological work history section
Interestingly, some people refer to reverse-chronological CVs as chronological CVs. Either way, this format is the most common today.
It’s not the best per se, but it helps highlight the recent (usually more relevant) experiences before digging deep into your work history. Plus, it’s ATS-friendly. That’s why it’s suitable for people applying for new jobs in the same field as their current role.
If you’re changing fields, building a functional CV is the way to go. It’ll redirect the focus from job titles to the skill sets you’ve learned over the years. However, you need to pull specific examples from your work history and tie them to each skill.
What Should Be on a CV?
In a traditional reverse-chronological CV, you can include the following headings:
- Contact Information (email, phone number, and LinkedIn URL for online applications)
- Professional Title
- Personal Statement (optional)
- Academic History
- Work History
- Key Skills (aim for 15-20 words)
If this is your first time, there are some tips for writing a CV to help you make the most out of each section.
For one, if you choose to insert a personal statement, make sure it’s concise and catchy!
You want the personal statement to be an elevator pitch under 150 words about you as a candidate. It can be in the first or third person as long as the font and formatting match the rest of the CV.
To keep the work history section from looking dull, use statistics to showcase your achievements.
You should also note that academic history can be stretched to include subsections like grants, fellowships, and publications in an academic CV. In other cases, you can settle for your relevant degrees (newest first) and GPA (only if it’s over 3.5).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a CV the Same As a Resume?
Although there are differences between CVs and resumes in length and purpose, some people use the two terms interchangeably.
Depending on where you live, hiring managers can use “CV” as a catch-all for a resume and an academic CV, too.
What Should I Put On a CV?
You should always start a CV with your name and contact details. Then, move on to an objective or a personal summary, followed by sections that cover your qualifications, work experience, and skill sets.
You can also include extracurricular activities, volunteering experience, and languages.
Derived from Latin origins, the term CV stands for curriculum vitae, which means a person’s course of (professional) life. Meanwhile, the term resume traces back to French origins.
Origins aside, there’s more that sets the CV apart from the resume. Document length and purpose are two common differences, but the name changes by region, too.
Don’t hesitate to let us know in a comment below if you still have questions about the intricate world of CV writing!