HealthMay 04, 2020

5 tips on how to improve your medical CV

By: Suneel Dhand, MD

The curriculum vitae may not be the most exciting topic of conversation, but a polished CV is crucial in the physician job search, second only to how you present yourself in interviews. You probably already have a rudimentary idea of what yours should look like, but here are some medical CV tips to help take it to the next level.

1. Keep it short

Your CV is not a novel. The reader has limited time, and they just want to get a sense of who you are and whether you're worthy of an interview.

Physicians tend to have a long educational and work history, and they often fall into the trap of regurgitating everything they've done since elementary school. But they're not doing themselves any favors if they list so many accomplishments that a screener becomes frustrated. Your CV should be two to four pages maximum — the more succinct, the better.

2. Highlight your most recent achievements first

It's great that you volunteered overseas before college or were the captain of your high school debate team, but you should put these achievements toward the end, not the beginning, of your CV. (Better yet, it's probably best to leave them out altogether.)

After the standard introduction laying out your contact information and educational history, list all of your most recent accomplishments that are pertinent to the field you're entering. These could include your article publications, residency projects, awards or unique clinical rotations.

Remember, the goal is to get straight to the point. If a reader wants to continue reading about your other accomplishments, they can do so, but they'll have already learned what they need to know.

3. Focus on your unique strengths

What's special about you? What's going to set your CV apart from the pile of others?

Maybe you've published a book or worked with a world leader in your chosen specialty. Maybe you've performed trauma surgery in rural South America. Whatever makes your experience unique, highlight it to make sure you stand out.

Again, bring these achievements to the front of your application so they'll catch your screener's attention. Put them as close as possible to your most recent accomplishments.

4. Be smart about formatting

Submitting another drab 12-point Times New Roman list of where you went to school and your work history is another way to get lost in the crowd. Presentation and style have an enormous impact on the reader, sometimes subconsciously. There are a number of examples available online of how to make clever but subtle use of fonts, styles, spacing, colors and subheadings to showcase your CV and highlight certain areas.

Of course, you don't want to go over the top with this. It can be all too easy to confuse the reader and make yourself look unprofessional with six different font sizes and colors. But try to give your curriculum vitae some texture. This will make it more interesting and help the reader navigate the information you're presenting. Simple strategies can go a long way. Use an unusual font, bold some text or underline your subheadings so each section stands out.

Remember that most CVs are submitted online. Consider converting a Word document CV to a PDF. It's easy to do, and a PDF typically looks cleaner and may better retain formatting when sent as an attachment.

5. Don't forget your cover letter

Along with your CV, you'll have the opportunity to attach your own cover letter or write in a text box provided. Your cover letter can be a great way to convey information that's not necessarily pertinent to your CV but is relevant to your overall application.

Your cover letter should balance how you meet the basic requirements of the job with what's special about you as a candidate. Write a professional (that is, grammatically sound and, again, brief) letter summarizing who you are. If you have a special link to the area where the job is —  maybe your family lives in the area —  briefly mention the connection.

You can also add another sentence about why you would be a perfect fit for the job. Perhaps that includes information that also appears in your CV, such as your training at a premier institution or having a unique experience in the specialty. Ideally, this will be something that immediately catches the reader's eye and gives context for your CV.

As a physician who has worked hard to get where you are, your curriculum vitae should do you justice. Use these medical CV tips to make sure yours gives you the best chance of securing the job of your dreams!

Suneel Dhand, MD
Lippincott® Medicine
Lippincott is a leading international medical publisher of professional health information for practitioners, faculty, residents, students, and healthcare institutions with a full suite of essential medical products, from books and journals to digital solutions.
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