Tips to make your CV shine at any stage of your career

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published July 23, 2018

Key Takeaways

Whether you’re a med student looking to get a residency, or a resident looking to land your first “real” job, or you’re in mid-career and looking for a change of scenery—or even if you’ve been around long enough to remember a time before Marcus Welby, MD—you need a CV.

But if your CV doesn’t include the necessary information—or, worse, if it includes too much information to be easily read and comprehended—then you’re going to get skipped over. To avoid that, use these tips to make your CV shine.

1. Organize your CV with care. Employers won’t waste time searching through your CV to find the information they need. So, your CV must be organized. How? Imagine your CV as a list that’s itemized in descending order of importance, with the most essential information (essential to employers, that is) at the very beginning, and the least important information toward the end. Within each section—Work Experience, for example—list each position in descending chronological order, starting with the most recent. Save your list of publications for the last part of your CV, almost like an appendix in a textbook.

  • If you’re a medical student or resident, you can leave out the section on medical work experience (unless you have some) but add a section near the end to list your relevant work and volunteer experience. (Working as a lifeguard, for example, is relevant.)
  • If you’re mid-career or later, you can put your work experience before your education.

2. Play to your strengths. The term “curriculum vitae” roughly translates from Latin as “the course of one’s life.” Keep that in mind as you write your CV. Where has your life led you up to this point? Where are you headed now? In other words, put the focus on your current status and special skills, rather than detailing your entire life’s history. For example:

  • If you’re a resident who assisted in a major clinical trial—and you want to pursue that kind of research—make certain that whoever reads your CV will spot that experience right away.
  • If you’re mid-career or later, such as a gastroenterologist with years of experience using endoscopic ultrasound, be sure that those skills are highly visible on your CV.

In any case, don’t leave any gaps in your work history.

3. Don’t overdo it. Your CV should include all the important information about you, but you don’t need to put in every detail. It’s fine if you love cats, but unless you’re going for a veterinarian job, it probably doesn’t need to be on your CV. (Do mention volunteering at the animal shelter, though.)
Don’t pad your CV either.

  • For medical students or residents, a 2-page CV is just fine.
  • For mid-career or later experienced doctors, 4 or 5 pages (excluding your list of abstracts, publications, and presentations) is a good length.

4. Include only necessary personal information. Don’t include your Social Security, NPI, or DEA numbers, or anything else that could be used by an identity thief. Similarly, don’t list personal information such as date or place of birth, gender, race, religion, marital status, family, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. They are not relevant to the hiring process. However, do state that you’re “Authorized to work in the United States” if this applies to you; include this right after your name and contact information.

  • So, for both med students and mid-career or later physicians with decades of experience—and everyone in between—there’s no need to give your age.

Additional tips:

  • On every page, include a header or footer with your name and the page number.
  • Be sure your contact information is accurate and up to date. If you’re revising an old CV, double check all your information, especially email addresses and links to websites.
  • Keep it neat and simple. Use an easy-to-read, standard style font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) and 11- or 12-point type. Don’t embellish with colors or designs.
  • Avoid using ALL CAPS. Capitalizing entire words or phrases is like shouting at whoever is reading your CV. Do capitalize the first word of each sentence and proper nouns but avoid over-capitalizing.
  • Even if you used a spell checker, have someone else proofread it.
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