10 Tips for Writing an Exceptional Physician CV
April 12, 2021
By the Merritt Hawkins team
Years of education and hard work have
gone into your physician career. You have endured countless hours of study, lost
sleep, and stretched yourself beyond normal limits—all to acquire the necessary
medical training and devote yourself to the health and well-being of your
So how can you adequately present all
of that in a few pages of a physician curriculum vitae, or CV?
It takes time. It takes finesse. And
it takes guidance from professionals who are well-versed in creating the most
effective physician CVs.
Three recruiting professionals from Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician placement firm, recently
shared their expertise on what it takes to create a standout physician CV that
can help you reach your professional goals.
What makes a good physician CV?
our clients, especially our academic clients, are very particular with CVs,”
said Jay Torio, regional vice president for the department of academic
recruitment at Merritt Hawkins.
working with some of the top medical centers, universities and medical schools
in the country, and they are expecting CVs that are well-organized and
regularly updated,” he said. “There needs to be a logical flow to the CV so
that it’s easy to get a feel for the candidate’s career trajectory – where they
trained, what institutions they have been a part of and what positions they have
it clear, concise and to the point. And make sure it is accurate,” added
Gabriel Bishop, director of recruiting in the diversified
specialties group for Merritt Hawkins.
10 keys for creating an
effective physician CV
1. Start with the basics
The Merritt Hawkins team has found that most
recruiters, department directors, and physicians expect a CV to contain the
- Your full name, current and/or permanent
address, phone number and email address
- The name of your medical school, its
location, your degree and year of completion
- Any internships, residencies and
fellowships (include areas of specialization, facilities, locations and years
- Information regarding undergraduate
degrees, including only dates, major areas of study, and grade point averages
- The states in which you currently hold a
license to practice medicine
- Your professional experience, listed in chronological
order, starting with most recent and going back to training
committee memberships, honors, awards and professional affiliations
and published papers (some may be optional depending on the position)
- Professional references are common for residents and
fellows to include at the end, while other physicians may mention they are
2. Give your CV the time and
attention it deserves
“Don’t undervalue the CV,” advised Torio. “Put some time into
making it good and ensuring it represents you.” It is also important to keep
your CV updated regularly, including any new certifications, committee work or
key publications, he noted.
A physician resume or CV is an essential
component of every physician job search, according to Bishop. “That’s
especially true for physicians who are just sending out resumes on their own;
their CV really has to speak for them. When candidates are working with our
recruitment firm, however, we always supply a personalized cover letter to
accompany their CV, and we can also speak on their behalf,” she said.
3. Explain any gaps
employers I work with want to see very clear, defined work experience,
including dates of employment, and the organization is very important,” said
Maxine Griggs, senior search consultant with Merritt Hawkins’ diversified
are gaps, indicate why there are gaps. Perhaps the person was traveling to do
medical volunteer work, or there were some family circumstances, such as
maternity leave. If it is listed and simply explained, that is better than
leaving an empty gap,” she said.
4. Pay attention to detail
“A lot of
physicians don’t want to include dates, but it is important to include the
month and year—especially with training,” said Griggs. “It’s also important to
look for typos and grammar usage, avoid misspellings, and understand what needs
to capitalized and what doesn’t.”
agreed that it’s important to list board certifications and when passed, and if
recertified, what year.
software used to create the document can make a difference. Bishop and Griggs recommend
using Microsoft Word, which can help avoid issues with Mac file formats and
Google Docs that may not open correctly for every employer. Once complete, the
CV can also be saved in a PDF format, which is sometimes preferred with online
5. Use the optimal length of CV for the
standard length we normally recommend for a CV is three to four pages,
depending on how long the physician has been in practice and how many places
they have worked. But those in academia will often list all of their
publishing, and it can reach 30 to 40 pages. If that is the case, we normally
recommend condensing it or having two versions,” said Bishop.
some nonacademic clients may look at a CV of that length and feel that the
candidate may be overqualified. But it can depend on what the position
requires,” she added.
agreed that the optimal length of
a CV depends on the candidate and type of position they are seeking. “Academic
CVs tend to be much longer since they will include publication history, speaking
engagements, etc. Hospital C-suite leadership CVs tend to be more concise and
physicians are coming out of training, we don’t recommend a CV of more than
three pages unless they are looking for academic positions,” Griggs added. “For
private practice or other positions, the shorter the better, including
primarily work experience, training and education.”
