Curriculum Vitae vs. Résumé

By Jaime Watt, Employment Consultant, Thornhill Employment Hub

Have you ever been asked for a curriculum vitae or CV when applying for a job? Did you wonder what the employer was talking about? For Canadians, curriculum vitae can mean one of two things:


  1. It is a document similar to a résumé but much more comprehensive and used primarily in academic settings; or


  2.  It is an international term used for a résumé.


The Difference between a Canadian Résumé and a Canadian Curriculum Vitae


Both résumés and CV’s are marketing tools designed to get an interview with a potential employer (or in some cases with a CV, admission into a post-secondary program). Résumés are designed to briefly (1-2 pages) show the employer your past work accomplishments when applying for employment. CV’s are more detailed descriptions of your work and academic history anywhere from 3-20 pages. In Canada, CV’s are normally used when applying for academic, scientific, and research positions; for entrance into post graduate programs; and for funding for research grants and proposals. The reader will want to know comprehensive details about the candidate’s education, research and employment experiences. Since the target audience is normally a professional from the same field, the language used should be technical. There is no need to shortcut the descriptions as Human Resource professionals are probably not going to be reading it. Technical language also helps the reader know that you know what you are talking about.


CV’s tend to not have a structured category in the same way that résumés do. There does not seem to be any agreed to formula and the categories can differ based on the individual’s profession. Most CV’s do not include an objective or a summary of qualifications. Unlike résumés the education section normally appears at the top of the page. If you are required to write a CV when applying for a job it’s a good idea to ask the employer what they would like to see in the CV, since different professions have different standards and guidelines for them. If you are registered with a particular profession, contact your governing body to see if they have any guidelines for CV’s in your field.


If an employer requests a copy of your CV for a non-academic job, they may just be using the wrong terminology commonly used in Canada and are actually just requesting your résumé.


Common categories include:


  • Contact information

  • Education

  • Professional Memberships/Committees/Appointments/Boards

  • Research Experience

  • Teaching Experience

  • Awards and Fellowships

  • Projects

  • Publications

  • Presentations

  • Work Experience


The International Curriculum Vitae


Different countries require different résumés/CV. If you are applying for an international position the best thing to do is find out what the requirements are for the specific country you are applying to. Conduct an internet search to see if you can find out what that country requires. Some countries will require personal information that would not be allowed under Canadian law, such as: date of birth, marital status, country of origin, mother tongue, whether or not you have children, and a photograph. Only provide this information if absolutely necessary. If applying for employment or education in Europe, the European Union implemented Europass, a framework to assist people wanting to work or learn in Europe. It is a reference tool that allows for the comparison of qualification levels in national and sectoral systems. You can create your European CV for free on the following website: The Europass CV is similar to the standard Canadian résumé.


Whether you are writing a résumé or a CV make sure you know your target audience. Always proof read your document and have someone else proof read it as well.