6 steps for building the best CV to land your dream job

By Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB, FEADV, FIADVL, IFAAD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published March 11, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Applying for your first job post-residency or fellowship can be stressful, but building an excellent CV can help you stand out among the competition. 

  • Tailor your CV for each job application, beginning with a personal statement that reflects your passion and relevant skills.

  • Emphasizing your clinical experiences, research contributions, and digital competencies, especially in AI and telemedicine, are hallmarks of a CV you can feel confident about.

As a medical resident, you're no stranger to submitting applications. You’re familiar with all the work that goes into preparing the necessary documents, starting as far back as your application to medical school.

Now that you are on the cusp of securing your first job or fellowship position, you’ll need to create a curriculum vitae (CV), which captures your entire academic and medical journey into a single file.

Here are the six most crucial steps to building the perfect healthcare CV.

Craft a solid introduction

Make sure to add a personal statement at the top of your CV, outlining your specific qualifications for the position. You could start with a brief narrative about what drew you to the specialty, followed by your skills and experiences. 

An article from the New England Journal of Medicine emphasizes customizing the CV for each application.[] Due to the use of AI and machine learning in initial screenings, it is crucial to match the CV's content with the job description, while highlighting relevant skills and experiences with a strategic placement of keywords.

Apart from detailing your clinical experience, be sure to mention the volume and variety of patients you've handled. Include all relevant licenses, credentials, and certifications. These qualifications are the bedrock of your professional credibility.

Stress your digital proficiency

Digital competencies are becoming increasingly critical. A systematic review published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing emphasizes the need for HCPs to have deft digital skills for patient care.[] A phrase that often circulates in discussions about the impact of AI on various professions is that “AI will not replace you, but the person using AI will”—be mindful of this.

According to a 2023 systematic review, although most medical students recognize the increasing role of AI in healthcare, and view it positively, there is a common lack of practical experience with these technologies.[] 

To build on what you already know, consider taking an online course on the subject—offered by platforms like Coursera, edX, or LinkedIn Learning. Many of these platforms also provide workshops for hands-on experience. 

On your CV, remember to also emphasize your skills in electronic medical record (EMR) systems, telemedicine, or healthcare informatics. You can make mention of projects where you've used digital tools to enhance patient care and operational efficiency.

Include research and publications

Undoubtedly, research experience is key for any CV to stand out among the lot. It shows commitment to your field and critical thinking skills. A study in the American Journal of Medical Sciences found that two-thirds of residents engage in research.[] At the same time, mentorship and administrative support were crucial for their success.

Aim to participate actively in ongoing research projects at your institution. 

"The goal should be to contribute meaningfully to the research and learn from the experience."

Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB, IFAAD

Authorship order in research papers reflects the extent of contribution, but acknowledgement in a paper is certainly beneficial to your career.

To that end, it’s worth noting a study in BMC Medical Education that highlighted the fact that residents with active involvement in research publications tended to have higher scores in their clinical performance assessments.[]

To kickstart your journey into research, you can explore various research paths, but there are two straightforward, "low-hanging fruits" you might want to consider: an epidemiological or observational study; or a case report. 

Working in any hospital presents potential encounters of interesting cases worth reporting on. Collaborate with supervisors and colleagues to draft the report, taking care to show how it fills gaps in the existing literature and stands out with unique insights. Pay close attention to the guidelines provided by each journal. Target credible research journals indexed in PubMed or MEDLINE.

Related: The A to Zs of publishing as a medical fellow

Showcase strong presentation skills

A robust record of conference participation signals to potential employers your capability to represent their institution at future conferences while providing them with greater exposure. In scheduling your participation, select conferences relevant to your specialty and career objectives, keeping track of key dates like abstract submission and funding opportunities. 

Aim for at least one national and one international conference annually. Focus on current topics like AI, machine learning, COVID-19, and novel therapies to increase your chances of being selected for presentations. Consider local seminars and online participation to complement learning without compromising clinical duties.

Related: Why you should attend a Women in Medicine conference

Note 'soft' skills

Soft skills signal that you bring more to the table than just technical proficiency. Be sure your CV reflects specific examples of these skills from previous roles. The following are some noteworthy soft skills. 


Feature any leadership roles, such as heading student medical groups or local clubs, or organizing health camps. 

Teaching experience

Whether formal or informal, teaching experience demonstrates your skill in explaining complex topics. This could include tutoring, seminars, workshops, or community education.


More than a CV boost, volunteering offers personal fulfillment, insight into diverse patient issues, improved empathy, networking, and professional growth. Seek opportunities at club fairs, through academic advisors, or by contacting charities and overseas healthcare programs like The Real Uganda, GoEco, and International Volunteer HQ.

Personalize your interests

In rounding off your CV, ensure that it also mirrors your identity outside of working hours. Personal interests—such as sports, the arts, or community service—shows the organization that you are able to manage a positive work-life balance. Including interests also humanizes your application and could act as a conversation starter during your interview.

Once you are done with the first draft of your CV, keep updating it. A report from the HCA Healthcare Journal of Medicine aptly states, "The accomplishments of a medical professional in training should not be sold short due to poor recall. Just like in medical records—if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen.”[] Therefore, you must maintain an accurate and up-to-date record of your academic and medical achievements. 

Despite the prevalence of computerized screening, human review remains significant. Therefore, make a well-organized, clean CV with a simple file name containing your first name, last name, discipline, and specialty, and make sure to be consistent with formatting.

What this means for you

With your CV, you have the chance to express your love for your specialty and point out what sets you apart from the other candidates. Keep it crisp, to the point, and customized to the position for which you are applying—this can give you an edge over other applicants. Start with your residency application as a foundation for crafting your CV, and set reminders to update regularly (as often as every 6 to 9 months). 

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