Résumés and CVs

Although they are actually different documents used for different purposes, the terms "résumé" and "CV" are sometimes used interchangeably. We've broken down the differences below.

TIP: Want some more help with your résumé? Come to a Résumé Lab workshopmeet with a career educator or talk to your co-op coordinator! We also offer a Résumania event three times a year.

What's the difference?

Résumé versus CV

The terms "résumé" and "CV" are sometimes used interchangeably, although they are different documents used for different purposes.

Résumés

A résumé is a document that summarizes your education, experiences, and competencies. It’s designed to introduce you to an employer and highlight your qualifications for a specific job or type of work. Use a résumé when you:

  • Apply for work 
  • Network with potential employers 
  • Apply for some graduate schools, co-op programs, internships, scholarships, etc. 
  • Participate in career fairs or recruitment events


CVs

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a more comprehensive document that details all your past education, experiences, and competencies, including public presentations, academic writing and professional development. It’s designed to introduce you to employers in academics, advanced research, post-secondary teaching and fine arts. Use a CV when you:

  • Apply for work and/or contracts in academics, advanced research, post-secondary teaching and fine arts
  • Apply for graduate school, scholarships, etc. 
  • Showcase your background prior to a presentation


Key differences

  • Purpose – A résumé is used for work search; a CV is used when applying for contracts, advanced research or post-secondary teaching positions
  • Focus – Résumés focus on nonacademic work with an emphasis on related competencies; CVs focus on academic work with an emphasis on research and teaching
  • Content – Résumés summarize key information; CVs provide comprehensive information
  • Length – Résumés are generally one to two pages; CVs are often five, 10, 20 or more pages

Résumés (samples, templates and more)

What to include in a résumé

Résumés are organized in sections that describe your education, work/volunteer experience, competencies, accomplishments, etc. There are no strict rules on how to organize the information on your résumé, but check out our résumé tips for some pointers.

Required information

  • Personal contact information – This forms the header of your résumé and includes your name, address, phone numbers and email. Make sure you have a professional email address and voicemail message.
  • Education – A list of your educational credentials in reverse chronological order. For each credential, include the name of the degree/diploma/certificate, the institution and the year of completion for each of your credentials. Once you've started your university degree, it's common practice to remove your high school diploma from your résumé (unless you've had an unusual or unique high school experience that links to your work goal).
  • Work experience – A list of your work experiences in reverse chronological order. For each work experience, include the position title, name and location of the organization and start and end dates (month and year). If you're at the beginning of your career, provide a complete list of your work experience back to your first job. If you're in your mid-career, you may want to edit your work history somewhat to save space. It’s common to only go back 10 years unless you have a good reason to include earlier positions (e.g., if you're targeting a career area that matches your earlier work, or you've been with one employer for 10+ years). In some cases, you may want to divide your work experience into two separate lists (Related Work Experience and Additional Work History) to highlight your most relevant experience.
  • Competencies/accomplishments – Embed these throughout different sections of your résumé, presented in the context of your work and educational experiences. Best presented as bulleted statements beginning with action verbs (pdf)  (“developed”, “created”, “supervised”, etc.) that describe your accomplishments in clear, concrete terms.
  • References – Your references are three to four people who know you, generally from a work or educational setting, and who are willing to be contacted by a potential employer in order to comment on your contributions, personal qualities and work ethic.  This section should appear at the end of your résumé. Read more about references.

Optional information

  • Objective – A brief statement at the beginning of your résumé that focuses on how you can contribute to your field of practice. 
  • Professional profile/summary – A brief and very useful section near the beginning of your résumé that includes four to six statements that strongly connect you to the work you are seeking, often describing your specifically related competencies and accomplishments. Think of this as a summary of the key points from your cover letter. 
  • Volunteer experience/community involvement – Include your volunteer experience just like your paid work.
  • Technical expertise – Often used by people in scientific or technical professions and includes relevant techniques, processes and equipment. Technical expertise often appears near the top of the résumé and includes keywords that relate to the position.
  • Professional memberships or affiliations – Professional associations or informal professional groups you're a member of.
  • Additional training – Courses or training programs you've taken in addition to your formal education. 
  • Professional credentials/licenses – Qualifications or credentials earned through a training program or testing process (Class 5 Driver’s License, CPR training, etc). 
  • Interests – A brief statement at the end of your résumé that lists interests, hobbies or activities that provide a more rounded picture of you.

 

Don't include...

In Canada and the United States, you should not include photos, birth dates, social insurance numbers, marital status or number of children on your résumé.

