I sent my new résumé to a prospective employer the day after we did the live edit session. I got an offer earlier this week, and, after some negotiation, accepted this morning. Base salary is up 30% - and I will be doing work that is far more interesting.
— Corporate counsel

The line is fuzzy.

We generally stick with the term “résumé” to mean both résumé and CV since there are so many commonalities between CVs and résumés that it can be tricky to figure out the difference. Let’s start with the commonalities. Both CVs and résumés have the same goals:

  • Positioning you toward your career goal, rather than lock you into what you’ve done in the past

  • Demonstrating a clear and compelling career narrative, no matter how winding your career path might have been

  • Highlighting your impact, value, and potential to contribute to your next employer

Generally, CVs provide more detailed career histories than résumés. Detailed information like leadership will be built directly into CVs, whereas résumés may use addendum to provide extensive supplemental information. That means while CVs can be of any length, résumés may be most effective when kept to 1-3 pages. However, in each case, your document should be as long (or short) as it needs to be to tell your story to your audience.

When I look at my original [CV] side by side with yours, mine looks like it was done by a third grader. Yours looks like a master’s thesis.
— Executive-level attorney in the state House of Representatives transitioning to in-house counsel

Who uses a CV? Who uses a résumé with addenda?

We all expect law professors and legal academics to use CVs, and in fact the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) has a specific recommended format for law school professors. That said, many other lawyers use CV formats. Fortune 500 CLOs, GCs, C-suite lawyers, and law firm equity partners as well as executive lawyers, executive-track, and partnership-track attorneys can all benefit from shifting to a CV format. Alternatively, they can use a résumé with résumé addenda. Why? When people hire for leadership positions, they want a complete history. They don’t want any surprises. They also want to understand your vision, philosophy, exposure to certain business and legal challenges, and more. While in a few cases, even those lawyers might be able to tell their stories into a two-page résumé, most of the time they’ll need to expand—rather than condense—their career narratives if they want to satisfy the needs of their audience.

Most other lawyers will do best with a reverse chronology résumé. Sometimes we incorporate elements—like mini-deal sheets—traditionally associated with CVs or résumé addenda. We also stick to simple formatting that’s consistent with the conservative esthetics of the legal profession. We call our style of résumé writing “modern classic.”

Still confused?

Don’t worry about labels. As we said, it’s fuzzy.

Remember also that one of the many reasons we don’t use templates is that we remain flexible in telling each client’s individual story in a way designed to appeal to that lawyer’s target audience. Your format should work toward your goals, regardless of the label.