According to the dictionary, a resume is "a summary, as of one's employment, education, etc., used in applying for a new position." Conversely, a curriculum vitae (C.V.) is noted as "a regular or particular course of study of or pertaining to education and life."
In other words, a RESUME is a career and educational summary meant to highlight your skills and experience and a C.V. is a list meant to document every job and degree you've ever received in your life.
When professionals working abroad decide that they want to seek out job opportunities in the U.S. and send out their C.V.s to American companies, they have no idea what Human Resource and Personnel Directors are looking for when reviewing these documents. In a typical C.V., the first category is Education, listing preparatory/college/university information and dates right up front. If the mechanical engineer or CEO sending this document graduated from university in 1974, that is not the most important piece of information that a headhunter or HR Director needs to know about this person.
The C.V. continues with Work Experience, often listing jobs going back to college days, and often listing them in chronological order (starting with 1976 for example, and ending with the 1997-Present position somewhere down on page 2 or 3). The C.V. is quite simply a listing of company names, job titles, dates of employment, and job responsibilities. Just the potatoes, without the meat and gravy, so to speak. A professional resume, on the other hand, does not require that you include every job you've ever held since being a counselor at Camp Thanksalot.
The C.V. is written in a paragraph style, not broken up with bulleted or italicized information to highlight any skills, accomplishments, or achievements for each specific position like a resume. Each paragraph lists the responsibilities from a first person perspective "I" and "my" - which is just not done in a professional resume. On this side of the Atlantic, a resume is written in the third person so as to appear more objective and factual.
The next faux pas of the C.V. is to include personal information in the document. The applicant lists marital status, nationality, height and weight, date of birth, and other information which is just not necessary or warranted when applying for a job in the U.S. Hobbies and Personal Interests are also often listed on C.V.s. But whether you play acoustic guitar or spin wool for cardigan sweaters, it does not belong on a resume.
A strong, professionally written resume, however, starts out with a brief Summary of Qualifications, next is a key word section listing your Areas of Strength or Industry Expertise, then Professional Experience where your career experience for the past ten to fifteen years is focused on and any experience prior to that may be summarized. The information listed under Professional Experience is written in reverse chronological order (most recent or present job first and going back from there) and includes a balance of responsibilities and accomplishments for each position.
After the work experience, Professional Affiliations, Computer Skills, and Education sections should appear. The best strong, to-the-point resumes should be one to two pages. Conversely, oftentimes C.V.s go on for three or four pages.
Keep in mind that resumes are intended to present a summary of highlights to allow the prospective employer to scan through the document visually or electronically and see if your skills match their available positions. A good resume can do that very effectively -- a C.V. cannot.