Résumé formats

There are three commonly used résumé formats, which present your competencies and accomplishments in different ways.

Chronological résumé

The most common type of résumé. Your competencies and accomplishments are described directly under each position, and your employment and other experiences are organized in reverse chronological order. The chronological résumé is useful when your most recent experience is closely related to your career goal or when your experiences show a pattern of growth and responsibility over time.

Advantages:

  • Gives a clear profile of each separate experience
  • Preferred by most employers
  • Relatively easy to write

Disadvantages:

  • Forces you to share information in a certain order rather than relating it to your career goal
  • If you've held several similar positions, the statements under each one may be too repetitive

Functional résumé

In this type of résumé, your competencies and accomplishments are separated from your chronological education and work history and organized into groups according to thematic areas (e.g. communication, marketing, research, etc.). The functional résumé is useful when you're making a career shift, or when your most recent experiences aren't related to your career goal. 

Advantages: 

  • Emphasizes the competencies and accomplishments most relevant to your career goal
  • If you don’t have extensive or recent work experience, but have relevant competencies from your education or volunteer work, this format allows you to group your competencies together on the first page

Disadvantages: 

  • More work to write than a chronological résumé
  • Can be hard for the employer to tell which competencies you used in which work experience (address this in your competency statements by being specific about where or how you demonstrated these skills)

Combination résumé

This résumé format combines the two formats described above. It includes both a competency and accomplishment section organized by theme, and some descriptive information under each position you have held. You may choose a combination format when your career history is somewhat related to the position you are applying for, and you wish to highlight the transferability of your competencies from a variety of positions.

Advantages:

  • Your competencies are grouped in an order that relates best to your career goal
  • Employers have some information about your responsibilities and accomplishments in each of your positions

Disadvantages:

  • This is the most complex format to put together as it can easily become too repetitive and dense
  • Can be difficult to keep a combination résumé to two pages

Résumé samples

Look at these samples for ideas when crafting your résumé.

Résume templates

Here are a few working templates to help you get the ball rolling.

Résumé templates and builders

Résumé builders

UVic Co-op and Career does not endorse these résumé builders or the content on these websites. We've simply listed a few popular sites to get you started.

Top tips for a strong application

Employers rarely read a résumé from beginning to end. They scan and skim them, and may spend only 10 seconds making an initial assessment. If there is not enough immediate information that connects you with the position, they may not bother looking at the rest. Use these tips to maximize your impression!

Customize your résumé for each position

A résumé is not "one size fits all". If you’re applying for several similar jobs, you can have a “master” résumé that reflects the general requirements for this work, but you should tweak each application to match up with your skills. This is because different types of work require you to highlight different aspects of your experience, and an employer needs to see quickly and clearly how your background meets their needs (they shouldn't have to work hard to see the connection!). Remember that a résumé is an evolving document—and tailoring it shows the employer that you've put effort into your application.

Make the most important information stand out

Put your most important information near the top. Use bolding or underlining sparingly but strategically to draw the reader’s eye to the most important information in each section (e.g., in your work history, bold your position titles rather than the names of your employers). If you have a long section devoted to your competencies and accomplishments, use subheadings to draw attention to the key themes there.

Use white space

Don’t cram too much information onto the page. Your document should be pleasing to look at with a good balance of text and white space. This will give the readers’ eyes a break and allow them to digest the information you are presenting.
  • If you’re writing a résumé, you should keep it to no more than two pages in length, so you’ll need to make difficult decisions about what information to include and what to save for the interview.
  • If you’re writing a CV, you won’t need to adhere to a specific page limit, but you should still be concise.

Balance and organize your information

Use columns, bullets, tabs, lists and centering to help separate information and grouping relevant information into sections. This makes it easier to scan. It also suggests that you're an organized, logical thinker and that you'll be able to deliver professional-looking documents on the job.

Limit use of borders, line and tables

Effective use of these formatting options can give it a professional look, but overusing them can make it difficult to scan effectively. Avoid underlining individual words as this can be distracting to the eye.

Use simple fonts

In most cases, use a standard font like Arial or Times New Roman. Stick with a font size of 11 or 12 point for the basic text. Section headers can be in a slightly larger font size (14 point) and your name can be in an even larger font (16 to 18 point). Use the same font throughout your document (changing fonts can make it look sloppy).

Use clear and concise language

Remember that the employer will be scanning, not reading, so craft your statements carefully and clearly. Use relevant terminology for your field, but avoid too much jargon or complex language.

Keep it free from mistakes

Very important! Proofread and get a second set of eyes to check for spelling or grammar errors, typos and sloppy or inconsistent formatting.

