Crafting a strong physician CV
Crafting a strong physician CV

CV prep

The qualities of a winning physician CV

Table of Contents

A physician seeking a job out of residency or fellowship. A veteran emergency medicine M.D. seeking a locum tenens assignment. A plastic surgeon trying to join an established group.

What do these people have in common? All will, in attempting to develop careers within an industry in flux, come face-to-face with hiring practices that are changing just as rapidly.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of a physician’s CV. Make no mistake: Regardless of specialty or background, the days of simply listing your training and contact information on a sheet of paper, sending it out, and expecting the phone to start ringing are over.

“The factors that go into who to hire have changed as the relationship between physicians and the entities that write their paychecks have changed,” says Tommy Bohannon, divisional VP of hospital-based recruiting for Merritt Hawkins in Dallas.

“Now that the industry has moved toward hospital or large group employment of physicians, it has definitely become more of an HR-type corporate vetting process. They’re looking for more of a fit from a personality and culture standpoint.”

In my capacity as a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and owner of, a career development firm, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with physicians across the United States in developing job search documents that both communicate unique value and present it within a format that’s preferred by recruiters and employers.

It can be a challenging process. For one thing, the gap between possessing experience and successfully presenting it on the page can be large indeed, particularly when dealing with a business document that comes with a daunting set of rules and standards.

Oftentimes physicians will contact me after having pulled their hair out for weeks trying to write a CV themselves, shoehorning as many (frequently contradictory) “CV best practices” they could before realizing the document just didn’t hold together.

“There’s no one format,” says Arlene Macellaro, director of physician recruitment at Augusta Health in Orlando. “I’ve seen all lengths and approaches. If the right qualities are there, I’ll be contacting you.”

Quality 1

Sense of self

Richard Sheff, M.D., author of Doctor Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil, has traveled a unique road over the course of 30-plus years practicing family medicine. In addition to being a published author and former professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, he is currently serving as chairman and executive director of The Greeley Company, a health care consulting and education firm.

Though the particular challenges he’s faced have varied widely, the impetus behind all of them remains the same. “I had a moment of clarity back in med school that family medicine was what I needed to do. Everything I’ve done since that point has come out of real love for the specialty and wanting to contribute in a meaningful way.”

He urges physicians entering the health care industry to keep that passion at the forefront of their search efforts. “It’s not about employment—there’s a physician shortage on the horizon; you will be employed. It’s about being the solution.”

Throughout your entire job search, keep your passion for medicine at the forefront. “It’s not about employment, it’s about being the solution.” — Richard Sheff, M.D.



Develop an opening paragraph

Creating a succinct and focused opening paragraph at the start of a physician CV is an excellent way to establish a framework for the document and communicate what sets you apart.

“Start with the basics: specialty, subspecialty and training,” advises Macellaro. “Also, if you have a work visa issue or won’t be available until a certain date, I need to know that too as soon as possible.”

Beyond the basics, it’s a good idea to highlight three to four key areas of excellence that can then be expanded upon within the work history section of the document.

For candidates with a limited work history, it is perfectly acceptable to offer a quick rundown of particular areas of interest. Here’s an example of an effective opening paragraph for a physician seeking a Non-Invasive Cardiologist position:

Board-certified Non-Invasive Cardiologist with 7 years’ experience launching successful Cardiac MRI and Cardiac CTA programs, recruiting physicians and medical staff, and implementing viable protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Specialist in deploying a multidisciplinary approach to addressing patient needs such as heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disorders. Internal Medicine Residency: University of Alabama. M.D.: University of Oklahoma. Available 4/13.

Be bold in expressing accomplishments

“I should be able to look at a CV and tell, at a glance, what the distinguishing characteristics of a physician are,” says Macellaro. “The easier it is for me to pick out these details, the more time I’m likely to spend evaluating it.”

Making strategic use of bullet points throughout your work history detailing noteworthy accomplishments is an effective way to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Even without a lengthy work history, taking the time to highlight a special project you completed or a professional experience that had a profound impact sends a clear message that you’re a candidate on the rise.

Here are three examples:

• Founded full-service anatomic laboratory within highly competitive market through developing physician referral network, delivering excellent patient care, and offering 24-hour turnaround time for test results versus 72-hour regional average.
 • Served in clinical supervisory capacity for implementation of 320 slice Toshiba scanner at ancillary hospital as part of overall cardiac CTA program.
• Developed focus on outcomes-based, resource-conscious medicine and received specialized training in outpatient minimally invasive gynecologic surgery.

Personal interests have a place

“I have definitely seen physicians land jobs because one of the key decision makers in the hiring process was a fellow member of an organization they’d listed on the CV, or else they shared a passion for a particular sport or activity,” says Bohannon.

Though non-professional details should never constitute the bulk of a CV, including a “personal interests” or similar section at the tail end of the document can be a shortcut to making a connection, particularly when your candidacy relies heavily on perceived potential (read: limited work history).

“One or two interesting details can make having a follow-up conversation that much more natural,” says Bohannon.

Quality 2


The oftentimes complex credentialing process a new physician hire must undergo necessitates full accountability on a CV. “Our credentialing process takes six months,” says Sharon McCleary, physician recruiter at Summit Health in Harrisburg, Pa., who recommends that residents and fellows allow themselves at least a year for the job search.

“The more upfront a candidate is within their CV, particularly with regards to their career timeline, the easier the process becomes.”

