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CV vs. Resume: Is There a Difference?


Is a CV the same as a resume? Do you need one or both documents to apply for remote jobs? In this article, we dig into the differences between a CV and resume as well as how you can leverage both to build a solid telecommuting career.


CV vs. Resume: Is There a Difference?

Telecommuting jobseekers often find the hiring process to be complicated and mysterious. Here at Virtual Vocations, we hope to demystify the remote job search and answer your specific questions. While browsing our job database, you may come across job posts that request a CV instead of a resume. Don’t let this confuse you and prevent you from applying for telecommute jobs. Read on to learn about the differences between CVs and resumes and when to submit each type of document.

What Is a CV?

The acronym CV stands for “Curriculum Vitæ,” which is Latin for “course of life.” It is a detailed document that describes every aspect of your career. Think of it as a mini-autobiography of your professional life. It doesn’t change based on the job you apply for, but you continuously add to it as you gain experience, reach milestones, and earn accolades. At the beginning of your career, your CV may be two or three pages long. Over time, you may end up with ten pages or more, depending on your career path and achievements.

A CV typically contains the following:

  • Name and contact information
  • Education history
  • Employment history
  • Skills and other qualifications
  • Awards
  • Publications and presentations
  • Grants and funding received
  • Conferences attended
  • Professional organizations

In some countries, it is customary to include personal information, such as age, marital status, and date of birth. In the U.S., however, such information is considered personal or sensitive and should not be included. Legislation enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects U.S. workers from discrimination and prohibits employers from requiring personal or sensitive information. Other countries may have similar discrimination laws that prohibit or restrict the amount of personal information required.

Typically, your CV is professionally formatted without graphics or color. It doesn’t need to be flashy, but it does need to be organized and easy to read. You can list references at the end with names, companies, work addresses, and work phone numbers. However, references are optional, and employers usually request them later in the hiring process.

What Is a Resume?

A resume is a document that highlights your significant career achievements and most relevant skills. It usually focuses on a specific occupation or field, rather than spanning all your work and educational experiences. It also serves as a snapshot of your best qualities that align with particular job description requirements.

A resume usually contains:

  • Name and contact information
  • Summary
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Specific skills, awards, certifications

Your resume is more of a self-marketing document than a historical account of your career. Therefore, it can include color, graphics, images, and other design elements. However, you should keep a plain version handy for online resume submissions.

Throughout your career, you update your resume to showcase your accomplishments and growing expertise. Each time you apply for a job, you should tailor your resume to the job description, job category, or industry. Experts recommend limiting your resume to one page, but a two-page document may be acceptable for certain positions. You usually don’t include references in your resume. Employers typically ask for a list of references during or after an interview.

Related: Create a Winning Resume Virtual Vocations e-Course Overview

Do I Need a Resume or CV to Apply for Remote Jobs?

When submitting job applications to employers around the world, you should research each country’s customs. For instance, most U.S. and Canadian employers prefer resumes. Only academic, scientific, medical, and research professionals use CVs in the U.S. and Canada. However, many employers in European countries, such as Britain, Ireland, and Germany, require CVs. Other countries, such as India and South Africa, use resumes for private sector employment and CVs for public sector jobs.

Regardless of the country, employers sometimes use the terms “resume” and “CV” interchangeably. Always read the job description and application requirements carefully so that you submit the correct documents. If the job listing doesn’t specify which document you should submit, or if an employer gives you the option to “submit your resume or CV,” then consider the employer’s country of origin and the location of the office posting the job.

For example, an employer’s headquarters may be in London, but you might be applying for a job that reports to a New York City office. In this case, you probably want to submit a resume, since U.S. personnel are filling and managing the position. If you can’t figure out which document to send, do a quick online search or contact the employer directly for guidance.

Related: Are There Differences in Resumes for Remote Jobs Versus Onsite Jobs?

Should I Have a CV Just in Case?

If you plan on living and working solely in the U.S., then you only need a CV for academic, medical, and scientific research fields. However, all job seekers can benefit from keeping a CV on hand, even if it’s just for personal use. For example, you may want to maintain a CV if you:

  • Intend to apply for remote jobs outside the U.S.
  • Have a long list of publications, presentations, professional awards, and honors
  • Plan on freelancing while traveling to other countries
  • Want to document your entire professional history

If you dream of working as a digital nomad, you may want to bring an updated copy of your CV in case a government entity questions your motivations for traveling. Also, you may need a CV to search for local jobs. However, even if you stay in the U.S., you can expand your remote job search with a CV and potentially gain employment with companies around the world.

Regardless of your travel plans, a CV is a useful reference document for tracking your accomplishments and building targeted resumes. For example, if you want to switch industries or careers, you can use your CV to extract relevant information and create tailored resumes for each specific job. Therefore, you don’t have to start from scratch every time you need to write a new resume.

Should I Tailor My CV for a Specific Job?

You usually don’t create multiple versions of your CV or tailor your CV for specific jobs. Remember, a CV is a detailed account of your work history and education. Employers who request a CV want to see your complete career profile. However, you can still compose a CV that captures their attention. For example, you can include:

  • Keywords that are commonly used in your industry and job category
  • More details about your job responsibilities (compared to a resume)
  • Examples of projects you worked on
  • Explanations for career transitions or gaps in employment
  • Links to work samples, such as articles, presentations, or images

Keep in mind, you don’t have to include everything in your CV. Since your CV is supposed to be a narrative of your career path, you can omit information that does not align with the direction you’re heading. For example, if you’re an information technology (IT) professional with a few years of experience, you can probably omit the bartending job that helped get you through college. Instead, you want to focus on any professional or academic experience related to IT. However, if you are in customer service or hospitality, that bartending job may be relevant experience, especially if you worked for a reputable company.

The bottom line is: Use your CV to tell a comprehensive story of your career with the future in mind. Consider omitting any information that doesn’t position yourself well as a professional or relate to your desired future path.

Related: Upgrade Your CV with a Virtual Vocations Professional Resume Review

Should I Tailor My Resume for a Specific Job?

Contrary to a CV, you should always tailor your resume for each job. Your resume doesn’t have enough space to showcase everything you’ve ever done in your career. Therefore, you need to pick and choose your best features that align with the job description and company culture.

You can create dozens of resume versions for different types of employers, such as nonprofit organizations, government agencies, startups, and large corporations. If you wear many telecommuting hats, you can create resumes specific to each line of work. For example, you might have a resume that emphasizes writing, one that highlights your teaching experience, and another that focuses on web design and development.

Best practices state that you should not include experience or details that are more than ten years old. Thus, no matter how you’re tailoring your resume, be sure to add only recent, relevant information. Also, avoid copying and pasting bullet points from a job description into your document. Place keywords and phrases strategically throughout each section, but incorporate them naturally and in your own words.

Related: How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Offer and Land Your Dream Job

How Do I Optimize My CV or Resume for an ATS?

Many employers and recruiters use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to process applications. Though an ATS can make the hiring process more efficient and help employers comply with EEOC regulations, it creates challenges for job seekers. For example, an ATS program may only accept specific file types, such as “.doc” or “.txt.” If you submit a “.pdf” file, the ATS may not be able to read the text. Instead of asking you for a different version, employers often discard applications that the ATS does not render correctly.

ATS programs also rank your application automatically based on how well your resume matches a job description. Therefore, it’s important to tailor your resume to each job posting and company. You also need to include targeted keywords throughout your document, as recruiters often search for specific skills or qualifications.

You can optimize your CV and resume for an ATS system by aligning the content with typical job requirements and in-demand skills. For example, if you are a virtual assistant, you may want to include keywords like “email management,” “data entry,” and “project coordinator.” Though you’re playing a bit of a guessing game, you should at least include standard phrases that any employer or recruiter would expect of a qualified candidate. If you’re not sure whether your CV or resume will make it past an ATS, Jobscan offers an online ATS checker to see how your document compares to a specific job posting.

Are Cover Letters Different for CVs?

Your cover letter serves the same purpose whether you submit a CV or a resume. It introduces you to an employer, summarizes your qualifications, explains why you are a good fit, and provides a glimpse of your professional persona. It’s more of a sales pitch for the position rather than a reiteration of your skills and experience. Though cover letters are sometimes optional or not required, Virtual Vocations experts recommend including a brief letter when appropriate.

Related: Telecommuting Cover Letters: Are They Obsolete in 2018?

Can Virtual Vocations Help Me Write a Resume?

Yes! When you sign up as a premium subscriber, you gain access to resume templates, checklists, best practices guides, and a resume writing course located within the Telecommute Toolkit. You can also take advantage of our professional resume writing and review services to help you leverage your skills and experiences. Become a Virtual Vocations member and start crafting your wining telecommute resume today!

Do you need help with your resumeConnect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to tell us how we can help. We’d love to hear from you! 

Photo Credit: 1. iStock.com/Creative-Touch

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