CV vs. Resume – what’s the difference?

We’ve covered a lot about how to build your CV, but what if you’re planning on applying to jobs overseas in the United States? If you’ve ever applied for internships, particularly in the USA, you may have noticed that employers often ask for a resume instead of a CV. Having moved to the UK for university from the USA, I’ve applied for many roles in both places and I’ve learned to always have both a CV and resume on hand. But sometimes I still even ask myself “what really is the difference between a CV and a resume?”

The general principles of both are the same (you want to highlight why you’re perfect for the job) but here are a few differences you should recognise.

Personal statement vs. Objective

A “personal statement” on a CV is usually a few sentences about your personal attributes and goals. Not everyone includes this, but it is a space to show what sets you apart from the crowd.

An “objective” on a resume is slightly different. It’s just a brief sentence or two on your goals pertaining to the job you’re applying for. I usually change this each time I submit my resume to show how that particular internship would help me towards my career goals.

Content

Since the general idea of CVs and resumes are very similar, the good news is you don’t have to build them both from scratch!

A CV is a history of everything you have done academically and professionally, so you generally don’t change it to be job specific. You can include a lot of detail on your experiences and the skills you’ve picked up from them, while resumes are often tailored to highlight your most relevant achievements.

They are both structured similarly and you should include different sections on your education, work experience, any extracurriculars or community involvement, and skills/interests. As with any application, the sector and type of job will affect what you choose to include.

Length & Detail

There’s a lot of debate around this topic as it varies so much between industries, but overall, CVs can be longer than resumes.

A CV can be anywhere from 1-3 pages, or even up to 5 for academics. This can include the lengthier details of your work experience, education, and achievements.  For a resume, it is most common to keep it to a single page and really prioritise your most fitting material. I will often change what I include based on the job description and focus on the targeted skills or achievements I have in that area.  

This might sound self-explanatory (or a bit trivial), but remember to change the paper layout! Everything you write for your CV on an A4 document will not fit onto an 8.5×11 inch piece of paper (this is the formatting size for paper in the US).

Other Considerations

When applying to any jobs overseas, it is important to remember to convert your achievements, particularly in academics. For instance, grading schemes in the USA and UK are entirely different. Someone who earned 70% in the UK has a 1st, while that is equivalent to a C- in the US. Grade Point Average (GPA) is also a common way to report marks in the US and there are resources online to help you convert your marks. You want the application reviewer to easily understand everything!

Finally, if you are ever unsure which document you should submit, and it is unclear in the job listing, it is best to ask for clarification from the employer about their expectations. We also have workshops and application advice appointments available for students at King’s Careers – it is always helpful to get some advice on how to improve your CV/resume skills!