List professional experience in reverse chronological order

Structuring your work history in reverse chronological order (most recent to least) is a proven way to quickly establish legitimacy. Think of every position as its own mini-section and include the following information:

√ Name of employer
√ Location (City, state)
√ Employment dates (Month/Year – Month/Year)
√ Approximately three to six lines describing unique responsibilities. An expert strategy is to expand upon some of the areas of excellence outlined in the opening paragraph.
√ Accomplishments (If available)

Address all work gaps longer than one month

“Any breaks in employment or training that aren’t addressed raises an immediate red flag,” says McCleary. “The truth is, leaving an uncomfortable incident off the physician CV doesn’t mean it disappears. It just means you’re giving up the opportunity to control its impact.”

Inserting a one or two-line “Career Note” directly within the work history or “Education” section of your CV is a simple way to address gaps. Here are three examples:

Career Note: Addressed family responsibilities while maintaining current knowledge of industry standards and practices (9/12-12/12).

Career Note: Completed rigorous physical training for Ironman Triathalon and attained personal goal of finishing (9/12-12/12).

Career Note: Traveled throughout Brazil and
Argentina, developing new friendships and expanding worldview (9/12-12/12).

Quality 3

Aligned with employer’s needs

Mark Friedman, M.D., cofounder and chief medical officer at First Stop Health, an online and telephonic health concierge service, is a master at projecting the right professional image to secure both clinical and non-clinical positions.

In addition to the above, Friedman is assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at Quinnipiac University’s Frank Netter School of Medicine in Connecticut and actively pursuing locum tenens assignments.

He knows from experience just how widely the requirements of business, academic, and clinical roles can vary, and cautions physicians against using a “one size fits all” strategy for their CVs. “I’ve found it very helpful to use an ‘outside-in’ approach,” he says. “What’s the impression you want to leave? Yes, being thorough is important, but how you choose to present that information will set the stage for how you’re perceived.”

Use separate versions of your CV for different job targets
Arlene Macellaro, director of physician recruitment, Augusta Health

“It’s frequently easier for me to evaluate a physician with a limited work history as opposed to someone who’s been practicing for decades, because where the former might send me a two-page document outlining the basics, the latter might send me a 10-page document listing every aspect of every engagement and fellowship,” says Macellaro.

“On a typical day I’ll deal with somewhere in the vicinity of 70 calls and 200 emails. Unless you make it clear exactly what you’re going after and why you’re a great fit, I’m probably not going to have the time to discern it.”

When applying for clinical positions, it is essential to emphasize board certifications, clinical qualifications and clinical engagements within the first page of the CV. It is also important to de-emphasize non-clinical experience within the work history section.

A good approach here is to use the reverse chronological format for all relevant positions, followed by a “non-clinical experience” or similar section briefly summarizing this work in bullet points.

When applying for non-clinical positions, a candidate has more leeway in terms of what skills he or she chooses to emphasize in the opening paragraph and work history. However, it should be noted that clinical expertise carries weight regardless of the particular position being sought, so it should play a role no matter what opportunity you’re seeking.

“Often what I’ll do is attach my physician CV to the end of the business résumé when submitting for a non-clinical position,” says Friedman. “That way I feel like all the bases are covered.”

Identify and integrate industry keywords

The key takeaway from a job market that is increasingly reliant on technology is the importance of developing a document that makes it simple for a reader to identify relevant industry terms and facilitates a positive decision about your worthiness as a candidate.

• Gather five to 10 relevant job postings to which you would seriously consider applying. Analyze the job description: Which skills are called out time and time again? At which of these skills are you particularly proficient? Jot down a quick list. For example, a Non-Invasive Cardiologist might end up with a list that looks something like this:

Cardiology program development
Protocol and SOP development
Medical and administrative staff leadership
Multidisciplinary coordination
Cardiovascular diagnostics and therapeutics
Staff recruiting/mentoring
Community partnerships
Patient management

• Insert a “Core competencies” section near the start of the CV that lists the keywords you’ve identified. This simple step both increases the odds of your CV passing a quick scan while enhancing the overall focus of the document.

• Be sure to elaborate on the keywords listed in your “Core Competencies” section within the work history section of your CV. This will provide the context a recruiter or hiring agent will be looking for when they review it for the first time. “If you take the time to ascertain your strengths, then figure out how they mesh with our needs and highlight that, you’re several steps ahead of the competition,” says Bohannon.

“Don’t tie your hopes to any one position. Be flexible. My story isn’t what I imagined it would be when I started as a physician: It’s better.” —Anthony Youn, M.D.

In his memoir, In Stitches (, renowned plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, M.D., details the good, bad and frequently absurd experience that is medical school.
Like many young physicians, he entered the job market convinced that the hard years were behind him.

“Wrong!” he says during a call from his office at Youn Plastic Surgery in Troy, Mich. “I wanted to work in this area, so I sent my CV out to about 25 different groups. Nothing.” Faced with a nightmare scenario and the looming specter of more than $200,000 in student loans, Youn was forced to find the opportunity in adversity and bootstrap his own practice.

Following some lean years that included renting office space from an anesthesiologist to see patients and bringing breakfast to the offices of family doctors for possible referrals, he broke through with an appearance on the reality show “Dr. 90210” in 2004. Appearances on many other shows followed, including “The Rachael Ray Show” and “The CBS Early Show,” resulting in rapid growth and establishing Youn as an expert in the field.

“None of it would have happened if I hadn’t been able to find a job,” he says. “Don’t tie your hopes to any one position. Be flexible. My story isn’t what I imagined it would be when I started as a physician: It’s better.”


Anish Majumdar

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