Dr. Joshua Hernandez standing and smiling
Dr. Joshua Hernandez standing and smiling

How to write a CV that will get you the job


Table of Contents

An outstanding CV showcases your credentials, education and experience

When it comes to your career, an important part of moving forward is looking back. Your CV, or curriculum vitae, allows you to do just that. This document offers a clear, chronological history of your credentials, education and experience. For hiring employers, it’s a glimpse of what you can bring to their practice. Start yours at PhysicianCV.com, or follow the steps below on how to write a CV.

Build your CV throughout training

Writing your CV means looking backward, but building your CV requires you to look forward. Internist Joshua Hernandez, D.O., advises physicians to begin thinking about their CVs as soon as they enter residency. Then, he says, build a CV that fits the job you want by taking on the right opportunities.

“The biggest thing [is] having that vision for what you want your CV to look like and what you want to do, then emphasizing those things during training so that you’re not in a deficit by the time you go to write out your CV,” says Hernandez, associate medical director for Envision Physician Services at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital and chief of internal medicine at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. “If you’re going to go somewhere academic, you have to have the research. If you’re going to go somewhere where it’s leadership-oriented, you have to have a leadership role.”

What to include in your CV

The idea of a lengthy formal document may seem daunting, but don’t fret. CVs follow a fairly straightforward formula. Unlike the résumés crafted for other industries, there’s no need to get creative with your CV. Instead, stick to the basics.

Name and contact information— including credentials

“The first thing should be the header. It should have their contact information…a reliable phone number, email, just the very basics,” says Linda Montano, CPRP. Montano sees hundreds of physician CVs as a sourcing strategist for Banner Health, which is headquartered in Phoenix.

A surprising number of physicians end up forgetting some of these basics. That’s according to obstetrician-gynecologist Rachel Miller, M.D., founder and owner of Pocket Bridges, a health care executive coaching business.

“A lot of people actually forget to put… either M.D. or D.O. — at the end of their name,” says Miller, who also practices at Atrium Health in Charlotte, NorthCarolina, and previously worked as an obstetrics and gynecology practice recruiter for CaroMont Health in Gastonia, North Carolina. “That’s important, but I sometimes did not see that.

Miller has reviewed plenty of physician CVs, both as a recruiter and as a physician coach. She says something as simple as displaying your name and contact information correctly will help your CV stand out.

To stay reachable, Miller also recommends using a personal email address rather than one associated with a program or hospital. “If you are a resident at a hospital system, you’re not going to have that email address forever,” she explains. Choose one that you can still access once residency wraps up

Personal statement

After contact information, many physicians include brief personal statements. Like a paper abstract, a personal statement hits the highlights of your skills and goals before you go into detail. While not required, it can be a nice touch.

Education, training and work experience

If you’re not yet practicing, the next section should outline your education and training in reverse chronological order. This includes any fellowships, plus your residency, medical school, undergraduate school and other relevant training. For each, list locations by city and state, plus start and end dates by month and year.

If you’re already practicing, stick with reverse chronological order but list work experience before education.

As you detail your history, be sure to include the most relevant specifics for the role you’re seeking. Physical medicine and rehabilitation physician Marilyn Wilburn, M.D., explains that your CV should reflect your professional interests. If you’re pursuing an outpatient role, it will look different than it would if you were pursuing an inpatient or academic role.

Applicants gunning for academics will focus on publications (usually later in the CV). Those seeking outpatient roles will highlight procedural skills. And inpatient applicants will detail the types of patients and facilities they have experience with.

“I [said that] I’ve worked in a 55-bed rehab facility that specializes in spinal cord medicine, brain injury medicine. …I didn’t really talk about my procedural skills at all in mine,” says Wilburn, who practices in an inpatient rehab center at Ascension St. John Jane Phillips Hospital in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. “My best friend from residency only wanted to do outpatient medicine. Her first blurb at the top [was] really specific for the type of procedures that she wanted to be doing.” By focusing on your specific interests, you’ll build a CV that resonates with the right employers

Licensure, certifications and eligibility

Next up, list all your medical licenses as well as any board certifications, accreditations or eligibility. If applicable, each item should include states, years and expiration dates.

