Preparing the perfect medical CV

Authors: Matt Green 

Publication date:  01 Sep 2011


Matt Green from BPP University College School of Health explores what steps you should take to ensure that your medical CV stands out for the right reasons. He will be speaking at this year’s BMJ Careers Fair

Even in this age of electronic application forms and e-portfolios there is still a need for doctors to maintain an up to date curriculum vitae (CV). Your CV is a career road map that enables you to identify and deal with any gaps in your experience and to respond to opportunities that may arise unexpectedly.

Whether you are applying for a new position, your consultant has requested to review your experience and achievements to date, or a colleague would like to consider you for a committee position, your CV is the key that will unlock your future.

The aim of your CV should be “to present a personal history of one’s education, professional history and job qualifications with a strong emphasis on specific skills relating to the position applied for.”

The person who is shortlisting candidates for interview will have on average only two minutes to review your CV in the first instance to determine whether your application should be considered further. Therefore when preparing your CV you should strive to be:

  • Relevant

  • Clear

  • Concise.

Remember, a good CV should make it easy for the recruiting body to determine whether you have the requisite skills and experience for the post. Ensure that before you submit your CV you match your skills and experience within it to the relevant person specification for the post you are applying for. The person specification is the criterion that will be used to determine who is shortlisted for interview. Your CV is a stepping stone to being invited for interview, where you will have the opportunity to elaborate in more detail on your career to date.

Top tips for ensuring that your medical CV stands out for the right reasons

As long as it needs to be—Your CV should give the reader enough information for them to explore relevant points during the interview. As a rule of thumb, a length of three to eight pages is sensible. Quality is much more important than quantity.

Do not waste valuable space—Don’t include a cover sheet or index in your CV, as this is a waste of valuable space and will take the reader’s attention away from the important experience and skills contained within your CV.

Easy on the eye—Avoid using differing fonts and formatting in each section (such as bold, underlining, and italics) as this will draw attention away from what matters the most in your CV—the content. Use the same font throughout (I recommend using Times New Roman or Arial) and keep formatting to a minimum.

Consistency, consistency, consistency—Ensure that the layout, spacing, and structure of your CV are consistent throughout and do not differ from section to section.

Avoid solid blocks of text—It is better to present your skills and experience in a given section as bullet points rather than paragraph after paragraph of solid text as this can be off-putting and daunting to the reader. The aim of a good CV is to make your experience and achievements leap off the page.

Do not fabricate or embellish any information—Your CV is a statement of fact, and if it is found to include information that is untrue you will at the very least lose out on your application chances and at worst land in serious trouble with the General Medical Council.

Structuring your medical CV

Separating your experience and achievements into a logical order of headings makes the life of those cross referencing your information to the person specification a great deal easier. Follow a layout of education and professional qualifications, clinical experience, non-clinical skills, extracurricular activities, and finally referees.

I would recommend that you structure your CV using the following headings.

Personal details—Include your full name and abbreviated qualifications, correspondence address, contact telephone numbers, professional email address, date of birth, nationality, and General Medical Council registration number.

Career statement—A clever way to help your CV stand out immediately is to include a personal profile paragraph on the first page that outlines your experience and skills to date and how they make you suitable for the position in question, along with your short and long term goals.

Education and qualifications—List first qualifications obtained from an educational institution—for example, postgraduate qualifications, medical degrees, and previous degrees. Also include here other postgraduate qualifications such as your membership exams, the Professional Linguistic Assessment Board test, or an advanced life support qualification.

Career history—Give your current position first and then list your previous posts. For each post include the full name of the institution, the dates that you worked, the grade and specialty, and the name of your supervisor.

Clinical skills and experience—There are two differing opinions on how best to present clinical experience. You can either group clinical experience together in a separate section or give your clinical experience after each post listed in your career history section. I think it is more concise and less repetitive if you present your clinical skills and experience in a standalone section. Remember to address any particular person specification requirements in this section.

Management and leadership experience—No matter what level you are at, doctors must show management experience, especially in the light of the Medical Leadership Competency Framework. Experience could include committee responsibilities, organising events, rota management, and supervision of juniors.

Development courses and conferences attended—It is important to show your commitment to personal development. List the courses and conferences you have attended, including the title of the course, the course provider and location, the date attended, and the duration.

Research experience—The importance you place on this relating to your career progression will depend on your chosen specialty. Present your experience as the topic of research, time spent, location, supervisor and source of funding, aims and your role, and final outcome.

Clinical audit—It is important to show your participation in clinical audit. Present your experience as month or year completed, the topic of audit, location or institution, your role, and the guidelines audited against.

Presentations and publications—These may arise from research, clinical audit, and teaching experience. List the date presented or published, title or topic, date, and location or journal.

Teaching experience—This is important and adds strength to any application as the whole medical profession relies on participating in teaching. Detail the audiences you have taught—for example, undergraduate or postgraduate, teaching methods employed, and, if applicable, say that this is an area in which you wish to continue to develop your skills and experience.

Information technology skills—More and more institutions require proficient information technology skills, so give details of any particular competencies you have. These could include statistical packages or research tools.

Personal interests—It is important to show a balanced approach to life. Your extracurricular interests relate to your ethos in life and should paint a picture of a well balanced individual.

Referees—List at least two (preferably three) referees from your current and previous posts. Include the full name, position or grade, full address, telephone number, fax number, and email address.

Final thoughts

A well structured, clear, and concise CV will be instrumental in securing you a place at interview. Once you have prepared your CV, proofread, proofread, proofread! Ask your peers to review and provide feedback and amend it where you feel necessary. Ensure that your CV aligns to the person specification and that all the hard work you have invested during your career is presented in the best possible light. Your CV is something that you should be proud of and be ready to present at short notice to secure the opportunities you need to progress your career.

BMJ Careers Fair

The 10th BMJ Careers Fair takes place from 30 September to 1 October 2011 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

Whatever your grade and specialty, the BMJ Careers Fair has a lot to offer. As well as courses covering CV writing, interview skills, career planning, and more, delegates can visit the exhibition stands to receive careers advice, find a new job, and identify alternative career pathways.

Competing interests: MG is the editor of the book Preparing the Perfect Medical CV.

Matt Green medical publishing director BPP Learning Media, London

 mattgreen@bpp.com

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: