Curriculum Vitae Prep
Creating a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a stressful process for most residents. You are trying to cram all of your hard work into a format that is concise and easy-to-read but remains interesting.
A few important things to remember:
- You are amazing! Your CV is a chance to highlight your accomplishments so prospective employers will understand them better. We will help you.
- Smooth is… smooth. Employers sometimes have to read up to 50 CVs a day. (Can you imagine?!) You, your friend, and a resident at another program should be able to easily skim your CV in ~3 minutes since that’s how long an employer will take to look at it, too. Many different formats exist, but the key is to be well organized and ensure your CV flows well.
- Be interesting! Pretend you are reading your friend’s CV. What would YOU find interesting? What would make YOU more likely to hire that person?
- Don’t lie or over-embellish. Emergency Medicine is a small world. You will get caught. It will get awkward. So just don’t do it.
Content: What do I put in this thing, anyway?
First thing’s first, your CV should start with a header that includes your name (followed by MD or DO) and all relevant contact information. The first section after this is always educational background, and after that you can include other sections in order of importance to your employer. If you are applying for an education position, prioritize teaching and lectures. If you want to do research, put your publications near the top. If you are going into the private community, smile and collect your money. (Kidding on that last one, but you get the idea.)
1. Educational Background
- College, medical school, graduate school, any post-graduate training
- Do include significant honors/awards (AOA, Phi Beta Kappa, Cum laude)
- Do not include grades, GPA or board scores (those are lame)
- Optional: May include patient volume, type of hospital, level of trauma center for your residency program if desired
- Either organized by date or importance
- Everything from residency lectures/morning reports to national lectures
- Can include workshops or poster presentations
3. Professional Experience
- Any paid work other than residency including moonlighting
- May include volunteer work or community service (vs. having a separate section for volunteer work depending on what you’re going for)
4. Research Experience
- Any involvement in a project should be included and clearly stated
- Include hospital and department
- Include subject of interest
- Caution: Careful putting too many entries if none have resulted in publication!
- Use formal citation format
- Highlight your name within the citation by underlining or bolding it
- Can be its own section vs. combined with “Research Experience” above
- How many you have and their type will dictate where this section lands
- Include any grant, group award, or significant awards from college and beyond – e.g. undergrad, med school, residency. (Nobody cares about high school anymore. Time to let that AP Geometry award go…)
- Wait – you have a national award?! Definitely let them know about it!
7. Committee Involvement/Professional Memberships (Optional)
- Include any hospital, regional, or national committees
- Professional memberships include ACEP, EMRA, SAEM, AAEM, AMA, etc.
- If you have extensive committee involvement, this section could be split into two separate categories
- Include BLS, ACLS, ATLS, PALS, as well as board certification or eligibility
- Add hospital certifications (like TeamSTEPPS)
- Include any other national professional certifications (paramedic, state bar, fitness instructor, etc.)
- Do not include personal information like medical license or DEA numbers
- A pretty boring section – probably a good one to keep at the end
9. Skills or Interests (Optional)
- Can include professional or research areas of interest
- May include personal interests (surfing, triathlons, travel, etc.) to see if you’d be a good fit with this employer. Use your best judgement with each specific situation when deciding whether to include or not
- Section should be minimal if included at all
Style: Make it look good!
There are many different CV layouts. Google different CVs or ask your friends and mentors to see theirs. Choose your favorite layout, then make sure it fits the following criteria:
- Size 10-12 font (never smaller!)
- Margins at least 0.75 inches
- Include all dates and locations (or hospital/program) for each activity
- Include 1-2 bullet points describing what you did for each activity
- Use consistent punctuation/grammar/tense
- Most medical students should aim for 2-3 pages, residents 3-4 pages. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, and yours may be longer if you have a good amount of substantive content, such as a large number of lectures or research publications
- Start descriptions with action verbs instead of passive ones. “Was one of the volunteers at a medical tent…” is not as impactful as “Volunteered at a medical tent…”
- Never end a line with a single word or a page with a single line
- Avoid page breaks in the middle of a section
- Pick your format early rather than making a million changes later
- Maintain a thorough, detailed copy of your CV for yourself that includes absolutely everything and anything you’ve done that may be CV worthy. When you apply for a specific position, you can pull from this database and highlight only those items that are relevant to that specific job.
- Whenever sending your CV, upload a PDF rather than word processing document to ensure it looks the same on their computer as it does on yours
- Print a copy of your CV and read it out loud to yourself. This will help you find any accidental grammar areas or typos that your eyes may otherwise miss having looked it over on a computer dozens of times
- While most people order items within each section by date (most current at the top), they could alternatively be ordered by importance. Remember: this is importance to your potential employer! And whichever method you choose, keep it consistent throughout the entire CV
- A two-column system is risky but can look really nice when done well, giving you ample white space and easily separating your headings from the description/bullet points
A Lifetime of Work: You Ain’t No Quitter!
Curriculum vitae loosely translates as “the course of one’s life.” As such, it will (and should!) grow and mature over time as you do. Keep your CV current using the following recommendations:
- Review & update your CV twice annually. This usually correlates with the end of the calendar and academic year. We do a lot in medical school, residency, fellowship, and as physicians out in the working world; it would be a shame to miss anything important!
- Deleting is as important as adding! That group you were social chair of in college? Great for medical school, borderline for residency, and definitely lose it for job applications.
- Have a mentor or friend review your CV periodically. By doing this on a somewhat regular basis, you will catch errors and make small improvements as you go, leaving you with less of a headache when you suddenly need your CV for anything from a job or grant application to an award nomination. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss areas of strength and weakness in your experience with your mentor(s) as you seek new ways to continue investing and growing in your career.
YOU WANT MORE?
Check out the following resources that may also be helpful to you:
- Wake Forest University's list of action verbs for starting description phrases
- “Getting Ready for the Rest of Your Life” – advice from Maryanne W. Lindsay, MD – former EMRA president
- “Some Advice on CVs and Cover Letters” – by Arlene S Chung, MD – Medical Education Fellow at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn NY
- EMRA’s Career Planning Guide