What is a Resume and how does it differ to a CV?

A resume is an American-style CV. It is more subjective than a CV and written in a more narrative style with less structure. Like a CV it details the most recent job first and highlights the main points of your career.

In North America, the terms resume and CV are used interchangeably. A resume would be used for seeking employment in the private sector and a CV would be used more for seeking employment in an academic or educational environment.

Resumes are generally shorter than CV's and would not include any personal information about you. Most of the information required in job resumes is transferable to CV's and vice versa but details such as date of birth, gender, religion, marital status and so on would not be included. This is to avoid discrimination. The only information that you should list at the top of your resume is your name and contact information. The main focus of a resume is your most recent career details written in reverse chronological order.

Resumes follow various written formats such as: chronological, functional, combined and online.

Chronological resume

This is the most common resume layout in use. It focuses on your most recent work experience and then working chronologically backwards.The job titles and employer details are highlighted along with great emphasis on duties and accomplishments. This format is easy to read and allows the prospective employer to see how your career has evolved and developed over the years.

These resumes are great if you are staying in the same industry you are presently in but may not be so helpful if you are changing career dramatically. All resumes should be relevant to the targeted employer and if your most recent and detailed work history is not applicable to your new post then this format might not the best one for you to use.

The layout of a chronological resume is as follows:

Name and contact details

This section includes your name, address, and phone number(s), e-mail address and if you are a college student you may also include a school address as well as your permanent home address.

Job Objective

Only include a job objective if you are new college grads or changing careers. Otherwise, use your cover letter for this purpose. Your objective should be approximately 5 lines long and detail the type of work you want to do.

Work History/experience

List your career history in reverse chronological order with the most recent employment first. Bullet list accomplishments and avoid discussing at length duties from your last job description. This section should demonstrate your career growth and progression.

Key Skills

Here you should detail any achievements which will grab the attention of an employer. Summarize any major accomplishments, contributions and qualifications.


If you have recently completed college, this section comes next but for others with work experience, this section follows the experience section.
This section should include schools, dates and qualifications.


Detail professional memberships and any extra curricular hobbies or interests here.


You can enclose references if you have some that are current and positive and can be easily checked by the employer or you can make a note here to signal the end of your resume and write ? details available upon request?.

A functional resume

This type of resume is tailored specifically for the job you are applying for with the focus being on work experience and skills specific to that job. Your experience is arranged around skill clusters related to the career you wish to enter. Unlike the chronological resume these details appear before the career history is listed.

This format is useful if there are gaps in your employment or your most recent job is not relevant to the job you are applying for now. You can take the emphasis off those gaps with this type of resume. It is also useful for those whose work has been contracted , self employed or temporary.

A functional resume is less helpful if you want to emphasize promotions and career growth.

Some employers are not familiar with the functional format and favour chronological resumes. If you're unsure about whether you should use a functional resume try writing it both ways and show the two formats to people in the field you wish to enter. See which one they feel showcases you best.

Combined resume

The combination or combined resume is a mixture of both the functional and chronological format. The combined resume leads with a functional list of job skills followed by a list of employers in reverse chronological order.

This type of resume is advantageous if you are changing jobs in a related career field.

Online Resume ? or e-resume

An e-resume/online resume is a resume that is specifically designed for use on a computer and on the Internet. The font and format needs to be scannable and printable and should maximise the use of keywords so that search engines and employers can find your resume on the Internet. The keywords should contain a description of your characteristics and industry specific experience in order to accommodate the computer process. Many employers now use filtering programmes to find the resumes that contain those keywords that relate to the vacancy they need to fill. So your online resume should avoid the use of descriptive words and focus instead on nouns and anything you think an employer might add to his search when trying to find a suitable candidates resume online.

Many job sites allow for you to create and save your resume online and have easy to use templates to assist you. Or you can create your own using one of the accepted file formats to maintain it.

Many employers prefer to receive resumes written as Microsoft word documents while others accept resumes formatted in HTML, PDF or plain ASCII text.

You should be aware that Including an e-mail address in an resume may expose you to spam. Online resumes are popular within industries which benefit from multimedia exposure such as actors, models, photographers and graphic designers etc.

Internet resumes can be more comprehensive as you can allow links to more information if the employer wants to know more.

Do and Don'ts of resume writing

Do not write the word 'Resume' at the top, just start with your name and contact details.
Keep it short Unless you are applying for a post, which has it's own unique resume standards (i.e. teacher or a scientist) a resume should not be much more than one page long.
Use headings - commonly used headings in the order in which it should appear are:

  • Objective ? a short sentence detailing the type of job you are seeking.
  • Work Experience ? job list with impressive details demonstrating your value to the organization you worked for.
  • Skills - information such as computer skills, languages, and any memberships of professional organizations etc.
  • Education ? A brief list of your education as far back as an undergraduate degree. Mention the institution(s) attended, the degree(s) and dates of attendance.
  • Reverse chronological order -Put the most recent information at the top and work backwards.
  • Page size - For posted resumes, the standard size for an American resume is 8.5 by 11 inches.
  • Proofread - Before forwarding your resume, proof read it and check your spelling and grammar, then ask a friend to read it in case they notice errors that you missed.