Writing Your Professional Résumé

Be sure to download my free CV template to start building your CV.

During one of my medical school interviews, I remember that my interviewer had my curriculum vitae (CV) in front of him on which he had written a series of questions to ask me. I had mentioned on my CV that I was an Eagle Scout, and it turned out that he was too.

We ended up swapping a few stories from our days in Boy Scouts, which was a lot of fun. His questions about my CV also gave me the opportunity to highlight some leadership experiences and academic achievements. It made me really glad I had put some serious time and effort into crafting a comprehensive, professional CV.

Curriculum vitae (CV) is the term used most often to describe your professional résumé. You’ll find it is rarely the key to getting any position you’re applying to, but a bad one can be a real turnoff and even a dealbreaker. If you don’t have a good one, you’ll stand out as a bad candidate. Interviewers may interpret this as being lazy or apathetic. In many cases, sending a CV is the first step towards starting the interview process, so if you don’t have a CV to send, then you won’t even be able to get started.

What makes a CV exceptional?

You want your CV to stand out or at least not be a major detractor to your application. Take the time to have colleagues or mentors with proofreading experience review your CV and make some changes. I see CVs all the time with tons of spelling and grammatical errors. The whole health care industry relies on good writing abilities, so a poorly edited CV will be a major turnoff.

The proper format for a professional CV may differ depending on your industry, but there are a few features that should be present in any good CV:

  • Simple, not overly complex or wordy
  • Free of grammar and spelling errors
  • Includes good contact information
  • Clearly states how you would be a valuable addition to the company you are hoping to join

What items should I include on a CV?

Only include items which are relevant to the position for which you’re applying.

For example, no one is interested in your high school marching band experience, unless there was something that is uniquely relevant to the job you want. Be sure to highlight items that demonstrate depth of commitment. It would be better to have 2-3 community service or academic organizations to which you have made major contributions than to have 15 such organizations in which you have minimal participation.

Include items about which you can speak passionately. The CV is an opportunity for you to trumpet your accomplishments and stand out from the crowded field of applicants.

Schools and employers are not looking for a group of well rounded people but rather a well rounded group of people. Employers don’t want a population of people that are average at everything (well-rounded). They want team members who are competent in most things but excel in a few areas.

During medical school interviews, no one will remember you as the biology major with a 4.0 GPA, but they’ll remember you are a concert pianist, or an award-winning graphic designer, or have multiple awards for volunteerism. Make yourself stand out!

Do not ever lie on a CV!

It’s easy to misrepresent yourself, but your integrity is worth too much for you to fall into that trap. Plus, it can really bite you during the interview.

I remember someone in college who included a note in her CV that she was fluent in Spanish. Applying for a job in south Texas, this would be particularly relevant. The problem was that she only had a basic conversational level of Spanish, not even close to fluent. Well, her interviewer conducted the entire interview in Spanish and she completely bombed. I don’t think she even bothered going to the second interview that day. So, always be honest!

Break down your CV into readable sections

Your value to the company: This is not something you see on most résumé templates, but I think it is the most important section to add. This should be on the first page of your CV. Tell your employer what specific value you bring to the company. You may be writing a personal statement in addition to your résumé, so this should just be 2-3 bullet points. Highlight the specific value you bring to the group.

Education and Training: Few employers worth working for will hire you based on the school you attended, but you do need to demonstrate that you have appropriate education and training. You can include items like “graduated with honors” or “Alpha Omega Alpha member,” but this section should be very short.

Hospital affiliations: Be sure to list any affiliations with hospitals or health care organizations. This will be important when it comes to obtaining credentials and hospital privileges.

Bibliography: This is especially important if you are applying for an academic position. Most, if not all, academic institutions expect their professors to be prolific writers. By the way, while you are in training, it is worth it to try to get something published, or to present your work at a national society meeting, e.g., American College of Physicians.

Involvement in hospital/local/national committees: There are lots of opportunities to get involved in national committees, even as a medical student, resident, or fellow. Committee involvement on that level is worth seeking and certainly worth highlighting. You should also note any work done on hospital committees, specifically citing your particular contributions. This will show future employers your desire to improve the organization.

Community service: Your CV doesn’t necessarily need to have this section. If you include it, limit this section to significant contributions/achievements. Leadership in organizations, awards, and large blocks of time spent in community service activities annually (50 hours or more) will be worth mentioning.

Special skills: For procedure-based specialties like general surgery, gastroenterology, and dermatology, this section is where you can talk about your specific procedural skills. If you have a unique proficiency, be sure to list that first.

Language proficiency: If you are genuinely fluent in a language other than English, this can be incredibly valuable.

Update your CV regularly

You will probably send out your CV to someone or some organization several times a year. Be sure to update your CV on a regular basis. If you haven’t updated your CV in over a year, it will be difficult to remember the accomplishments that you want to highlight. This is a habit worth developing. It will keep you relaxed and worry-free when it’s time to send it out.

Good luck!

Don’t forget to download my free CV template to start building your CV.

Please leave a comment below and tell people your top tip for writing your CV.

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