How to Decide Between a Resume and Curriculum Vitae (CV)

September 1st 2021 in Michelle, Resumes

The day is coming when someone will ask you for a resume or curriculum vitae (CV).  One person may ask for a resume while another will ask for a CV, in the same industry.  People often interchange the terms so how do you know what to provide? Are they the same thing? The short answer is, NO.

Resumes and CVs are not the same things.  Even if someone asks for a CV, they may actually be looking for a resume as resumes are the most requested documents.   This means it’s important to know when/where to use a resume or CV.

While people interchange the two terms regularly, resumes and CVs are very different documents. 

So how do you decide which one to invest in?  First, think about your current or target industry and job title.

What industries or job titles require a resume?

  • Entry-level to senior executives
  • Most employers or industries in the U.S. or Canada
  • Applicants to Bachelor or Associate degree programs
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Operations
  • IT
  • Sales/Business Development
  • Nurses, technologists, and others in the medical field

What industries or job titles require a CV?

  • Academia
  • Science
  • Research and Development (R&D)
  • Medical – Senior-level executives, researchers, and physicians
  • Fellowships
  • K-12 Education – Senior-level administrators
  • Librarians – Senior-level librarians or administrators who possess a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree
  • Large Nonprofits or Think Tanks
  • Applicants to Master or Doctoral degree programs
  • Employers outside the United States or Canada

Once you know what you’re industry standard is, start building the document that best suits your needs.  

The basics

Resumes are 1 – 3 pages (on average) in length.  CVs can be multiple pages depending on the length of your career.

Resumes are accomplishment-focused. CVs are focused on job descriptions and tasks.

Resumes focus on the last 10-12 years. CVs encompass your entire career.

Resumes include soft skills and EQ. CVs focus on more concrete tasks/experiences.

Resumes lead with a professional summary and key accomplishments. CVs lead with education.

Career information

Resumes include a Career section following the professional summary and key accomplishments.  This section encompasses the last 10-12 years and consists of a brief, 2-sentence description of the position followed by 3-5 bullet points that highlight the accomplishments you’re most proud of.  CVs include every position you’ve held during your career. Include bullet points describing the role followed by bullet points that highlight a few select accomplishments.

Education and Special Training

Resumes list education after the Career section, listing only the degrees earned, areas of study, and the university. Do not list dates attended/graduated.  CVs lead with education and list each degree earned and area of study including majors, minors, scholarships, internships, GPAs, and dates attended/graduated.

Resumes list professional licenses and certifications following the education section, listing only the certification title and the issuing agency or training company.  CVs also list certifications following education, including the date of licensure/certification and expiration date if applicable.

Resumes list special training courses and conferences attended if they apply to the work the candidate plans to do next.  CVs include all training courses and conferences attended including dates and conference locations.

Additional information

Resumes include volunteer experience using the title and organization only.  CVs include descriptions of your tasks/experiences in each volunteer role.

Resumes include awards or special recognition received in the last 10-12 years, listing the award name and the company or group issuing the award.  CVs include all awards or special recognition received throughout your career, listing the award name, description, company or group giving the award, and the date received.

Resumes include languages spoken and your fluency levels.  CVs do the same.  No need to list English as a language spoken if the resume is in English.

Resumes include a list of presentations you’ve given in the last ten years.  CVs include a list of all presentations you’ve given throughout your career.

Resumes list publications you’ve been a part of in the last ten years and include the title and publication date.  CVs include all publications you’ve authored or been cited in throughout your career listed in proper AP style.

Resumes rarely include research topics or areas of professional interest.  CVs include all of these.

Resumes may include grants or special funding secured within the last 10 – 12 years if applicable.  CVs include all grants and special funding secured including the title, subject, and grantor/funder.


If you’re still unsure which document an employer is looking for, ask them for clarification.

Ready to invest in a professional resume or CV?  Reach out to us to get started.


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