Hospitals don’t hire CVs; they hire doctors. But the quality of your CV can be what either gets you in the door for an interview or what closes the door. And, we know that if you don’t get the interview, you certainly can’t get the job.
To help you make the best impression possible, in a previous post, we discussed five key points to writing a CV that captures an employer’s attention. In this one, we list seven common mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Not Proofreading for Grammar and Typos
One of the worse mistakes you can make is to prepare a professional document and fail to proofread, checking for typos and grammatical errors.
As the Adventures in Medicine blog cautioned: A physician who lets errors creep into his CV may also be susceptible to leaving the odd swab in a patient. By “proofread,” we don’t mean that you do this yourself, necessarily. If you have prepared the CV yourself, it’s likely you will have tunnel vision and fail to see errors that would be obvious to others. A good rule of thumb is to have at least a couple of other people review the document. If you can hire a professional copy editor, mores the better. You can find well-qualified people at affordable prices on freelance marketplace sites such as UpWord and Fiverr.
Another option is to use a tool like Grammarly, which is designed for the purpose of finding errors and fixing them.
2. Not Formatting Properly
Akin to not looking for grammatical errors is the failure to format the document properly.
Rather than expressing your uniquely creative side, follow an accepted format. Many templates exist to help you, and here are two sample templates that we like best:
Also, there are good pointers to keep in mind:
Make it easy to read. That means not using unusual or hard to read fonts; stick with the basics, such as Times New Roman, Verdana, or Trebuchet. Also, incorporate white space to keep it easy on the eye;
Maintain consistent formatting. If you bold one headline, then bold all the headlines. If you indent bullet points in one section, do the same in others. Consistency will contribute to a stronger presentation and make a more favorable impression;
Place dates to the right. Which do you want the employer to focus on, the date or the accomplishment? Put the most important information to the left side and leave the right for the date;
Put events in reverse chronological order. The term “curriculum vitae” is Latin for “course of life,” so it makes sense to show your most recent accomplishments first;
Get rid of the clutter. The first draft of your CV will likely contain lots of clutter vague words, non-essential details, bloated sentences which you will want to trim in the second draft. Keep the text clean, clear, and precise. Never submit the first draft to an employer; always rewrite, revise, and polish first.
3. Not Filling in Gaps
Residents Medical, a site that helps residents navigate the path to placement, said that 70 percent of Program Directors listed gaps in medical education as an important factor when choosing who to interview for residency. It went on to say that applicants with large gaps in their CV will not even have the chance to prove themselves.
“Don’t make the mistake of letting gaps in your medical education upset your chances at residency,” the site advised. “Whether you are currently applying to the Match, or are planning to apply in the upcoming years, make sure your CV is consistent and be smart in your preparations.”
4. Making the CV Too Long
Experts say that a two-page CV is standard. As a resident, you shouldn’t need to go beyond that length, as doing so may lend the impression that you can’t distinguish what’s important or that you are attempting to cram everything in to look more experienced.
5. Including Untruthful Information
Lest you think that the iconic line from the movie A Few Good Men — “You can’t handle the truth” — applies in this setting, well, nothing could be further from the truth! Not only can employers handle it, but they also expect it.
An article in Reuters Health citing the results of two studies found that many residents lie on their CVs.
One of the studies revealed that of the 148 doctors who indicated that they published research findings, 44 apparently had no publications whatsoever.
The other study reviewed 937 applications, 136 of which alleged to have published studies that no one could find. Also, 62 applicants claimed their studies were peer reviewed when, in fact, they were not.
Honest mistakes are one thing but lying on a CV is something else altogether. It’s a matter of integrity and credibility. Don’t risk putting your career in jeopardy due to a lie.
6. Not Tailoring the CV to the Employer
Don’t think for a minute that one CV will fit every situation. Each is unique and, as such, you should tailor the CV to the role for which you are applying. That’s not brain surgery either; just look at the specific job requirement and work from there.
Also note: Did you…
Include correct contact information? Don’t make it hard for a recruiter or employer to get in touch with you.
Include references? Listing references is not necessarily encouraged. You don’t even need to say “References available upon request.” If a recruiter or employer wants references, they will ask for them.
Include a cover letter?
While cover letters are not required, it might be an item you consider including. Cover letters have a unique purpose: breaking the ice. It can be your opportunity to make a good first impression – like an elevator pitch. It’s what you would say to a prospective employer if you only had a few minutes of their time. In that respect, it doesn’t have to be long — three-quarters of a page is sufficient.
According to the blog Adventures in Medicine, if you have a cover letter, you should include the following information:
Introduction – Briefly outline the job for which you are applying;
Objective – Include a summary of your career objectives;
Strengths – Discuss why you are the person ideally suited for the job. Highlight your strengths but keep it real;
Education – Again, not a rehashing of your CV, but some educational accomplishments relevant to the position for which you are applying;
Personal – Characteristics that make you suited to the job;
Ties to the area – This is something many residents miss, says Adventures in Medicine. Stating your ties to the area can set you apart from the other applicants;
Closing – End by reiterating your interest in the position.
In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine Career Center website, Craig Fowler, president of the National Association of Physician Recruiters, encourages residents to include a cover letter with their CV, even if recruiters don’t request it.
“The cover letter really is a differentiator, and even though a recruiter will always look at your CV first, the letter is nice to have,” Fowler said. “I often feel that it gives me a sense of the physician — a good letter can make the physician come to life.”