The Most Common CV & Resume Questions That Applicants Ask

We answer the most frequently asked CV and resume questions you'll likely consider throughout your job search.

If you’re in the midst of the job search process, then you likely have several questions about how to market yourself, how to write a resume, and how to get from a great resume to your dream job. This post will address such questions. As you read through the following CV and resume FAQ list, you will learn about the similarities and differences between resumes and CVs, resume lengths, common formatting tips, and how to describe your work experience to get yourself in front of hiring managers.

The Most Common Content & Resume Formatting Questions

Take a look at a few of these questions below:

Are CVs and resumes the same?

This is a common resume FAQ. The terms ‘CV’ and ‘resume’ are often used to mean the same thing. Which term an individual most commonly uses depends on his or her location. For example, In America, the term ‘resume’ is almost always used for what people in London often call a ‘CV.’

However, there are some technical differences between a CV and a resume. A CV, or ‘Curriculum Vitae,’ is a multipage document that details every aspect of your academic and work experience. Every degree, accreditation, and job you have held will be included, as well as any project or paper that you have had published.

A CV does not change much over time. It’s a relatively static document that you only update when you have a new achievement (work experience, accreditation, published work) to add. For the most part, CVs are only used by those in academic fields.

A resume is a shorter document that is one to two pages long. It is customizable and is used much more frequently than a CV when applying for jobs. A resume frequently changes and is tailored and tweaked to align with the position or contract for which you’re applying.

Resume writing is intended to highlight your key achievements and skills to help you land the job. It doesn’t include every detail or work experience you’ve had. A CV is a historical record of your entire academic and professional life, whereas a resume is a marketing tool used to impress potential employers.

If you are starting your job search and are on the fence as to whether a resume or CV is the best option, the answer is most likely a resume. Unless you are applying to an academic role, then create a resume vs. a CV. If you’re still uncertain, then consider asking the hiring manager or recruiter for the position to which you’re applying what’s best.

How long should a resume be?

This is one of the biggest questions about how to write a resume.

Shorter is generally better. Resume length is in part dependent upon the years of relevant work experience you have. If you are new to the job market or an entry-level candidate, then stick to a one-page resume. Recruiters might frown upon your resume if it’s longer.

If you have close to, or more than, a decade of relevant work experience, then a two-page resume is fine, as long as you provide relevant content. It’s much better to have a short, information-dense resume than it is to have a long, information-sparse resume.

Keep in mind that your resume is a marketing tool to catch the eye of a recruiter or hiring manager. If you provide too much information, you run the risk of the content becoming less relevant or overwhelming the reader.

A three-page resume should only be used for those who are in the late stages of their career and can’t fit all of their impressive and relevant highlights on two pages. Still, in most instances, two pages will suffice.

Can my resume be more than one page long?

In today’s job market, most employers will be OK with a two-page resume. A two-page resume is appropriate for those who have more than a decade of work experience and several relevant accomplishments to highlight.

If you’re struggling to get your resume down to one or two pages, play with the formatting a bit. Your resume format can sometimes be tailored to get your resume down to the appropriate length.

Can my resume be double-sided?

In most job application instances, this question is irrelevant. Most applications are now submitted online in a web or PDF format, so there is no option for double-sided pages.

In instances where you do need to print your resume, print it as two separate pages. Do not print it double-sided. Your goal is to make reading your resume as easy as possible. You don’t want a hiring manager to mistake your two-page resume for a one-page resume if they don’t flip the page over. Plus, if it is printed on two pages, then the hiring manager can lay the pages side by side to get a full view of your experiences all at once.

Should I customize my resume for each application?

Yes. It is essential to tailor your resume for each new job application if you want to land an interview. Using the exact same resume for every job you apply for is a surefire way to find yourself in a job search standstill.

All employers have unique values and missions, so every position you apply for will have different requirements. Identify keywords in each job description that represent competencies and values you possess. Incorporate these keywords naturally throughout your resume.

Utilizing keywords in this way will help you pass an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), so your resume is seen by a human. In addition to utilizing keywords, tweak your summary statement so that it aligns with the company’s values. This tactic will help land you the interview once your resume passes the ATS.

It’s also important to create a solid general resume template, or master resume, to work from. A general resume allows a job seeker to draw from relevant work experience and work history that will carry over into numerous job applications in the same field. Simply tweak your general resume with keywords and to align with the company’s goals and vision, and you’ll be well on your way to landing an interview.

How can I write a resume when I don’t have experience?

If you’re worried about making a resume with little-to-no work experience, relax — you’re still employable. There are lots of entry-level jobs available in the job market.

Instead of work experience, you can include other types of relevant experience related to the job. For example, did you do any volunteer work? Did you participate or hold leadership roles in organizations? Were you part of any clubs or committees? Were you involved in extracurricular activities? Did you work part-time while in school?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you have relevant experience that speaks to your leadership skills, your involvement in the community, your ability to work with a team, your ability to juggle more than one thing (i.e., school and extracurricular activities), and your capacity to take initiative.

To help you determine what relevant experience to include on your resume, take a close look at the job description and identify what the company is looking for. Then consider what you do well that aligns with what the company needs. You likely have a lot more relevant experience than you realize.

How can I show my education on my resume if I didn’t graduate?

Just because you didn’t graduate does not mean you’re not a viable candidate for a position. You don’t want to lie on your resume by implying that you received a degree when you didn’t, but you do want to highlight the schooling you did complete. If you completed coursework that is relevant to the position you’re applying for, then include the institution you attended, the relevant courses, and the dates you attended.

Or, if you feel it’s more appropriate, you can include the institution you attended, the area or field of study, and the dates attended. Choose the one that you believe best supports your job search and application efforts.

