The Difference Between a Resume, a Bio, and Curricula Vitae

Posted by Dawn Boyer

Job seekers are somewhat confused with the semantics of what a resume is versus a short biography versus a curricula vitae. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, depending upon the end goal or objective of the owner. Let’s examine the definitions and the differences.

Curricula vitae

A curricula vitae (CV) has a root in the Latin term, ‘life story’ or ‘courses of life.’ A CV illustrates the achievements and the entire employment history, as well as awards, education, and special training received over a lifetime of the CV owner. A CV is not a resume or a bio and is used principally to provide a detailed history to an audience. It also lists all the education, certifications and training, patents, white papers, technical skills, and other details. A CV includes educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, and affiliations.

In the USA, recruiters don’t want the longer version (CV) of work history to muddle through – it would be too tiresome to read. CVs are requested when applying for academic, education, scientific, research positions, fellowships or grants – validating the credentials of the applicant. In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, employers may expect a CV. CVs can run as few as three pages to as long as 20 pages, depending upon the background and history of the candidate.


A resume is a snapshot of accomplishments reached in a range of employment history – commonly the last 10-15 years. Resumes are used as career search tools, listing the most recent experience and up-to-date skill sets, as well as any financial contributions (sales, revenues, cost cutting or overhead savings) relevant to the company who is considering the job candidate. Resumes are normally 2-3 pages, but could feasibly run 4-5 pages for a mature candidate with a relevant career history. A resume is a sales tool used primarily for job consideration in career searches.

What’s the most important improvement you can make to your resume? Accomplishments!


A bio, short for biography, is a short document demonstrating major event highlights – not necessarily recent, but more likely highlights of their career and notable achievements. A bio is tailored for the occasion in which it is to be used. A speaker would provide a 1-2 paragraph bio to the master of ceremony to introduce their relevant background pertinent to the topic of the speech. A book cover may have a very short bio of the author with just enough information to indicate the writer is well-versed in their craft, and may include personal details such as family size or the geographic area where they live. A business owner, CEO, or Executive may issue a one page length bio for the company website to advertise experience in running a company or industry knowledge.

I would rather see the CV of a famous general instead of a resume, which may only run the more recent 10-15 years and doesn’t tell the story of their entire career. When listening to guest speakers on an interesting topic, I would rather hear a short bio introduction versus hearing their entire life history read from a resume. I would rather read a resume as a recruiter seeking the best candidate for a job I am trying to fill.

Each of these types of experience and life or career histories has a purpose and is used for their functionality and associated length. Career seekers should have a copy of all three – a bio for the ‘elevator speech’ presented before the main event, a resume for hiring managers to develop a good idea of capabilities, and a CV to keep a constant update of their entire career history from which to pick and choose the pieces for their resume, or when they write their life story. Practice updating the CV every 3-4 months. Keep the freshest updates handy for that emergency inquiry.

Dawn Boyer is a career services coach, social media management, human resources, and business development consultant. Follow Dawn on Twitter @Dawn_Boyer.


This entry was posted on Monday, August 05, 2013 7:17 am

4 thoughts on “The Difference Between a Resume, a Bio, and Curricula Vitae”

  1. This was a direct hit explaining the differences between all 3. I did not know what CV meant until now. SO, now i have to change my resume into a CV format. Are there any tools online I could use? I have been in the IT field since 1980 and have experienced in many areas. I feel like Jack of All trades but master of none…I could use some shadowing of my resume or CV…any ideas?

    1. Paul –

      You don’t need to change your resume into a CV format – the article explained the differences between the three and how they are to be used in different situations. If you are in the educational system (higher learning institutions) this will be important, and as you advance through your career a CV would be good to have to check back with, and update quarterly with ALL your achievements.

      But for job searches – a resume is fine and preferred by recruiters and headhunters.

      Fortunately AND unfortunately – there are a gazillion resume and CV templates out on the Internet. Fortunate because there are so many easy to use choices – but don’t download any templates to input information into – the resume database software systems usually muck them up when converting those to text.

      Unfortunately, many resume templates use 20th Century formats when recruiters could devote 4-6 minutes per resume. In the 21st Century, the recruiter gives the job seeker’s resume SIX SECONDS to impress upon them to read more – which means that you MUST have vital info in the top 4.5 inches and not have ongoing rambling conversational objectives loaded with subjective language.

      Visit my website for loads of free white paper (blog posts) about job searches and resume writing, as well as samples of 21st Century Resumes which get in front of the recruiters eyeballs.

      Thanks for the comment, Paul!

      Dawn Boyer, Ph.D.
      CEO, D. Boyer Consulting

    2. Paul –

      Your post is identical to my situation. I’ve been an IT professional since 1980, have worn many hats during my career, have been unemployed for over 2 years, and just now found out what CV means. Take a look at my linkedin profile and you’ll see what I mean:


      Best of luck,

  2. Hey Bob Cunningham

    Quick glance at your profile – you have attempted to fill out the entire profile, but you have placed skills in the summary box – not a capabilities statement that ‘shows, not tells’ a recruiter what you are capable of doing – and the #1 thing recruiters are seeking is a ‘problem solved.’

    Don’t say you are not employed – you risk becoming a UNNA (Unemployed Need Not Apply). You need to note that you are doing volunteer work, private consulting, etc., to show you are not twiddling your thumbs.

    Never give personal information about your family – it’s not relevant to your career capabilities.

    You have a beautiful list of bullets that tell what you ‘have done’ – BUT there is no metrics associated with any of those bullets – how many, how often, in what time-frame or deadline driven deliverables – which get more attention from a hiring manager than a job description listing.

    Hope this helps?


    Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D.
    CEO, D. Boyer Consulting (http://www.DBoyerConsulting)
    “Under-Promise, Over-Deliver; Your Success is My Success!”
    Resume Writer & Career Consultant – enhancing career searches since 2000
    LinkedIn Social Media Coach and Management – profile specialist since 2004
    Small Business Human Resources and Business Development – living the entrepreneurial dream since 1985
    Print-on-Demand & Kindle Publishing Consultant – author of 40+ books hardcover/Kindle

    Business Website:
    Business Location: Va. Beach, VA 23464
    Contact: [email protected]

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