Resume versus CV: Which Is Right for You?

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

If you’ve ever wondered whether there was really a difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae (CV), and if so which one you should be using, you’re not alone. Confusion reigns — and for good reason. Many people use the terms CV and resume interchangeably, even though they’re two different animals. Here’s the skinny:

The purpose of a resume is to highlight and summarize professional experiences and accomplishments. While there are several different styles and formats, the focus and content are generally the same. A resume is a one- or two-page document that focuses on work history and experience. Generally when recruiters say, “Send me your CV,” what they really want is a resume. This is what the majority of nurses will use throughout their careers.

A CV, on the other hand, is a far more expanded document. It usually runs more than two pages — even as long as 10, depending on the individual. Its purpose is to demonstrate expertise and authority. Whether you need a CV depends on the industry and position you seek, not your actual experiences and credentials. CVs are used more in scientific and academic settings, such as teaching, high-level nursing research, and sometimes publishing. In these arenas, information about credentials and work experience alone isn’t enough. You also need to include detailed information about activities like teaching, research, publications, and presentations.

Often, Less Is More

Just because you’ve had a few articles published and made some formal presentations at conferences doesn’t mean you need a CV. Just adding short categories to your resume — “Selected Presentations” or “Selected Publications” — will suffice. In other words, you needn’t list everything you’ve ever published. Rather, focus on those presentations and publications that are more recent, significant, and interesting. No one wants or needs to read about every article you’ve penned. The same goes for CVs: While you do want to give more details, you still shouldn’t list every presentation you’ve given in your decades-long career. The “Selected Presentations” and “Selected Publications” categories work well here, too.

It seems some nurses have been taught to use a CV for their practice in the misguided belief that it’s more professional or has more of an academic slant. And some people believe the longer the document, the bigger the bang. The reality is everyone is on information overload today, so less is better, even on a CV. If you’ve had a long and accomplished career, you’ve probably reached the point where you can’t reasonably list everything.

School’s In

The most common form of resume is the chronological format, which starts with work history, beginning with the most recent job and working its way back. Under each job, you should list highlights and accomplishments. Other categories typically include education, credentials, professional affiliations, and special skills. Although education could go at the top or the bottom, it’s customary to list education after work experience on a resume. In most cases, it’s enough to list the colleges or universities attended, degree or degrees received, and the major for each degree, including basic nursing education. It’s also customary to start with the highest completed degree

A CV, on the other hand, usually starts with education. You would list the same information as on a resume, along with the title of your thesis or dissertation and other relevant information. Remember, CVs are used in industries where credentials rule. Besides work experience, you also should include a detailed list of publications, formal presentations, research, applications for grants, formal teaching experience, and so on. A CV usually gives a more complete and detailed history of various categories

Knowing the difference between a resume and a CV and using the format that’s right for you will help you market yourself more effectively and appropriately.

For more information about resumes and CVs check out: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses – Practical Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career

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