Writing a physician CV is a daunting task no matter where you’re at in your career, but it can be especially challenging if you’re a resident on the brink of graduation.

It’s common to have nagging feelings of inadequacy or uncertainty after you’ve put your accomplishments to paper — especially if you’re a new doc. Though most people outside of the medical field are highly encouraged to list their accomplishments on a resume no longer than one page, physician CVs are another story; they’re often lengthy, especially for academic physicians.

Translated literally, “CV” (Latin for “curriculum vitae”) means “course of life.” When you’re expected to write the course of your life down on a couple of pieces of paper, it can be a bit intimidating. Existentially maddening, even.

Most newly graduated residents (or those just about to graduate) typically feel like their physician CVs are lacking. If you’re in the same boat, take a deep breath, and remember: You endured medical school! And residency! That’s quite an accomplishment.

But, your physician CV: You’re not thrilled with it. It could be better. You probably want it to seem longer and more impressive — without being fluffy and stuffed full of irrelevant information. But aside from your residency/fellowship and maybe some clinical experience, what do you have to show?

More than you might think. Here are some tips to whip it into shape:

1) Make Sure You’ve Got the Basics First

Before you work on “beefing up” your physician CV, look at what you’ve already written down and make sure you’re not missing any info. Lots of physicians — believe it or not — forget to put their contact info on their CVs. Other critical information includes your degree, education, specialty/licenses, residency/fellowship, any clinical experience and publications. These are just the basics; we’ll touch on more items in a moment.

2) Think of Your Physician CV as a Story

And don’t think of it just as a story — think of it as a story that’s going to convince someone to hire you. This means thinking outside of the box in terms of things you’ve done.

Think about all of your accomplishments and the strengths you can bring to an employer. Don’t just consider positions or education — think about projects or studies you’ve done, and consider listing brief points about those if they say something special about you. For instance, did you help lead any studies? What kinds of skills did you develop? Why might those be attractive to an employer? Remember, leadership skills are especially important in today’s healthcare environment.

Did you complete any additional training? If so, don’t be shy about listing it. You can also include volunteer work and list professional organizations you’re associated with.

The point is not to list as much as you can — that can come across as “fluff” and could potentially annoy a recruiter. The point is to figure out how to position yourself in a light that shows your strengths and accomplishments.

Sometimes, those “extra” things that you wouldn’t think to list on a physician CV can actually set you apart from other candidates.

Finally, if you’re sending out your CV while you’re still in residency, don’t forget to put your expected completion date or the date you’ll be available for work. Like contact information, this is an oft-forgotten detail.

What are some “non-typical” things you might consider listing on a physician CV in order to emphasize your strengths?


To read more on The Art of Professional Storytelling: CV Building for Physicians by author Tanja Getter in the Career and Life Planning Guidebook for Medical Residents, follow this link: Your guide to CV writing