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Resume or CV? What’s the Difference? Which to Use?

By Doug Cantrell posted 03-08-2021 12:51 PM


Applying for job positions can be exciting and stressful at the same time. It’s exciting to advance your career by applying for a position that is a great fit for your goals. But this can also be stressful. Applying for a new position is like a first impression, and we all want to put our best foot forward.

So how do we put our best foot forward when it comes to applying for a new position?

My advice? Make sure you are submitting the required material, in the best applicable format, for that specific position.

Different employers have different requirements for their applications. Most companies will list any required information for an application (like references, certifications, a cover letter, or a specific format for attachments) on their website. Be sure to submit all required information with your application.

Typically, job applications require an applicant to submit either a resume or a CV (curriculum vitae) to show their education, work experience, and related skills. But what is the difference between the two? When should you use one over the other?

What is the difference between a resume and a CV?

  • While both a resume and a CV will list contact information, education, work experience, and related skills, the big difference is usually the length of the document itself.
    • A resume is typically one to two pages long and summarizes an applicant’s information.
    • A CV, on the other hand, will list all your education, work experience, and relevant information. CVs can be multiple pages in length and should be longer than resumes, as CVs are not summarizing information.
  • Think of a CV as a copy of your entire career, from start to finish, whereas a resume is a copy of your career highlights.

When should you use a resume, and when should you use a CV?

  • As it relates to civil engineering, this question can typically be answered by two criteria:
    • What country is the job in?
      • Most jobs in the United States and Canada prefer resumes over CVs.
      • Most jobs outside of the United States and Canada prefer CVs over resumes.
    • Is the job related to research or academics?
      • Research positions or jobs that require some level of teaching typically prefer CVs over resumes. These positions are typically connected with a university in some way.
      • Most engineering-related positions (that are not research or academic related) in private companies or public agencies prefer resumes over CVs, except for positions located outside of the United States and Canada.

My last piece of advice for making a good first impression with a job application is to tailor your application for that specific job. That may require editing your resume or CV, creating a job-specific cover letter, or providing different references. This is a great way for your application to stand out from others, who may be submitting the same generic resume or CV to multiple positions without any changes.

Hopefully my explanations of the differences between a resume and CV, and when to use them, will help make applying for jobs a little less stressful, and a little more exciting.

Doug Cantrell, P.E., PMP, attended Penn State with a civil engineering degree focused on structural design. He has worked 10+ years in the transportation industry, working primarily with bridges. Doug has a passion for public policy and mentorship, including being an ASCE Resume Coach. 

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