Submit your document in the format requested

  • If you're asked for an electronic version... convert it to a PDF so it won't distort when it is downloaded.
  • If you're asked to enter your information directly into an online application form... you may need to rewrite some of your information or provide additional information. Follow the instructions carefully. You may have limited formatting options in an online form, so make sure your information is as neat and tidy as you can make it.
  • If you're asked for a hard copy... print with black ink on a neutral-coloured paper (white or off-white) that is slightly higher quality than regular bond paper.

Using references

Typically, you'll need to include the names of three to four references with your résumé. References can include: 

  • former or present supervisors 
  • professors, teaching assistants, teachers, lab instructors 
  • coaches, volunteer supervisors, mentors 
  • colleagues who can speak to your abilities
  • should NOT include relatives or friends

For each reference, include their name, position title, organization, phone number, email address and location. If your reference has changed jobs since you worked together, indicate how your reference knows you (e.g., “former supervisor”).

Asking references for permission

Always ask your references' permission to use their information. Update your references (or contact your existing references) at the beginning of your work search to let them know someone may be calling. It’s a good idea to tell them about the kind of work you're applying for and send them your current résumé. You may also want to ask what they would say about you if someone called for a reference check.

How to provide references

You can either include your references at the end of your résumé or put “References available on request” at the bottom of your résumé.

It’s more efficient to include your references on your résumé, and it may boost your credibility if your references are well-known. However, you may prefer to opt for "upon request" if you don’t want to spread their contact information widely or you don’t want your current employer to be contacted until after an interview. If you're not including references on your résumé, bring them to the interview and provide them to the employer at the end.

Note on reference letters: Employers usually prefer to contact your references directly. Keep in contact with your previous employers, even if they change jobs or retire—potential employers may want to talk to them.

Formatting your references

Use these tips if you're providing your references on a separate sheet:

  • Keep formatting consistent, e.g.,
    • If you have one name bold, bold them all
    • If you're including categories for each contact (name, position, email), use the same for all references
    • Check capitalization for organization titles
    • Use same font throughout
    • If you're copying contact info from somewhere else, update the formatting
  • Use the same style/formatting as your résumé and cover letter (same header with your contact information, etc) so they look like a cohesive package
  • Include your name in the document
  • Save the document with your name in the title

The reference check process

Employers will usually contact your references after your've completed a successful interview and the supervisor wants to learn more about you and your work history. This could be immediately following your interview or several days after.

Usually, reference check questions will relate to your past responsibilities, work ethic, professional behaviour, skills and dependability.

Examples:

  • What kind of work did ______ do for your organization? 
  • This will be a busy position with multiple demands and changing priorities. Describe how _____ has worked under similar conditions. 
  • Is _____ able to organize her work effectively to meet deadlines? 
  • Does _______ generally arrive at work on time? Were there excessive absences? 
  • Would you hire ______ again if you had the opportunity?

Building your résumé

  1. Make notes about how your experience matches up with the posting by deconstructing the job posting
  2. Choose the format that best suits your experience
  3. Prepare your reference list
  4. Decide on the general layout and appearance, including the sections, order, fonts, etc.
  5. Write your first draft—our Action verbs list can help you write strong statements
  6. Review and proofread
  7. Ask two to three people to take a look and provide feedback (they should know you well and/ or be knowledgeable about the field you're targeting)
  8. Make any changes and finalize your document

CVs (sample and template)

What to include in a CV

CVs includes details about your education and experiences, including public presentations, academic writing and professional development - a CV is often used when applying for academic, research, post-secondary and fine arts positions.

Required information

  • Personal contact information – This forms the header of your résumé and includes your name, address, phone numbers and email. Make sure you have a professional email address and voicemail message.
  • Education – A list of your educational credentials in reverse chronological order. For each credential, include the name of the degree/diploma/certificate, the institution and the year of completion for each of your credentials. Once you've started your university degree, it's common practice to remove your high school diploma from your CV (unless you've had an unusual or unique high school experience that links to your work goal).
  • Professional memberships or affiliations – Professional associations or informal professional groups you're a member of.
  • Awards and distinctions –  Academic awards and related honours, as well as research funding like grants and fellowships.
  • Research experience – A description of your previous research experience, including personal research and research conducted on behalf of other individuals.
  • Teaching experience: A description of your teaching experience and responsibilities, including courses taught, TA and lecture experiences, curriculum development, experience running labs and tutoring. 
  • Publications: A list of your published work, including the names of the publications.
  • Presentations: Your professional presentation experience, including presentations at conferences, symposiums and in the community.
  • References – Your references are three to four people who know you, generally from a work or educational setting, and who are willing to be contacted by a potential employer in order to comment on your contributions, personal qualities and work ethic. This section should appear at the end of your CV. Read more about references.