For physicians on visas, consider including where you are in the visa process. This can help recruiters understand your timeline

Research, leadership experience, publications and presentations

Depending on your history and ideal role, you may want to create additional sections. For example, you might outline your research, lab or teaching experience,publications or presentations. Some physicians—especially those bound for academics — choose to include as many details as possible. Others omit the majority.

“If you want to go into a position with research, list out all of the work you’ve done with research, and then if you want academics, list your teaching experience as well,” says Montano, who hires mainly for academic divisions. “All of your research, your presentations, your publications…it’s always welcome.”

For those who don’t want to go the academic or research route, however, it’s fine to trim this type of information. “If you’re applying for a community site where the research may not be as important, then I would recommend leaving most of it out and maybe discussing [only] a couple of things there,” says Miller.

Wilburn, who had her heart set on a small-town setting rather than an academic one, took this approach. “I included a very brief list of research articles or presentations,” she says. “I only [included] things that I was first author on.” She also only included published presentations and projects from residency, omitting research from medical school and undergrad.

Miller points out that, ultimately, the CV’s job is to get you a conversation. It’s not your only opportunity to discuss your research. You can also address it in interviews, a cover letter or a separate document.

Awards and professional memberships

Many physicians also include dedicated sections for awards and honors, professional memberships and affiliations, or volunteer experience. If these are relevant to the role you’re seeking, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Awards and memberships make great talking points for future interviews. Plus, they may help employers find mutual connections who can vouch for your skills.

Additional optional sections

On top of the standard sections, it is not unusual to include cover letters, references and even personal interest sections. These are primarily a matter of preference and, of course, time and bandwidth.

“Cover letters are helpful,” says Montano, but “not necessary.” Similarly, she notes that she sees references included about 50 percent of the time. “They are definitely welcome, but if they don’t have the references, it’s not going to stop the process.” Employers can always request your references when the time comes. Just be sure to have them ready if you don’t include them with your CV.

A brief personal interests section can also add context, helping to round out employers’ picture of you. If you choose to include this, put it at the end of the document. “Maybe they are in bodybuilding competitions … or they run marathons [or] they participated in a ballroom dancing competition,” says Montano. “It adds that human element. … We see so many cvs, and it’s nice to see what makes them unique.”

Format your CV for easy reading

When it comes to design, stick with a simple, widely used font like Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial. Use the standard 11 or 12 point font size for main text and 14 or 16 point for headings. Divide sections clearly to facilitate skimming. Montano also emphasizes that narrow margins make for the easiest reading.

In general, she advises against any unusual design choices. “You want it to be very clean-cut,” says Montano. “It is not the place to be playing with fancy fonts, with cursive fonts. …the CV is not the place to get creative on formatting.”

Because employers usually view CVs on computers, Montano says text should be easy to copy and paste — all the more reason to use a universal font. If you want to get just slightly creative, she recommends going only so far as bolding your name and subheadings.

If you prefer to leave the formatting to someone else, consider hiring a professional. “I’m not a graphic design person,” says Wilburn. She sent her CV content to a graphic designer and was pleased with the results. “[The designer] put it together as a nice, very clean- looking PDF.

Ensure your CV is written well and free of error

Your education, experience and credentials will sound more impressive if you explain them clearly. Use concise, specific wording — with action verbs when possible. Stick with parallel structure, and avoid passive voice. Jargon can be a turnoff, but don’t shy away from keywords related to your specialty and skills. Some recruitment software automatically looks for keywords and recommends candidates to recruiters accordingly.

If you’re unsure how to describe something about your experience or training, get some inspiration from your colleagues’ CVs.

