The Anatomy of a Stellar CV

What key factors separate the good from the great?


Your CV won’t get you the job, but it lays the foundation of your first impression. Picture it: you walk into your interview and everyone is sitting there with a copy of your CV. The work you put into it now will determine whether your knee-jerk reaction is, “Oh no — I hope it’s good” or “Ok, great — everyone knows the baseline of what I have to offer.”

If you’re dreading the next revision and wondering how to make an impact, we’ve got you covered.

Pre-Writing Considerations:

  • Start with what you have. Leverage your existing CV with the tips that follow to give it the simple upgrade you need to stand out.
  • Cater to your audience. Most residents will need at least two versions of their CV. If you’re between two disciplines like Pediatrics and Family Medicine, make tweaks for each. If you are applying to a position in an academic medical center or a research-based facility, emphasize your research and experience more than if you are applying at a community-based practice.
  • Bullets not paragraphs. Go for maximal space and legibility. Stream of consciousness is fine in your draft, while you are working through your thoughts, but your CV should be short bullets that express only the highlights.
  • Brevity is the standard. Your CV should be two pages maximum. Get in, make an impression, get out. At this stage in your career, the only exception would be if you have quite impressive research or a lengthy list of relevant procedures under your belt (unusual for a person in your position). When in doubt, cross it out.
  • Spell check, spell check, spell check. Because you work in the medical field, the average spell checker will not save you. A quick Google search will render affordable apps that work with Word or Google Docs and can safeguard your CV.

Structure and Tips for Writing Great Content:

1. Your first page is the most important.
Always start with education and medical training in reverse chronological order. Follow up with licensure and certifications — this will take up the first half of the page’s real estate and is very straightforward, no need for embellishment.

2. The second half of your first page is key.
This is where you flex only your relevant clinical experience. Assume the reader will merely eyeball this — so you will have to write out your thoughts and come back to edit a few times to truly narrow it down to the highlights.

  • Numbers tell a story: State a ballpark minimum of hours you have spent in each clinical environment.
  • Note what environments you spent your time in, patient populations served and the range of providers with whom you worked side by side.
  • Indicate what procedures or clinical practice you have experience in, have a strong vested interest in and want to pursue.
  • Highlight any specific skills you’ve acquired that may bridge gaps your desired placement may need filled.

3. Don’t skip the leadership section.
Many residents feel as if they don’t have leadership experience, but every physician takes turns as both teacher and student. If you don’t have official titles from leadership roles, consider any group, committee, mentoring or teaching involvement you’ve had in the last three years. Write out a paragraph, just for yourself, in plain English about occasions where you exhibited leadership in those groups. Revisit that paragraph and reduce it to a bullet point that highlights your work.

4. Teaching experience should mirror clinical experience.
If you have taught, outline the subject matter, audience and include numbers as applicable.

5. Regardless of your specialty, it’s time to think like a surgeon.
The hardest part is behind you. Now - all that’s really left to do is cut and provide minor updates. Much of what your CV offers now was much needed to get to medical school and your residency, but most of it will no longer be directly relevant.

6. Include only hyper-relevant publications and/or research.
Most roles are not research oriented, unless you see research as a core component of your next step, it is strongly recommended that you consider cutting your research section or at the very least including only highlights directly related to your chosen field.

7. Keep honors and affiliations brief, recent and relevant.
If you have nothing notable to share it’s acceptable to skip this section.

8. Include languages spoken and your level of proficiency.
If you are certified to translate in a clinical setting, indicate that.


You Are Not Alone

Any transition can be a shock to the system, and the transition from residency to the real world can feel especially daunting. While it’s true there is no manual, we do have a library of resources dedicated to helping residents navigate the transition to practice. Reach out to our Advisors for one-on-one clinician coaching, at every stage of your career, to help find the right fit.