Powerful CVs and Cover Letters: How to Stand Out

Koushik Shaw, MD


May 31, 2019

In This Article

Assembling Your CV

The standard CV for new physicians is a simple document that lists education, licensure, honors, awards, and published works. The same is true of established physicians, who, of course, should also list their professional experience.

Many experts suggest that the CV start with a short promotional message showing why employers should pick you. "List your key strengths at the beginning of your CV," says Latham. In Zweig's view, "Personal statements only work if they are brief (two or three sentences), interesting, and unique. If they are neither, allow training and job history to tell your story."

Format for the CV. Many CV formats are available on the Internet. "Choose one that is simple, direct, and appealing to your eye," says Zweig. "Use 11- or 12-point Calibri or Times New Roman as the font, and try to keep the document to two pages. The most important information should appear on the first page. Long lists—published work or volunteer work, for example—can be presented as an addendum."

Putting Your CV in Order

Here is the typical order of information, in a CV:

Name and contact information. These items are often in larger, boldface type, centered on the top of the CV's first page. Be sure to follow your name with your professional degree initials. And don't hesitate to list links to your website and your LinkedIn profile; doing this, Zweig says, "is an indication of openness."

Zweig suggests the following heading:

Jane Doe, MD
1234 Street, Unit 123
Town, State, ZIP code
Email address:                    Cell phone:
Website:                   LinkedIn:

Your work history and education. Start with your current position, then move back in time to prior positions, fellowship (if applicable), residency, medical school, and university. For each one, include position or degree (in boldface), name of organization, location of organization, and dates of service.

Board certification. List month; year; and board certificate number, if known. List parts of the national boards that you have completed.

Medical licensure. Indicate the state and the license number.

Honors and awards. Include such items as Phi Beta Kappa membership, Alpha Omega Alpha membership, and medical school and residency honors.

Publications. You may want to list research projects here in lieu of formally published work.

Edit and Proofread Your CV

Employers may reject CVs with typographical errors, so it is essential that you proofread the document carefully. Then ask a few people—such as mentors, faculty, or your program director—to review it.

Don't use graphics or colored type. Photos can enhance LinkedIn profiles, but employers don't want to see them on CVs, especially because they don't want to be accused of hiring—or refusing to hire—anyone on the basis of race or appearance.

Should You Hire a Writing Service?

You can find CV templates on the Web and ask friends to proofread your documents. Or you can hire a service to write and proofread your CV. Services can also write your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile, and follow-up letters to employers. Some of them even apply search engine optimization, which involves inserting keywords into the text that will push your CV to the top when employers search databases.

Prices for these services vary considerably but generally do not exceed $300. Thumbtack, an online service that matches customers with professional résumé writers and editors, cites prices from $99 to $240.[1]

Physician search firms may offer to review your CV or even write it for you, but be sure to check whether they have experience in this area.

"Physicians who have not been having luck in a job hunt can immediately improve the response rate with a revised CV," Zweig notes.


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