For most medical students the point at which you need to think about compiling a Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume comes in your final year of medical school. This is the time when you need to think about applying for a job for after graduation. As a doctor who has seen 10,000+ CVs in his career I’ve put together some tips for the medical student CV, including how it may differ from other types of doctor CVs or resumes.
But before we dive into these tips. Let’s look at what the key aspects of a medical student CV are. In order to compile a good quality medical student CV, you should ensure the following vital elements are covered:
- The most prominent element on your CV should be your name. This is what you want potential employers to remember.
- You should have clear and professional contact details. So they can get in touch easily.
- A personal statement is highly recommended. As you then get the chance to control the narrative (not the employer).
- Your education history will take prominence over work history, which is different from the way it goes for the rest of your career. You should, therefore, try to continue “the narrative” in this section and signal some of your special achievements during this time.
There are of course other things which should go on your CV. But the above are in my experience the most critical elements and if you focus upon these then you will have a very good first page for your CV and this is the bit of your CV that actually gets read.
9 Tips For Compiling A Good Quality Medical Student CV.
Tip 1. Don’t Leave It Till Your Final Year of Medical School.
It seems obvious to say this but you should really be thinking of making a CV the moment you enter medical school. Keep an original copy somewhere that you use to keep a record of your achievements over time. You can then use this to make shorter variations when it comes time for applying for jobs.
The term CV is actually a misnomer. A CV technically is a full record of all your career information. For doctors who have worked a while this document can get quite big. With the various jobs they have done, the courses, conferences, papers published etc…
The document you are normally putting forward is generally more akin to a resume which is a tailored synthesis of your career put against the actual role you are applying for.
At the very least start thinking about your CV in your penultimate year of medical school. This is because you want to giver yourself the time to collect the number of referees you may require on the document. Normally this is a minimum of two.
Tip 2. Leave the Photo Off (Unless Specifically Requested). Make Your Name “the Hero”.
Photos are distracting and seen as too flashy on Medical CVs. They also inject unneeded bias into the process before you get to front the interview panel.
Occasionally you may be requested to include a photo as a formal requirement. If so do then. Otherwise leave it off and use the space to make your name the biggest item on the front page. You want the reviewer to remember you name as they hopefully put your CV into the “for interview” pile.
Tip 3. Include a Personal Statement.
Personal Statements or Career Goal Statements are really important. Once, you realize how long it takes (or doesn’t take) to review your CV. You will realize the importance of a summary statement at the top of the CV that lets you tell the story of your career and doesn’t leave it up to the reviewer to make up.
For a medical student CV I tend to recommend a Personal Statement over a Career Goal Statement. It can be seen as just a little too presumptuous at this stage to be declaring your specialty intentions at this point.
Concentrate on talking a little bit about:
- Why you choose a career in Medicine
- What your interests are. You can broadly allude to your career intentions, for example use terms like “critical care”, “interested in procedures”, “rural medicine”. Make sure though that you back this up with some evidence from your medical school about how you pursued these interests. So it doesn’t come off as a second thought.
- And then finally try to throw in some value for the employer. What skills do you bring that add some thing additional that others perhaps do not. Again, this could be some of the extra stuff you did throughout medical school or for many it might be skills you developed in a career prior to medicine.
Tip 4. Continue The Use of Narrative and Sell Your Educational Achievements.
Because you don’t have a medical work history its very important that you signal any special achievements you had during medical school. You don’t have to just talk about your formal education in this section. You can bring in other things you may have done during this time. A classic is tutoring other students or other forms of part-time work.
Most students have to work on one or two projects or some form of research during medical school so you could also talk about the outcomes of this work.
If you were on a committee talk about what that committee achieved during the year.
If possible try to quantify your outcomes. If, for example, you helped organise a rural medicine one-day workshop state how many attended.
Don’t just put down that you were the Secretary of the Medical Society without talking about your achievements. Employers are acutely aware how much a waste of time most committees are. So they will assume that you took up the position to add to your CV and did nothing during that year.
Tip 5. Your Work History Prior to and During Medicine is Of Interest.
Your work history or “work achievements” prior to medicine is of interest to employers. It may help to make you a more unique candidate. Definitely put this down its not a disadvantage.
I once had a medical student ask me if they should put down the fact that they were an Executive Assistant in a prior career. My answer was absolutely! Interns are in fact glorified Executive Assistants for a fair bit of the time. And EAs are well known for their ability to get work done, time manage, juggle tasks and be the linchpin of teams.
Tip 6. Stick to a Simple Style and Format.
Try to avoid too much formatting to your CV until you are close to completing it. Ideally, choose one font-type and don’t vary the size too much. A contrast in colour is ok. As is the use of a colour block with whit text to highlight important things like your name.
Avoid going too crazy with underlined words and bolding and italics. Also try to stick with only one level of indenting and bullet points. Otherwise it can start to look a bit chaotic.
Also, check that sections are not being split between pages. If they are pad things out a bit so that new sections start at the top of the page.
Tip 7. Start a LinkedIn Profile.
Now that you have completed all that work in compiling your CV. Why not go the extra step and set up a LinkedIn profile if you have not already OR update it if you have.
There are a number of reasons for doing this but the prime one is that employers now do Google searches on prospective employees and LinkedIn profiles rank well on Google so it once again gives you a chance to control what is being said about you, as well as manage your online reputation.
In this case make sure that you do include a photo as it is expected on LinkedIn.
Tip 8. Your CV Should Be As Long As It Needs To Be And No Longer.
I see so much rubbish on the internet about how a Resume should be no longer than 2 pages or in some instances 1 page. The logic being that if you can’t synthesise your career down to that length to make a winning proposition to an employer. Then you are no go.
I’m calling BS on that.
Sure I have seen some really good tight doctor CVs or Resumes that have managed to get down to 2 pages. But these have generally either been medical students or interns.
I have also seen people try to cram all their information on to 2 pages and make it look a mess because the font-type size is too small.
Once you have worked as a doctor for a while you accumulate a lot of work experience and other good stuff. So generally this takes a few more pages to fill out. Normally this is 4 pages but if it requires more then fine.
Remember employers mainly only focus on the first page in any case. Concentrate on getting this right and then include other things that you think support that first page.
Tip 9. Don’t Get Overly Concerned About How Much a CV Matters At This Point.
Perhaps I should have put this point first. But I wanted you to understand all the other points above first. In most cases you do need a CV. So you might as well make a good one.
That being said. Because there is no medical work history to put on your CV. Employers will not pay as much weight to it. Employers know that the best test of whether someone is good for the job is to try them out in it. And the second best is if they can relate similar succesful job experiences from the past.
So don’t get too concerned if you feel that yours doesn’t have much of interest on it.
Recommended Format For a Medical Student CV.
The format I recommend for most Medical Student CVs is as follows:
- Big Bold Name at the very top.
- Contact details just underneath or to the right hand side. You really just need a mobile phone number and a professional looking email address so they can contact you. If you have social media profiles such as LinkedIn you can include these as well.
- Short Qualification Summary just below as well as any other pertinent information such as citizenship or visa status.
- Personal Statement. See Above.
- Education Achievements. Note we use “Achievement” rather than “History”
- Work Achievements
- Other Headings
- Referees. Always Come Last.
By the time you have finished the Education Achievements Section you are probably going to be onto the second page. After Work History you can pretty much use what ever other headings you choose in the order that you feel represents you best. But remember you can always bundle some of the good stuff up under your Medical School description as well.
So some other headings you may wish to use include:
- Academic Achievements
- Professional Development
- Volunteer Work
- Quality Improvement
- Committee Work
Below is an example: