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Effective Job Search Preparation: Creating A Winning CV

Katz, Barbara

Career Source: Part 2 in a Series

Ms. Katz is the president of the Katz Company, an emergency medicine consulting firm dedicated to providing expert physician recruitment services and training emergency medicine residents in effective job searching. To comment on this article, write to



Say hello to June. It signals that only two months remain to prepare for the job hunting season that kicks off in August. For anyone entering this race, whether graduating resident or seasoned vet, your curriculum vitae is the means by which you make a first impression with a prospective employer, and that makes it your most important sales tool.

The average hiring authority gives a CV between eight and 11 seconds to make an impression. So what makes a CV stand out? Clue number one: It's not the color of the paper. The darker the paper, the harder it is to read, fax, or copy. Stick to white. If you must assert your individuality, try buff.

Most of the worst CVs I receive have their errors right on top for all to see. The most prevalent error? A name without the MD or DO after it. Why work so hard to earn those letters if you aren't going to use them? Another common blooper is contact information printed in a font so small that an MRI couldn't pick it up. If you want potential employers to contact you, it makes sense not to downplay the information necessary to do so. No fonts anywhere smaller than 12-point, please.

And finally, if you were looking to hire someone, what would be more important to you: What that person did 12 years ago or what he is doing now? All CVs must run chronologically backwards, starting with one's current position.

Unless you have been out of residency for at least three years, your first heading should be Training & Education. Start with your residency and work back. List the starting and ending dates, the institution, and the location. Not everyone knows where Cook County Hospital is. If you were a chief resident, include it with the dates you held that position. No descriptions of rotations or other fluff are necessary; just include the facts.

Any paid work experience comes under the next heading: Professional Experience. If you are at least three years out of residency, this should be your first section. List your position, institution, location, and start/finish dates. Again, begin with the current or most recent job, and work backwards. No descriptions are necessary unless you want to add barebones statistics like trauma level and annual census. Military service should go under this heading if it was after medical school. Any work experience not related to emergency medicine belongs under the heading of Additional Work Experience later in your CV. No gaps are allowed. Make sure all your time, from undergraduate school to the present, is accounted for. Time gaps give rise to evil thoughts in the minds of employers.

The third section should be Certification & Licensure. Residents can list ABEM/AOBEM board eligibility, but it must be accompanied by the date of graduation (when eligibility is actually earned), or it's a fib. List all your other certifications (ACLS, ATLS, etc.) as well as the years they were earned and whether you achieved instructor status. Be sure to list all active state licenses, and feel free to add pending licenses as well.

If, like most graduating residents, you have only a few research credits, publications, presentations, or other similar types of entries, the best way to categorize them is under the broad section of Professional Activities. Consult with faculty on the proper format for listing publication credits and research projects. Those of you with enough credits to merit separate categories can divide them into individual sections like Research & Publications, Posters & Presentations, and Academic Appointments & Committees. More experienced academic physicians often have pages and pages of these credits, and might want to consider compiling two CVs: a short two-pager with just the highlights and a longer version with all the bells and whistles.

An Awards & Honors section comes next. List any conferred from residency back through undergraduate school, including scholarships and chief resident appointments (it's perfectly fine to mention it twice). Follow that with your section on Professional Memberships, and be certain to include any offices you have held.

The average employer gives a CV between eight and 11 seconds to make an impression

Finally, no CV is complete without a Personal Information section, and it's the one section missing from most CVs. Without this, you aren't really a person in the mind of a potential employer, just a compilation of categories, institutions, and dates. This is your opportunity to stand out as an individual. List your date and place of birth, marital status with the name and occupation of your spouse, names and ages of your children, and, if so inclined, the breeds and names of your dogs. Include serious interests, hobbies, and sports. More often than not, it's an item in the personal section that catches the eye of an employer, but only if the CV gives them something to focus on.

The average CV is two to three pages. More than that becomes difficult to wade through, and you may want to consider the two-version option. Include civic and volunteer medical work, but leave off the scouting badges. Use your head; what would impress you if you were a director? Unless you are willing to put definite limitations on your job search, leave off the “Objective.” Graduating residents all have the same objective — to get a job! But if you absolutely won't accept employment without a specific element, then put it right on top. For example: Objective: To secure a clinical position in a high-volume emergency department that will utilize my ultrasound certification. Don't put your references on your CV. References belong on a separate page and should include each person's name, title, institution, and contact information. At the bottom of your CV, simply add the line: References Available Upon Request.

A CV needs to be easy to read, with the important information easily found while providing some insight into the person it represents. Keep the format simple and the content clear, and you'll make a great first impression.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.