Resume VS Detail CV - the ultimate showdown

Resume VS Detail CV - the ultimate showdown 
by Rob Ridout

So what is the difference, you ask. Actually, it is simple. The resume is a one or two pager and the detailed CV is the old school four to six pager. Yes, six pages. So that was an easy answer but when to use what document is a slightly more complicated issue. But of course not impossible to understand. 

Here are some of my guidelines. 

When applying for any role read the advertisement carefully. Most recruiters and especially HR managers will request either a Resume or Detail CV. 
As with most advertised roles, there is usually an overwhelming response from applicants; the HR manager will ask for a resume rather than a Detail CV as to ensure that they spend less time screening and more time shortlisting. Remembering again that most HR practitioners loath recruitment and try around spending to much time on this very mundane task. 

“Loading” your resume

When applying for a role most candidates just don’t seem to think it is important to adjust their CV for the actual position, instead of sending their generic CV. Of course, you cannot expect to “load” your resume for every job that you apply for, especially if you are applying aggressively. I suggest that you “load” your CV only for the roles that you feel are 100% fit and that you are genuinely interesting.

So how do you “load” your CV?

Most information contained in job specifications today is made up of information that is of no use. Companies still tend to provide lots of detail regards the company its values etc. when that information is to be found on the company website and of no value to the actual job content. 
Ironically one element that is continuously forgotten is the incumbent who has left the role.
The secret is to try and understand what is the most vital attribute that the HR manager is looking for in a CV and then speak to those exact points. You can speak to these critical points using both the resume and detail CV and more importantly - you must!

For a great article on understanding a job specification follow this link. 

The one common factor that both the detailed CV and Resume have in common is that they have two fundamental purposes; selling and screening. So in both instances, these documents must provide the reader with an instant impression of your suitability as well as market your achievements without being too baggy. This is normally the shortcoming of the resume as there is limited space to provide the reader with this crucial information. 


The look and feel of your CV are vital for a few very important reasons. The reader must be able to screen your CV and understand your CV in a very short amount of time. I most cases I see CV’s that just do not have the correct format and hence the reader will not read the detail as the format is not friendly enough. The use of headers and bold text often solve this problem, however, most candidates and even CV writers try use infographics to get around this problem. Remember that HR practitioners are professionally trained (most times) and therefore look for some form of detail. I only recommend infographic CV’s for individuals in the creative industry. 

South African companies are still very focused on wanting to see a detailed CV rather than a shortened version. This makes sense especially if you are at a senior level and your CV will be screened by a CEO or MD. If your role is also very detailed focus such as a Financial Director you can also assume that your reader will want to have more information regards your background. The bottom line is what will the reader want to see if they were to consider hiring you. Would a CEO want to hire a Financial Director using a resume? 
“Crafting” your CV

In many ways understanding the reader will have also determine which document they prefer to read, so once again we revisit my favorite topic of research, research, research.
Read this article for more info on this topic. 

By simply visiting LinkedIn and getting to understand what the reader's background is you can very quickly determine their potential preference for wanting a resume or detailed CV. So as an example if your reader is a chemical engineer you can expect that this person will want to see detail and therefore a slightly longer CV. 

Although a very debatable topic one should always have both a resume and CV on hand, always remember that the purpose of the CV is not to get you the job but rather to get you the interview and then for you to sell yourself at the interview. Happy hunting 

Rob Ridout CvforLife

Rob assists his clients as a career coach and CV/Resume writer. His business CVforLife based in Johannesburg 
offers career coaching services and career counselling as well as CV and resume writing services. 

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