CVs or Resumes? What is the difference?

Q Wendy asks: "You seemed to link resumes and CV's together.  Are they interchangeable?  Is a CV preferred in our field?  A lot of people indicate they want resumes whereas others want a CV. What are your thoughts?"

Great questions! So what are the differences between a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a traditional resume? A resume is a summary or snapshot of the specific skills and experience that you determine is most relevant to the position to which you are applying.

However, there are two basic, but important things that you need in order to develop a well written resume.

  1. You need detailed information about who the employer is looking for. This does not just mean MFT Intern/ACSW registered with the Board of Behavioral Sciences. Often, an employer will have a mental idea of who they might be looking for to complement the team, but it won't be in the standard job description.
  2. You need to have a detailed history of your work history, accomplishments, trainings received, etc. so that you don't overlook material when you are developing your resume.

Now, if you don't have detailed information about what the employer is looking for, it is extremely difficult to know what material to include in your resume.k Conversely, if you don't have a solid history stored somewhere, you are more likely to miss material that could have gotten you the interview.

A curriculum vitae is a detailed history of everything-all your jobs, every training you have attended, every talk you have given, every award you have gotten, etc. A curriculum vitae provides you with a timeline and detailed history of each job you have held, and accomplishments at each of the positions. You can go long in a CV (within reason).

If you are applying to teach at a private university (which you can do as a prelicensed professional), they will ask you for a CV. In addition, if you apply to teach at public universities, junior colleges, look into research positions, or apply to work at an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Developing a CV initially can feel a bit overwhelming. However, once it is developed, it is a great running history that you can pull out and update in just a few minutes a month. 

In addition, your CV can give you all the of the information you need to develop a great, specialized resume for a job. So, I guess, that is a long answer to a short question- no CVs and resumses are not completely interchangeable, but you need to have a great CV to pull from to quickly put together an awesome resume.

What if a position wants a CV- can I just send a resume? So, if a position asks for a resume, can I just send my resume? What if a position doesn't specify- what should I send?

If a position wants a CV, definitely send a CV. It is a completely different beast, and they will not take kindly on not following that instruction.

If a position asks for a resume, you can just send your resume. However, I have found that many helping professionals: MFTs, MFT Interns, MFT Trainees are finding that sending a curriculum vitae can give you an edge. In a lean job market where such a low percentage of applicants is called in for interviews, why not attempt to give a potential employer a better sense of who you are?

Benefits of sending a CV, even when they ask for a resume: 

  • More likely to find a point of connection with a potential employer
  • Gives a more thorough picture of who you are professionals and personally
  • May lead to a perception that you are more experienced than your competition
  • Provides more space to list your accomplishments and experience level
  • It can save time and energy that it might take to pare down your material into a really concise resume.

Drawbacks of sending a CV, when they asked for a resume:

  • You are not following directions
  • They may see the "whole you" and not like it
  • They may find a point of connection that is detrimental to you
  • Some people may perceive a CV with detailed information as overkill and not read it

I may have missed a few points on each, and would welcome feedback. My experience has been that I get a lot of great feedback on my CV. Whether you decide to start sending out CVs or not, definitely think about incorporating more material into your resume, including accomplishments and relevant trainings provided and received.

Looking at your CV and noticing that your training section is a little light? Think about beefing it up with a combination of inperson and online trainings. Online trainings are usually free for prelicensed persons and can be done anytime. In fact, you could even seek out particular trainings prior to applying for a position that you think would prepare you for a position.

Here are a few options where you may be able to find some quick trainings to beef up your knowledge.



Google is your friend when you are looking for specialized trainings. There are many resources available out there. Of course, it is always best to focus on attending as many trainings as possible. If you know what area you want to specialize in, be a little more picky and choose trainings that will help you to become an expert. However, NEVER use specialization as an excuse to not go to any trainings! I recommend you get in the habit of attending at least 10 trainings per year. Most of these will be short 2-hour or half day trainings- and work in 2 extended trainings per year.

I hope this helps to answer your CV/Resume questions!