Preparing your medical CV

Written by: Kathy Oxtoby
Published on: 29 Oct 2018

Prepare early

Doctors should start putting together a rolling CV that collates essential information, such as dates of placements and skills learned. It is worth doing this as early on in your career as possible, beginning as a medical students, says Kate Lovett, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

“Your CV is a bit like a shop window - it involves an element of selling yourself,” says David Evans, RCPCH vice president for training and assessment. Many doctors are generally not particularly good at selling themselves, and their CVs can read like “directories of factual information with data they think will sell itself,” he says.

A CV is an opportunity to “show off what you can do”, says Lovett. It should be “a summary of peoples experience and skills and can be used for multiple purposes so it can be used to apply for a job to demonstrate that experience and skills to other people in a job interview process”, she says. It can also be used for other purposes such as appraisal and as a personal aid memoir about career progress and reflection, she adds.

These days, many applications for posts are made using an online form. But being able to create an effective CV remains a valuable skill, and CVs may still be required, and still have relevancy as a means to promote yourself. A CV is still very useful because writing it crystallises your thoughts about how you are going to sell yourself, and it will also help you when it comes to the interview process,” Evans says. “It’s a personal thing, it shows your personality, and it’s a lasting memory to give a potential employer.”

There is further advice on what questions you can ask about yourself to help your CV in this article about how appreciative inquiry can help you write a better medical CV:

Tailor it

It might be tempting to simply cut and paste your CV to an application for a post. But such short cuts “aren’t good enough,” Lovett says. “Every CV needs to be tailored to the job”, she says.

With each application you should look at the person specification, qualifications, and skills required and to tailor your CV to highlighting those requirements. “So if you need to demonstrate excellent communication skills, you could give an example of positive team feedback you’ve had,” Lovett suggests. To help ensure doctors’ CVs meet the requirements of the post they are applying for, clinicians should “think about who their audience is, and the messages they are giving a prospective employer about their character, skills and professionalism,” she says.

“Anybody reading a CV in a hurry is going to scan it, so highlight things about yourself that are appealing to the interviewer,” says Fiona Myint, consultant vascular surgeon at the Royal Free, council member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England, and honorary senior clinical lecturer, University College, London.

Person specifications will often say what is essential and what is desirable, “so it’s no good extolling a lot of virtues using a lot of space about something a potential employer doesn’t actually want”, says Evans.

There is further advice on preparing your CV in these articles:

Structure it clearly

Having worked out what employers might be looking for in your CV and what skills and qualifications you need to emphasise, you need to think about how to structure it.

“There is lots of conflicting advice, but I like to see an easy structure,” says Evans. This will depend on the post, but he advises putting administration details, and a brief personal statement outlining training and experience at the beginning of your CV.

Doctors then need to set out main headings that sum up their work experiences. Evans suggests putting sections in order of the priorities of the job specifications.

There is further advice on writing medical CVs in these articles:

Highlight your experience

Highlighting clinical capabilities is a main feature of any doctor’s CV, and in the case of consultants they should include what sets them apart from others in their interests, such as work they have done regarding heart disease, or transportation medicine.

But doctors should avoid giving too much detail about the many conferences and courses they have been to in this section, Evans says. “It’s a pet hate. I often see people give great lists of courses they have attended and think: ‘Well, what does that tell me? I can’t see the relevance, and that lack of strategy would worry me.”

Another aspect to highlight in your CV is quality improvement statements. These might also include giving examples of improving patient safety, such as an audit you have been involved in or a service that has enhanced patient care. Evans cautions against listing all the projects you have done and to highlight something most recent or most relevant to the job specification.

Research is a section that should be prioritised on your CV if you are applying for an academic job or a professorship. Other sections could include education, teaching experience, leadership, and publications.

There is further advice on how you can further develop your CV in this article:

List outside interests

It’s worth including outside interests in your CV, especially those you are really proud of and that are relevant. “I like to see a good rounded CV, so mention of extracurricular activities and achievements, foreign languages spoken, musical instruments played, mountains climbed,” says David Turner, a  GP partner in West London. “This shows a good rounded individual who has a lot interests outside medicine and is less likely to get burnt out.”

Address gaps

Your CV not only highlights your achievements, but also the gaps in knowledge and experience you need to fill, such as being published in an academic journal, or carrying out an audit. “If you haven’t been published, address that now, as it can take a year from writing an article to it being published,” advises Myint. “And if you have been involved in an audit that’s not quite finished, make sure you complete it.”

Make it look good

Be mindful that, when dealing with applications, employers may not have much time to review your CV. “Make it appealing to the interviewer”, says Myint. “Make it readable - 11-12 font size minimum - not too ‘flowery’ and fairly simple.”

Make sure it is accurate

Correct spelling and grammar are essential, as are putting in post-nominal letters in the correct order – failing to do so “shows a lack of knowledge”, says Clare Gerada, medical director of the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), non executive director of University College London Hospital, and a GP in London.

Compile a portfolio

All the sections in your CV should be evidenced by a portfolio, advises Myint. “If, say, you’ve listed teaching experience, ensure your portfolio gives evidence that you’ve taught a particular course,” she says. This portfolio should include a list of contents and be presentable, she advises.

Keep up to date

All doctors should regularly review their CV to keep up to date. “Sometimes you need to use your CV at short notice, and people often underestimate how much time it takes,” says Gerada. “Don’t let a month go by without updating your CV - especially in early days of your career. It’s amazing how much you can forget about how much you’ve done.”