6. Be clear and concise
“Don’t make your CV read like a cover letter,” advised Torio.
“Sometimes too much detail regarding job responsibilities are lost when a
high-level executive is asked to review a CV. Be concise.”
obviously want to highlight your expertise but provide just enough detail in
each position; you can include a brief description, but don’t use finite
details,” said Griggs.
explained, “It is better to provide that ‘10,000-foot view’ of your experience,
by providing a few bullets under each job heading,” adding that the recruiter
or hiring manager will ask for more details during the interview.
So, what about the cover letter?
letter can allow an applicant to go into more detail, especially about their
current job,” said Griggs. “For instance, a candidate might note their average
patient load per day, what kind of procedures they are doing, unique things
they have trained on, etc. Incorporating those details into a cover letter that
accompanies the CV, highlighting particular expertise in their specialty, can
go a long way.”
7. Know what to emphasize
highlights of your education and expertise are universal, while others may be
more important to certain employers.
candidates speak additional languages, that can be very important, so I would
put something like that up near the top of your CV,” Griggs noted.
note what your specific title was within a role,” added Bishop. “If 100 percent
clinical, put clinical; if administrative, like if you served as a director or
CMO, list that out; if it was both administrative and clinical, list both and
within each put bullet points in those roles.” Specific experience can also be
included, she said. “If you are a psychiatrist, for example, and involved in
interventional therapies, those can be good to list.”
“Some candidates we’ve worked with will create two or more
versions of their own CV, depending on the type of organization they are
applying to,” said Torio. “I think this is a great idea, especially for someone
with a diverse background who can highlight particular aspects of their experience
tailored to that specific institution.”
also recommends including a keywords section that pertains to your specific
skillset or type of job you want to land. “Having this section increases your
chances of popping up in a candidate search when recruiters are sourcing for
candidates in places like LinkedIn or other online sources,” he said.
Know what to leave out
including ‘fluff’ content in your CV – these are things that are completely
irrelevant to your candidacy for a physician job,” said Torio.
instance, candidates should not include their date of birth or Social Security
numbers on their CVs. Hobbies and personal information should also be left out.
also don’t recommend including a photo,” said Bishop.
objectives and mission statements are infrequently used, Bishop mentioned it
can depend on the style of the person. “If they are passionate about working
with the underserved, for instance, they may speak to that in a mission
statement, or they may want to tailor their experience for a particular role.”
added that physicians
should remove any work experience that is not relatable to the job for which they
are applying. “Those years waiting tables in high school just don’t pertain to
your current job search.”
9. Keep it visually simple
keeping CVs black and white—no crazy colors or funky designs,” said Griggs. “There
are a lot of templates out there that are okay, but the more clear and basic,
the better. Avoid any design that makes it too complicated for someone to read
and find the information.”
that is too crowded is also harder to read, so be aware of the visual flow and
allow enough white space to make the type readable. The size of the font should
also be considered. Griggs recommends keeping everything very defined in each
section, with clear headings for your education, work experience, etc.
10. Proofread and ask others to review
finalizing your CV, print it out and take the time to read it over a few times,
checking for typos, formatting issues, errors and omissions. Then ask someone
you trust to review it and provide some honest feedback. If you are working
with a physician recruiter, he or she can be an invaluable resource.
physician candidates ask us to look over their CV to comment on the layout,
etc. I’m always happy to do it. We can help if it needs reformatted, and give
suggestions to keep the content clear and concise,” said Bishop.
who have worked with the same employer for many years may need a refresh of their
CV. We can review it and provide some valuable feedback,” added Griggs.
Related:How to Kick Off a Physician Job
Search: 5 Keys to Success8 Questions Every Physician Should
Ask in a Job InterviewLaunching
a Medical Career: An E-book for New Physicians
tips and information on finding a physician job or advanced practitioner position, talk
to the experts at Merritt Hawkins.
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