CV vs Resume: What’s the Difference?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Resumes and CVs are similar but also have important differences in how they're used, formatted, and what they contain. Use this guide to explore your options when choosing a CV versus a resume.

[Featured image] A woman sits on her sofa in her living room working on her resume on her laptop computer.

You'll find no difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and a resume in the United Kingdom, as these terms are used interchangeably. If you need to create a CV, which is the term we'll use for this article, this guide can help. Discover what a CV is, when to use one, the features it should include, details on content, and how to create a successful CV format. Then, discover how CVs differ from resumes in North American countries like the US and Canada and get some tips for the next steps in your career journey.

When to use a CV

CVs are used to apply for work and in educational settings when applying for admission, grants, fellowships, research positions, and postdoctoral positions. Interviewers and recruiters will use your CV to verify your skills, work experience, and educational qualifications. While some employers may only require a CV from job candidates, others may ask that you complete a job application.

Considerations for an employment CV

Before creating your CV for a job, scanning the job listing carefully is a good idea. Take note of what the position entails and what the employer is looking for so you can tailor your CV to match. Consider your special skills and experience to determine your qualifications to apply for the position. Then, gather any materials you may have with information regarding:

  • Past employment

  • Education

  • Experience with volunteering

  • Relevant classes, workshops, certifications, or training courses you may have taken

Considerations for an academic CV

When applying for entrance to a university, a postgraduate program, or an academic job, focus less on work experience (unless relevant) and more on education. Depending on your circumstance, include details about relevant coursework, academic scores, descriptions of any fieldwork or laboratory experience, and a list of any academic papers you've published or dissertations you've written. While there is no page limit for an academic CV, it is a good idea to be as concise as possible for the reader's benefit.

Features of a CV

Your CV will likely be the first shot at setting yourself apart from other job candidates or university applicants. The main features should include your contact information, the objective for applying, education, work experience, skills, special achievements, and any certifications and/or licences you hold. 

CV content details

Contact information: To make sure an employer or admissions officer can reach you, provide your name, a phone number where you can be contacted during the day, and your email address. If you have a link to a professional social network like LinkedIn, you can include it with your contact information.


In this section, list your:

  • Diplomas and degrees

  • The names of schools, colleges, and universities you attended

  • The dates of attendance at each school, college, and university

Work experience: This is the place to list work experience you've had, whether paid, work placement, or volunteer work. For each entry, include the organisation's name, job title, the dates your work began and ended, and a brief description.

Skills: This section allows you to show an employer or admissions officer skills you have that might be relevant to a job or an educational programme. Make sure to list interpersonal skills you possess, like communication and/or teamwork, and list technical skills that might benefit you on the job or in school, like knowledge of financial software or copywriting skills.

Special achievements: Here, you can list items that might interest an employer or admissions officer, like completing a special work project, a money-saving idea you came up with for an employer, an important client you helped acquire, or any awards and honours you've been given. 

Certifications, licences, and professional affiliations: In this section, list any certifications or licences you've earned or memberships in professional associations relevant to a job or an educational programme.

CV format tips

When creating your CV, follow these useful tips for a successful format:

  • Keep it to one or two pages unless you're creating a CV for admittance to a college or university, which may require a longer document.

  • Make your CV easier to read using headings, bolding, bullet points, and spacing between sections.

  • Choose a clear and easy-to-read font, such as Arial, Avenir, Calibri, or Times New Roman.

  • Choose a font size between 10- and 12-point for the body and 14- and 16-point for headings.

  • Use active words when showcasing achievements, such as 'created', 'conceptualised', 'forecasted', 'headed', 'organised', and 'oversaw'.

  • Make sure all the information on your CV is honest and accurate.

  • Be ready to explain any gaps in your work history.

  • Triple-check your CV for errors in grammar and spelling.

  • If sending by email, convert your CV to a PDF document to preserve formatting.

CV vs resume in the US and Canada

In the US and Canada, resumes and CVs are used differently. They are two documents used for two different purposes, so you should bear this in mind if applying for a job or admittance to a college or university in one of these countries.

A resume is a one- to two-page document used for job application purposes, and a curriculum vita (CV) is a detailed educational history, which is often longer than two pages, but the length of this document depends on your experience. For instance, a CV sent with an application to a master's program in the US or Canada would be much less lengthy than one used to apply for a university fellowship or college teaching position.

Next steps

To enhance your chances of landing a job once you've been called for an interview, it helps to have a few tips. Consider enrolling in Advanced Interviewing Techniques on Coursera. This course takes about 21 hours to complete and provides detailed strategies for handling many types of interviews. You'll finish with a shareable certificate of completion.

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