“I asked a bunch of other people who are physiatrists also — from a wide range of interests so I could have examples to look at — to see what they included [in their CVs],” says Wilburn. “That was mostly helpful for … getting ideas for wording.

Hernandez turned to his sister for some professional feedback. “She [has] a master’s in English,” he explains. “Then I used one of my mentors to peer-review it.”

Don’t let editing be an afterthought. A sloppy CV can cast doubt on even the most impressive candidate.

“One mistake I’ve seen a handful of times is the overconfidence that people may have when applying for a job,” says Miller. “I have seen some CVs that are not organized. They look like they were thrown together, and there wasn’t much care put into it. [It’s a] mistake not getting someone else to look at it before you turn it in.”

Unexplained career gaps are another mistake to avoid. If you took time off for one reason or another, make sure to account for the time with a brief explanation. Don’t gloss over the gaps and assume a recruiter won’t notice.

“I’ve seen great candidates get stopped in the process — like they don’t even get a phone screen even though they have the qualifications — because [their CV is] scattered,” says

Montano. “The feedback from the stakeholder was, ‘If they can’t even have their CV in order, how do we get them to run an orderly clinic and do their paperwork in order?’”

Aim for the right length

There’s no single right length for a CV. Length varies by how much experience you have and what type of position you’re applying to. Academic positions, for instance, often merit longer cvs that showcase your research in detail. Just don’t feel like you have to add excess language to extend a short CV.

“I kept mine to the standard three-to-four pages,” says Hernandez. “I will say it probably would have been a lot longer had I gone the academic route with research. But…most people don’t want to look through a 40-page CV.”

This was certainly true for Miller. When recruiting for a community hospital, she appreciated CVs that kept it short. “We weren’t looking for a lot of publications necessarily,” she says. “What stood out to me was when things were very efficient.”

Montano, on the other hand, recruits for academic centers. She expects CVs to be much longer— typically at least 10 pages.

If you’re applying to different types of roles, you may want to create different CVs of varying lengths. “Figure out what your goal job is and tailor it to that,” says Wilburn. “Think of how somebody from where you want to be would be reviewing it, and if you have to create more than one CV because you don’t know if you’re doing academics [or] a standalone facility or just a general hospital, then it’s ok to have more than one version. You want to sell yourself to where you want to be.”

Above all, don’t fret about a seemingly short CV. “[Don’t] get freaked out if your CV is a page,” says Miller. “It’s ok if your CV is only a page coming out of residency. You’re a doctor!

Share your CV with hiring employers

Once you’ve written your CV, solicited feedback and made edits, it’s time to share it with hiring employers. After all, it can only land you the job if it first lands in the right hands.

Start by uploading your CV to PracticeLink.com, making it accessible to thousands of in-house recruiters. “I actually used PracticeLink … so I definitely recommend PracticeLink,” says Miller. “Beyond that, there’s nothing wrong with a Google search.” If you’ve got your heart set on a specific city and hospital, she also recommends calling their office directly to ask about job opportunities.

Montano recommends applying to job opportunities directly and following up with an email. “If there is an email address included in the [job] advertisement, go ahead and shoot them an email as well and include your CV, include your cover letter if you have one,” says Montano. That direct contact can spark conversation with the hiring employer

Use your CV as a steppingstone

Writing your CV isn’t just a critical step in your job search. It’s also valuable preparation for another step: interviews. Use your CV, along with job descriptions, as a study guide to prep for your phone screens and site visits. After all, it’s basically a document of talking points for your conversations with recruiters. Expect recruiters to ask about specific parts of your CV when they vet you as a candidate. If you’d like to elaborate on any experiences, prepare your anecdotes ahead of time. That way, you’ll find yourself more at ease during the conversations.

Finally, think of your CV as a living document. Once you land your dream job, add it to your CV—and add more detail with time. Keeping your CV up to date is much easier than overhauling it. Make it a point to revisit every year or so, and you’ll always be prepared for research opportunities, speaking engagements or your next career step. 



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