The CV for Residency Application – Additional Suggestions

This article is related to an earlier blog I posted called, Essential Information for the CV and Sample to Use. The CV included as a sample in the post is a CV that the AAMC Careers in Medicine has posted on their website, but looks very much like the CVs I have coached students through at UT. (The activities on this mock CV look like an amalgamation of a Dermatology applicant’s vitae that I worked w

ith mixed with a few activities from another student.) We are definitely on the right track since it was seen as a CV example worth posting and this is the format and suggestions I use in advising applicants. (See the AAMC CIM CV sample here: https://www.aamc.org/download/62350/data/cvsample3.pdf)

Some of things that make this CV stand out as a favorite format and representation of what the student will bring to the residency program is its succinct, yet descriptive explanations of projects and activities. The program director can easily see what contributed to the development of a well-rounded applicant and what was of interest to the student. It should be fairly obvious to what specialty the student is applying; particularly in this case when matching into Dermatology is so difficult that a student typically needs to show a dedication to the specialty early on in their education.

shutterstock_71502892 CV w blue men 1. The name and address at the top of the CV is not so large and bold as to be arrogant. It should stand out but not be a marquee. Medicine is about confidence but also team work – not showboating. I would probably suggest changing the size of the name font down a few notches still.Note some of the features to have in your own CV:

2. The section headings are set off with a line underneath, making for very easy reading. Each section is clearly delineated from the others.

3. Use the ‘ruler’ task bar (found under “view” in most Microsoft Word programs) instead of using the tab function in constructing your CV. Drag the ruler arrows where you want your type to wrap so you are not constantly adjusting tabs.

4. There is plenty of white space for easy reading but there is ample explanation of activities. Typically, I suggest that students line up a left hand margin versus one that is almost centered as in this sample.

5. Note that your CV does not need to be limited to 2 pages. Your faculty’s CV will be 30-40 pages long, so advising students to limit their CV to 2 pages always baffles me. If you have more than 2 pages worth of activities, then they need to be included. However, you do not need to write essays on each activity. Keep your activity descriptions short and concise.

6. The activity descriptions are not complete sentences and begin with an action verb. Note that many of these descriptions begin with the word “helped” rather than “demonstrated” or “administered,” etc. to indicate that they were a part of a team effort. This is a personal decision and may also be an important distinction depending on specialty chosen. A surgery applicant may want to use more assertive verbs, where a pediatric applicant may be better off with more team centered adjectives – or a mix of both. Clearly state your role and do not overstate your work on a project.

7. The student’s work in this CV has presented who they are and what they have been doing in the correct sequence. The order of the headings makes sense for a student CV at this stage of her/his career. This order will change as you become a faculty member.

8.  In addition, under each heading the items should be listed in reverse chronological order, where the most recent activity is seen by the reader first.

9. This student acknowledged his research mentor on each research project along with title and department. This is important for the program director to get a clear picture of who you have worked with and how your interests have developed. It also tells them how much of a ”go getter” you are. Are you the type of person that can go out and drum up a research project in Year 1 and make time to work on it? Not many medical students can or utilize their resources on campus well enough to make this happen. You do not need to have a relative in research to do this. I helped many, many students find research on campus. Faculty are always interested in hard-working students that want to learn and work for free.

10. This student understood that membership in professional organizations is important. Being active as a leader is even better, but if you want to direct your energy elsewhere that is fine. Being a member of professional organizations is important in that it shows that you understand that they are essential in advocating for your rights as students, as physicians, and for the healthcare of the nation.

11. When listing religious organizations, I typically suggest that students not name the religious connection, but leave it neutral, referring to the activity as “religious activity director.” However, the Catholic Student Organization was such a large and active group in the community that students typically referred to outright on their applications. However, be aware that religious activities may bring up biases, however unconscious, with individuals who vote on whether to interview or rank your application.

12. This student placed a header at the top of each page with the page number and name. If her paperwork gets separated, it can easily go back in her file.

13. Know that Extracurricular Activities and Community Service (Volunteer Work) are two different areas on the CV. These two areas are separated out on a CV if you have enough activities to do so. If not, then list them both under a common header such as “Extracurricular Activities and Community Service.” Extracurricular activities are campus organizations, committees, and contributions to functions that benefit the university or medical school that you attend. Community service, or volunteer work, refers to time you contribute to activities off campus, even if they are organized by a campus group, to benefit people in the community.

14. If you have new activities on your CV since your ERAS submission in September, be sure to use those as talking points during your interview, especially if they involve research related to your specialty, refer to activities or programs that directly connect with your future career, or make you a better applicant.

15. Add a “Languages” section. Even if you are not fluent in another language, there are ways to include your level of competency. This is so important in many hospital complexes with our many cultures and when translator services have been cut from many budgets. List your abilities as “fluent,” “conversational,”” moderate,” or “receptive skills with limited expressive ability.” I talk to many students who say they can understand a patient but have limited language skills to speak back to them in their native language. This is still a valuable skill set and one that can be easily expanded.

If you are a student where English is a second language and you are concerned that the program may not think you are fluent, show them your fluency in your personal statement and interview. You do not need to put that you are fluent in English on your CV.

16. Include a “Personal Interest” section. This can be so important to an interview and connecting with your interviewer. Your whole interview can end up being about a mutual interest initiated from your CV. (See 18). Make this as personal as possible. Instead of listing that you are interested in music, you might try listing that you are interested in playing acoustic guitar or that you have an interest in the history of folk music.

17. Often, the interviewer will quickly cruise the beginning and end of your CV first and THEN the middle – the Personal Interest section becomes very important.

18.  Include what you did as an undergraduate, but edit out the smaller events. It is fine to include your extracurricular activities, community service and by all means, your research projects from undergraduate school. However, it is best to include the most significant and to edit the smaller, one day activities. If there was a project that you really dedicated time and effort to and showed leadership, organization, and commitment then it is important for the interviewers to see this as a theme in your life. It may raise questions if you suddenly stopped community service in medical school after being active in undergraduate, so be prepared with an explanation if this is the case.

19.  Avoid using a template download to create your CV. It will not offer flexibility needed in customizing your CV and usually ends up being more frustrating than helpful. Anyone helping you with your materials finds it very frustrating to work with and cannot easily use the “track changes” functions in Microsoft Word.

20. Print your CV on good sturdy paper. Bright white stock is nice. Save the recycled paper for your drafts.

21. Take 5-6 CVs with you on each of your interviews. You will need one for each person you interview with. If they do not ask for it, offer it up for them to let them know that you have gone the extra mile to prepare it for them.

Be sure to offer your CV to your interviewers if it no one asks for it. This can be your opportunity to direct your interview down a path that you would like the conversation to go. If you offer your CV and let the interviewer know that you have some new activities that you are excited about that are not on your ERAS application, you can show your interest and energy about your specialty… characteristics residency program directors find ideal in an applicant.


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