The best medical CVs strike a balance between getting across your key details while also containing that extra element that makes you stand out.
What that extra element actually looks like varies.
It could be an effective opening section that presents a vision of where you’d like to go instead of strictly where you are. It could be a CV that’s structured in a way that communicates an understanding of what matters most (while leaving out the fluff). The ultimate test lies in those moments when your CV is being evaluated by a recruiter. If there’s a strong mix of positive elements, at some point the recruiter’s review stops being about where you trained or what journals you’ve been published in and turns into curiosity about who you are.
That’s the moment your phone rings and an interview is scheduled.
In my work as a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of a firm called ResumeOrbit.com, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with physicians spanning many different specialties in addressing issues related to their CVs.
On the following pages are three before-and-after examples meant to demonstrate the strategies I use on a daily basis. By implementing them, you can expect to see a significant improvement in the response rate your CV receives.
CV makeover #1: The all-over-the-map CV
Developing a physician CV for academic positions can be daunting. Many institutions are more than happy to provide interested job-seekers with templates outlining all that’s required within an academic CV, from formatting suggestions to subject categories. The problem is that, in practice, it’s almost impossible to create an appealing document while rigidly following a template.
Bucking the rules can seem risky, but take heart: No job-seeker in the history of gainful employment ever secured a position due to how guideline-friendly his CV was. He got it through standing out in a meaningful way and asserting his suitability for the job.
Niraj Kalore, M.D., is a fellowship-trained Orthopedic Surgeon with a background of excellence in patient care and research. He possesses extensive teaching and mentoring experience (always a plus for academic positions), all necessary licenses and certifications, and an impressive list of publication and presentation credits to his name. And yet interest throughout the job search had been muted.
A quick glance at his existing CV demonstrates a challenge many of the most experienced physicians in the industry face: How do you get across the scope of a multifaceted career within the limited length of a CV?
Suggested areas of improvement Kalore’s old CV didn’t really do much in terms of communicating the high-level hospital appointments and incredibly relevant postdoctoral training he received in Orthopedic Surgery. By structuring the most relevant credits in this section by first describing unique responsibilities, followed by a few bullet points outlining accomplishments and other distinguishing successes, you naturally draw a reader’s gaze toward what you want them to know.
CV makeover #2: The ineffectively written CV
It’s tempting to believe, in an era of ever-increasing competition and rapid change within the health care industry, that a good CV is one that is about as dry as your typical job posting. After all, the thinking goes, if they’re requesting a laundry list of skills, why not simply respond in kind? Wouldn’t that automatically put you at the top of the list of candidates they’d be interested in hiring?
The error with this line of thinking is believing that a job posting is a company’s summarization of the ideal candidate. It isn’t. Instead, think of the job posting as a kind of skeletal outline; the exact details (beyond required education and training) and mixture of goals, personality and overall fit remain to be seen. As the CV will be, in most cases, the first impression someone will have of you, it pays to be as clear and confident as possible. Much of this comes down to effective writing.
Mani Ehteshami, M.D., is a Board Certified physician with more than 18 years of anatomic and clinical pathology experience. During the course of a distinguished career, he successfully launched diverse outreach programs and web-based laboratory information systems (LIS), negotiated critical contracts with hospitals and ensured the timely procurement of CLIA Certificate, state, Medicare and Medicaid Licenses. He is highly skilled in surgical pathology with expertise in GI, GU, and oncologic pathology, immunohistochemistry, performance and interpretation of fine needle aspiration (FNA), and bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
Now take a look at the opening sections of his "before" CV and see how many of these key traits come across clearly.
Suggested areas of improvement
Though all the necessary details were there, what’s missing was the kind of language that relayed a true understanding of Ehteshami’s worth as a candidate. Sometimes the most effective CV strategy is going back to the drawing board, essentially using everything you’ve created to date as raw materials for a new presentation.
With considerable input from Ehteshami to make sure we were on the right track, we eventually developed a CV that turned around his job search and brought a host of wonderful career opportunities his way.
CV makeover #3: The lack-of-confidence CV
The most valuable quality a CV can possess is an awareness, on the part of the candidate, that securing a position is a two-way street.
You’re looking for the right fit as selectively as any employer. When we hear of professionals accepting positions that do not rise to the level of their expectations, be it in terms of responsibilities, salary or any other factor, oftentimes the culprit is miscommunication during the earliest phases of the hiring process.
The worth a potential employer sees in you is directly linked to the worth you place in yourself, and whether that’s successfully communicated.
Dipti Patil, M.D., had just completed her residency and was looking to practice as a family medicine physician. Even a cursory review of her existing CV showed a range of relevant experience. However, the document read like a great CV for a med student, not a physician who understands her value and can communicate it with confidence.
Suggested areas of improvement
By thinking in terms of what a potential employer would most like to see in a candidate like Patil, I created a succinct but impactful opening, immediately followed by education and licensure information. The Postdoctoral Training section comes next, with a particular emphasis on showing how her experiences can be directly applied to a role as a Family Medicine physician.
When the right elements of a CV are in place, the stage is set for a successful interview, one where the key ideas expressed in the document can be naturally expounded.
It’s important to listen to your gut. Though none of us begin as experts in this area, all of us have reviewed untold thousands of documents, the basic elements of which still apply. Is it written well? Is it effective in communicating who you are? Are you excited by the prospect of getting it out there? The higher the bar you set for yourself here, the greater the results.
Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and owner of ResumeOrbit.com, a career development firm. He lives with his wife, son and pets in Rochester, N.Y.