Optional information

  • Objective – A brief statement at the beginning of your CV that focuses on how you can contribute to your field of practice. 
  • Summary or profile – A brief section near the beginning of your CV that includes four to six statements that strongly connect you to the work or educational experience you are seeking, often describing your specifically related competencies and accomplishments. Think of this as a summary of the key points from your cover letter. 
  • Professional service – A list of academic committees that you have belonged to, as well as your contributions to professional organizations (e.g., Graduate Student Society, graduate student representative on academic committees) 
  • Competencies – Skills, knowledge and attributes related to the work you're seeking. Best presented as bulleted statements beginning with Action verbs (pdf)  (“developed”, “created”, “supervised”, etc.) that describe your accomplishments in clear, concrete terms. Traditionally, competencies are only listed minimally on a CV. 
  • Relevant work experience – A summary of work experience that is relevant to your current goal. Check the application to determine if this section is required or if it would add value to your CV. If so, include your co-op work terms and other experiences like internships, practicums or spectific projects. (Alternately, you could integrate this into your research and teaching sections.)

Note for graduate students

Early in your program, your CV may closely resemble your résumé. Creating a "Research Interests" section is the easiest way to quickly differentiate your CV from your résumé. While in your program, you should look for opportunities to build these sections of your CV: "Research experience", "Teaching experience", "Publications", "Presentations" and "Professional affiliations". As you progress through your program, your CV and résumé should become clearly differentiated documents.

CV templates and samples

Using references

Typically, you'll need to include the names of three to four references with your CV. References can include: 

  • former or present supervisors 
  • professors, teaching assistants, teachers, lab instructors 
  • coaches, volunteer supervisors, mentors 
  • colleagues who can speak to your abilities
  • should NOT include relatives or friends

For each reference, include their name, position title, organization, phone number, email address and location. If your reference has changed jobs since you worked together, indicate how your reference knows you (e.g., “former supervisor”).

Asking references for permission

Always ask your references' permission to use their information. Update your references (or contact your existing references) at the beginning of your work search to let them know someone may be calling. It’s a good idea to tell them about the kind of work you're applying for and send them your current résumé. You may also want to ask what they would say about you if someone called for a reference check.

How to provide references

You can either include your references at the end of your résumé or put “References available on request” at the bottom of your résumé.

It’s more efficient to include your references on your résumé, and it may boost your credibility if your references are well-known. However, you may prefer to opt for "upon request" if you don’t want to spread their contact information widely or you don’t want your current employer to be contacted until after an interview. If you're not including references on your résumé, bring them to the interview and provide them to the employer at the end.

Note on reference letters: Employers usually prefer to contact your references directly. Keep in contact with your previous employers, even if they change jobs or retire—potential employers may want to talk to them.

Formatting your references

Use these tips if you're providing your references on a separate sheet:

  • Keep formatting consistent, e.g.,
    • If you have one name bold, bold them all
    • If you're including categories for each contact (name, position, email), use the same for all references
    • Check capitalization for organization titles
    • Use same font throughout
    • If you're copying contact info from somewhere else, update the formatting
  • Use the same style/formatting as your résumé and cover letter (same header with your contact information, etc) so they look like a cohesive package
  • Include your name in the document
  • Save the document with your name in the title

The reference check process

Employers will usually contact your references after your've completed a successful interview and the supervisor wants to learn more about you and your work history. This could be immediately following your interview or several days after.

Usually, reference check questions will relate to your past responsibilities, work ethic, professional behaviour, skills and dependability.

Examples:

  • What kind of work did ______ do for your organization? 
  • This will be a busy position with multiple demands and changing priorities. Describe how _____ has worked under similar conditions. 
  • Is _____ able to organize her work effectively to meet deadlines? 
  • Does _______ generally arrive at work on time? Were there excessive absences? 
  • Would you hire ______ again if you had the opportunity?

Building your CV

  1. Make notes about how your experience matches up with the posting by deconstructing the job posting
  2. Choose the format that best suits your experience
  3. Prepare your reference list
  4. Decide on the general layout and appearance, including the sections, order, fonts, etc.
  5. Write your first draft—our Action verbs list can help you write strong statements
  6. Review and proofread
  7. Ask two to three people to take a look and provide feedback (they should know you well and/ or be knowledgeable about the field you're targeting)
  8. Make any changes and finalize your document