What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
CV = Literally, your professional life story
Resume = One-page highlight of your best qualities that are relevant to the job you are applying
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” ~ Mark Twain
Curriculum vitae (CV) means course of life in Latin, i.e. your professional life story. There is no page limit, but it still needs to be error-free, concise and formatted well. It is a showcase of your scholarship and accomplishments. This is where you list all your published papers, grants, awards and everything else.
Graduate students and especially postdocs are familiar with CVs. Postdocs, by definition, are likely to already have a CV; you use CVs to apply to postdoc positions. However, CVs are not for job applications outside of academia in general, which sometimes would also include industry postdoc positions.
If this is the first time you write a resume, I’m almost certain that you should go for a one-pager. Some may argue that a two-page resume is acceptable if you have many accomplishments, but unless you are going for senior positions with ten years of experience in the field, keep it to one page! It does not matter how much you have accomplished, you would still be able to distill it down to one page if you spend enough time working on it. The one-page of goodness should also be error-free, concise and formatted well.
You might come across people who would boast and declare that they have just sent out a good 500 resumes a week, or any three-digit numbers in a very short amount of time. Even though it is still possible to strike an interview with such a shot-gun approach, it is certainly not the most productive way. To get the best possible return, you should spend time investigating the position and the organization, and customizing your resume in a targeted way. The key is always to connect your skills and capabilities to the employers’ needs. Tell the resume reviewers how you can solve their problems.
Now, let’s think about your audience. Resumes are usually first screened either by algorithm or HR staff. Once the resumes make it through the first filter, they make their way to the hiring manager or supervisors. Taking all that into account, your resume needs to have the right keywords to appeal to the algorithm, the right flavor that would appeal to HR department, and ultimately describing the right skills that the hiring managers are looking for. When you are working on your resume, always stop and ask yourself how the resume would look to all your audience at all the different stages.
Whether you need a CV or a resume, it is best to have both ready to employ at any given time. You never know when opportunities would come knocking. So, update your CVs and resumes whenever you have new accomplishments. If nothing else, it feels great and cultivates self confidence. Ain’t that right?