You will format your resume with this information similar to the way that students would if they did graduate.

Should I hire a professional resume writer?

Resume writing is a specialized skill that is useful for any professional to acquire. Being able to create and tailor your own resume allows you the freedom to quickly and easily adjust it for each position you’re applying for. Plus, there are a ton of resume writing resources available to you on the web. These resources can support you in creating a resume on your own without the help of a professional resume writer.

At the same time, hiring a professional resume writer is appealing, especially if you lack confidence in your own resume writing ability or simply don’t have time to write your own. Professional resume writers know how to effectively summarize your experience and skills so that you stand apart from the competition.

They are also best equipped to identify resume red flags, such as long periods of unemployment, moving from job to job with short tenures, and an unfocused career path. A professional resume writer will know how to minimize the negative impact of these red flags so that they, hopefully, won’t appear as red flags to potential employers.

To determine if seeking resume help is in your best interest, consider how well your current resume is working for you, your level of experience, your writing ability, and the time and resources you have available to write your own resume.

What resume format should I use?

Most resumes are written in a reverse-chronological format. This means that you start with your most recent position at the top of the page and work backward through your work history, detailing your accomplishments in each role. The reverse-chronological resume is the most popular resume format for a good reason.

A work history displayed in reverse-chronological order is easy to read and understand quickly, can be parsed coherently by Applicant Tracking Systems, and puts an emphasis on your most recent accomplishments. Hiring managers can easily scan your resume for an impression of your experience and the path your career has taken. For the vast majority of job seekers, this is the resume format you should use.

Less popular is the “functional” resume format. In functional resumes, skills take precedence over work history, and the resume typically begins with a loosely grouped list of skills or “competencies” that will sell the job-seeker to an employer.

Though this may seem useful, the functional resume format makes many employers suspicious because it obscures the timeline of your past jobs.

“If a hiring manager thinks you are using the functional resume format to cover up a long gap in your work experience or erratic job-hopping, your likelihood of landing an interview will plummet,” says VisualCV CEO James Clift.

Should you decide to write a functional resume, take pains to ensure that you don’t appear to be covering up an imperfect work history.

If the skills-focused nature of the functional resume still appeals to you, however, consider using what is called a ‘combination’ resume. This resume format leads with skills, but still includes a brief reverse-chronological work experience section that outlines your career journey. With this format, you can draw employers’ eyes to your skills without obscuring the career path in which you learned those skills.

Natalie Severt at Workopolis recommends combination resumes to “talented professionals with lots of experience” and job seekers who are “transitioning to a different career and want to show off [their] transferable skills.”

For a more detailed look at resume layouts, check out VisualCV’s CV layout guide and resume guide.

When are other resume formats appropriate?

If you are looking to switch industries or careers, then a combination format will likely work best for you. You will be able to identify and highlight key accomplishments and functions that relate to your new career path without raising the red flag that is often the result of using a functional resume.

A combination resume also works well for individuals who do freelance or contract work. Often, a freelancer will have several employers at the same time, have short tenures with employers, and will do similar work for each employer. This is the norm rather than the exception. A combination resume will allow you to highlight key accomplishments without too much redundancy, which can occur for a freelancer who uses a straight chronological resume (due to listing similar accomplishments under each employer). A freelancer is also one of the few exceptions where a functional resume works well without raising red flags.

What are some buzzwords that hiring managers are sick of seeing on resumes?

Hiring managers see dozens of resumes for any given job. If your resume sounds just like everyone else’s, then your chances of landing an interview are slim.

Some buzzwords that lack originality and creativity and are overused on resumes include:

  • Focused
  • Creative
  • Expert
  • Passionate
  • Leader
  • Skilled at
  • Specialize in
  • Experienced in
  • Strategic
  • Trustworthy
  • Team player
  • Professional

Avoid using these words, or if you must, use them sparingly. If you find yourself wanting to use any of these words, go to your online thesaurus and look up synonyms for them.

Most employers are seeking candidates they believe they can trust, that possess leadership qualities, and that act as a team player. Do your homework and identify words that speak to these characteristics and incorporate them throughout your resume where appropriate, especially in your professional summary statement and at the beginning of the bullet points under your positions held.

If you’re having trouble, check out these action verbs that convey leadership or some resume objective examples to help. Emphasizing your soft skills will also go a long way.

Another place to look for words to incorporate into your resume is the job post that you’re applying to. Identify keywords that speak to your skills and accomplishments and incorporate those words one to two times throughout your resume. Doing so will help your resume beat the applicant tracking system and catch the eye of the hiring manager.

What are some details that don’t belong on a resume?

Just as every resume should include a section for education, work experience, and contact information, there are also items that a resume should NOT include. Personal details, such as marital status, height, weight, and age should not appear anywhere on your resume. Not only are you opening yourself up to possible discrimination by providing these details, they also are not relevant to your job search.

Other items that should be omitted from your resume include:

  • Your full home address (city of residence is sufficient)
  • References (if needed, you will be asked for them by the prospective employer)
  • An objective statement (these are now outdated and have been replaced with professional summary statements)
  • Photos (reserve these for online resumes and profiles)

Note: These parameters apply to North American resumes only. Different countries have different resume requirements. For a more detailed look at different resume requirements across the world, read VisualCV’s guide on what to include in a CV.

Use These Resume Questions and Answers to Further Your Job Search

These questions are a good starting point to create a resume that works for you. Of course, there is more you can do to create a great resume. Please check out our VisualCV’s resume guide, product suite, and Job Search blog for more tips.

Make your next career move with confidence.

Join more than 3.1 million members managing their professional profile with VisualCV.

Get my VisualCV