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CV vs. Resume vs. Cover Letter

Irena Macri
Jun 26
 - In 

Ever found yourself wondering if a CV and a resume are the same thing? You're not alone! While people often use these terms interchangeably, there are some key differences you should know.

The CV (Curriculum Vitæ)

First off, CV stands for Curriculum Vitæ, which is Latin for 'course of life.' A CV is a detailed account of your entire work history and academic achievements. It's usually long (think more than two pages) and packed with info. You'll include everything from dissertations to fellowships, and even that one time you won a grant. As this format can be quite dense, it is also preferable to include a cover letter that draws highlights from your CV.

  • Include all relevant work experience and academic achievements.
  • Regularly update your CV with new experiences and skills.
  • Make it easy to navigate with clear sections and headings.
  • Provide detailed descriptions of your roles and responsibilities.
  • Highlight key points from your CV in a compelling cover letter.
  • The Resume

    On the flip side, a resume is like the highlight reel of your career. It's short, sweet, and to the point—ideally two pages, three max. Your resume should spotlight your skills and experiences, making it easy for a potential employer to see why you’re the perfect fit. Think of it as your career's greatest hits album, complete with links to your portfolio, LinkedIn, and a summary of your most relevant experience, education, and skills.

  • Stick to the most relevant information and keep it under three pages.
  • Customise your resume for each job application, if possible.
  • Focus on your accomplishments and the impact you've made, not just responsibilities.
  • Include industry-specific keywords to pass automated filters and search queries.
  • Add links to your online portfolio, Github profile, LinkedIn, or relevant projects.

    Here are some more resume tips from one of our tech recruiters, including a Canva template.
  • The Cover Letter

    Whether you’re sending a CV or a resume, a cover letter is your chance to shine, although it is not essential. Tailor it to the job you’re applying for by focusing on what you bring to the table and why you're excited about the role. Show them you're not just another applicant—you're the one they’ve been looking for.

  • Address the hiring manager by name if possible.
  • Show your excitement for the role and the company.
  • Mention the most relevant experiences and achievements.
  • Make your points clearly and keep the letter to one page.
  • Don't be afraid to show your personality.
  • For all of the above, ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors!

    PS. In software, all you need is a resume. Go for two pages when applying for jobs in Australia, ideally supplemented with an online presence (think Github profile, portfolio website). All your resume needs to do is get you an interview. Once you’re in the interview, give them the verbal CV and try to take cues from the interviewer on when to speed up or slow down.

    Need help?

    At Lookahead we highly recommend having a resume available. If you’re a developer who’s looking for a change and need some help with brushing up your resume, feel free to get in touch.

    Check out more advice from our friends:

    Your resume is your pitch deck by Matt Allen

    Resumes for tech leaders by Steve Gilles

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