Common CV errors and cover letter mistakes to avoid
Common CV errors and cover letter mistakes to avoid

CV prep

Stop before you make one of these errors

Table of Contents

Worried job candidate waiting hiring decision

We were wrong.

Old guard recruiters and employers predicted that smartphone access to CV and cover letter samples, templates, how-to guides and FAQs would eliminate most of the common CV and cover letter problems. It didn’t occur to us that the older generation’s errors might be replaced by new challenges in the era of digital job search.

Learn what they are so you can avoid them.

Using a file sharing platform and embedding macros

Dropbox, ShareFile, Google Drive, Egnyte and other file-sharing platforms are wonderful for sharing documents and photos with friends and family. They are not optimal for sharing your CV and cover letter.

Recruiters and practices work behind formidable firewalls and may not be able to open the file.

I recently asked our information protection and security guru why we are blocked from so many third-party sites. He explained that file-sharing platforms are hit-and-miss on safety standards for protected health information (PHI). These vendors do not intentionally put our information at risk, but sometimes speed and ease-of-use shortcuts provide opportunities for malware.

The fastest way to get your CV and cover letter in front of a decision maker is to stick to PDF or Microsoft Word attachments. To avoid landing in a spam filter, avoid macros and embedded objects. Our firewall is looking for anything similar to malware and will either divert your document to spam or disable the suspicious element.

Not proofreading after the red squiggly lines are gone

We see far fewer misspellings today because spelling and grammar checks catch most. The dangerous downside of these tools is the false sense of security they afford.

Candidates who skip having a spouse, friend or mentor proofread a CV and cover letter run a far greater risk of:

Date errors. Only another human will catch the typo on a year or omission of key dates, such as your anticipated completion of training.

Word choice errors. We see incorrect usage of ensure/insure, accept/except, adopt/adapt frequently because spell check doesn’t see these as wrong.

Subject/verb agreement errors. These are often editing errors. You changed the subject and did not change the verb that modifies it.

Pronoun and preposition errors. We see more dropped or incorrect use of preposition pronouns: “By the end fellowship, I will have performed 50 TAVR procedures.”

Fiancé/fiancée mistakes. A female betrothed is a fiancée; a male is a fiancé.

Not caring about format

A good CV template is designed by someone who’s an expert in the visual presentation of written information. If you just wing it with a bold here or a font change there, your CV looks amateurish and difficult to read next to your competitor’s.

Choose a template that has address, email and phone prominently positioned at the top. Include M.D. or D.O. behind your name to instantly distinguish yourself from other health care professionals.

Once you’re done, save the document with a title that includes your last name and the type of document (CV or cover letter), the month and year.

Trusting Siri, Cortana and Alexa

In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of candidates who dictate their cover letters as they respond to online ads from their phones.

This can be an efficient tool when used judiciously: “Here is my CV. My husband just accepted an engineering job in Colorado, and we plan to move to the area in August. I will send you my cover letter tonight.”

Sometimes, though, the dictating physician fails to notice silly autocorrects before hitting send. We get things like: “Please accept my CV for the minimally offensive surgery position,” or “I am interested in hospitalist opportunities with no more than 15 sh*ts per month.”

Copying and pasting poorly

Copy/paste is both the best friend and worst enemy of an online physician job seeker. As long as you customize your response with a few opening words specific to the employer or location, copy/paste allows you to get a lot of responses out very quickly.

The body of your cover letter also can be copied and pasted from one response to the next. It will tell employers when you are available and what you are seeking. All prospective employers want that kind of differentiating detail.

Copy/paste is your worst enemy in two circumstances:

It makes you too generic. If you don’t customize the cover letter to the location, we don’t know why you want to live and work in our community. A generic cover letter comes off as canned and leads the reader to assume you are taking a buckshot approach to your job search. If a glance in my shared database shows that you sent exactly the same cover letter to six of my colleagues in the last six months, then I’m not highly motivated to put you at the top of my to-do list for today. You simply don’t look like an intentional, serious candidate for my city and practice.

It’s wrong. You don’t want to copy/paste another employer’s cover message, complete with the wrong location and/or practice name. If your CV gets forwarded at all, it will probably go to the administrator or lead physician along with your botched cover letter to make sure your lack of detail is not overlooked.

Times have changed. But some old-fashioned proofreading and awareness of these issues can help you make a strong first impression to prospective employers!


Therese Karsten

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