What’s the Difference Between a Resume & a CV?

A resume is a summary of a your education, experience, and other relevant information that would be significant to prospective employers and is used in applying for positions in most fields.

A curriculum vitae (or CV) is similar, but is most often used the fields of medicine, education, ministry, and sometimes law, and it tends to be credentials-driven. Below are some distinctions between the two.

Lead With Credentials

For a resume, it’s always best to lead with your strengths. If you have minimal experience and a recent college degree, your education goes ahead of your work history. Once you get some marketable experience, however, the education usually goes under your employment history.

Conversely, a CV is credentials driven, and so education always goes right to the top, along with credentials (MD, PAC, RN, PhD, certifcations, etc.).

Include More Information on a CV

CVs are almost always longer than resumes. The word “resume” is a French term that, loosely translated, means summary. While it should demonstrate a person’s qualifications, experience, and value, it should also be concise. Most resumes only go back 10-15 years and are one to two pages.

By contrast, a CV is usually longer (four to five pages is not unheard of) and tends to go back further in a person’s history than is necessary on a resume. In fact, a CV can go back 20 to 30 years and sometimes more, depending on the person’s specialty and history.

One reason CVs are longer than resumes is because they include lists that are excluded or condensed on resumes. These can range from publications to presentations and continuing education. Of course, even on a CV this shouldn’t be too extensive. If you have given 40 presentations, for example, pull out the most significant ten or so among your more recent presentations.

Make the CV More Conservative in Writing Style & Appearance

A CV is more conservative than a resume. The trend in resumes today is to add a splash of color and create an eye-popping profile of core competencies and abilities at the top, sometimes called a “summary” or “profile.” CVs traditionally haven’t included color, but that is changing, as long as it’s professional and not overdone.

Traditional CVs used to leave the profile off altogether. Today it’s common to include a profile or summary at the top of a CV, which can be done either as a bulleted list or a short paragraph. The purpose, just as in a resume, is to summarize a candidate’s expertise in a way that will capture the attention of the reader. However, with a CV the style should be more conservative and formal.

Below is a sample profile for a physician:

Board Certified Psychiatrist offering experience treating patients of all age and socioeconomic backgrounds with a wide range of disorders, including acute psychiatric illness, chronic mental illness, and treatment resistant mood and thought disorders. Experience includes 12-years in family medicine, combined with a history of working in collaboration with family practitioners and other health care professionals to identify and treat mental health disorders.

It’s More Like a Resume Than It Used to Be!

In recent years CVs have morphed just a bit, with the inclusion of summary statement. In addition, they are shorter than they used to be. About 20-years ago I prepared a CV for a Nurse Practitioner and health care administrator with 30+ years of very diverse experience and numerous honors that was 12-pages long. It worked great for her back then, but today I would edit it down to half that size or less.

In short, a CV today looks a quite a bit more like a resume than a CV from 20 or 30 years ago, but the distinctions listed above are still important.

~ Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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