If you look up curriculum vitae (CV) online, you’re going to get a lot of results for resumes, as if they are the same thing. The same is true when you start looking for templates and formatting suggestions, most of the web returns are for resumes. So what’s the difference and how do you know which to use?
A resume is a snapshot of the history and skills that make you a good candidate for a specific job. It’s short, generally only one page, and highly focused. The days of an all-purpose resume are over. LinkedIn functions as a supplement to your resume, making it the place for all your work related information. Consider your resume a living document. While you may have a primary version that you use as a routine start point, it’s never finished.
A CV is a much longer document that doesn’t look at skills so much as academics. A CV will include your publications, speaking engagements, teaching assignments, research involvement, and committee positions. The shortest CVs I’ve worked with were five pages long. The longest was around 85. Realistically, you want the CV you send out to be no longer than 15 pages. It’s fine to keep an extra long version that has every publication or talk that you’ve ever done, but when you need to submit it, trim back to the last five or ten years to keep it reasonable. Like a resume, your CV is a living document. It should be updated at least once a year, even if not required by your institution.
In the US, most job openings call for a resume. Consider it the default for applying. Resumes are reviewed by software to find key words; most are never seen by an actual person. You should adjust your resume each time you send it out, changing the language to fit the skills listed in the job description you are responding to, or matching your current position if it’s requested as part of a review or award process.
In the US, a CV is primarily required for positions in an academic setting, both for professionals seeking to teach and applicants to PhD programs. Some professions also tend to use CVs because the scope of duties tend to vary significantly. A physician has a practice or hospital as their primary employment, but they may also participate in research, serve on medical school committees, volunteer in a medical training program, or provide medical education at schools and community centers. Since these activities are all related to their skills and knowledge of medicine, they’re all relevant, but may not all fit on a resume, so CVs are popular in this field. It’s currently less common for CVs to get filtered by software.
US job search trends are not universal. CVs are actually the default for job applications in much of Europe, so keep this in mind if you are applying abroad.