Friday, November 13, 2009

Writing a CV that brings Interviews

Make them look professional. Printing is overkill, though not unwelcome. It’s fine if your CV and letter are word-processed, then printed on a laser, ink-jet, daisy wheel, or a near-letter-quality dot matrix printer. Even a clean-printing typewriter will suffice.
In many cases, applications are put through a copier for members of a committee. If you use anything but black print on white paper, the copies are likely to be in shades of gray.
Have a clear heading. Center the heading at the top and include your full name, degree, address, phone number, and board status. Many people don’t like to reveal their address and phone number, but a CV is no place to be coy.
Outline logically. The first category below the top heading should be “Education.” Just say where and when you earned your M.D. Omit honors and embellishments. Below your medical education, list your undergraduate degree, date, and institution. But no extra detail. Nobody cares if you were leader of the Future Physicians Club. And forget high school. Some job applicants think the fact they were a high school valedictorian will help them land a $200,000-a-year position 20 years later.

Under “Postgraduate,” you should list fellowships, residencies, and internships, with the most recent first.
Even though it appears at the top of the CV, the next heading should be “Certification.” After that comes “License.” Indicate the states in which you hold a license, and the dates of expiration. This is critical information to the prospective employer, but is frequently omitted.
The next category should be “Experience,” and here you should include all the positions you’ve held, beginning with the current or most recent.
Follow chronological order. A resume should read like a diary-brief descriptions of where you’ve been and what you’ve done since medical school. Don’t leave gaps. If you spent 18 months bumming around Europe, account for the time as “sabbatical” or “personal leave.” The employer can ask for details during the interview. But leaving a gap only invites speculation that you’re hiding something.
Rewrite an out-of-date CV. Scribbling in or stapling on a change looks unprofessional.
Just give the facts. If you’re a general practitioner, describe yourself as “in the general practice of medicine,” and don’t say you’re in family practice. If you’re board-eligible, say so even though your residency was several years ago. I recall one physician who described himself as “board-qualified,” a meaningless term that only invites suspicion.
Be brief. A CV should be no more than three pages. I saw one from a teaching physician that included 37 pages of published papers. Selection-committee members usually aren’t interested in extensive lists of publications. Furthermore, no secretary is going to photocopy dozens of pages per CV, and your last fellowship may be on one of the pages that get tossed.
If publishing is an important aspect of your experience, you could include a “Papers published” heading and state, for instance, “Fifty-six papers published from 1985 to 1991. Citations furnished on request.”
Keep it relevant. Don’t include a narrative of your life: “I was born a poor but honest farm boy…,” for example. Don’t list hobbies, athletic achievements, military experience (beyond the dates of your service, if any), etc. If you’re a marathon runner, you might find a way to mention it in the cover letter you send to a sports medicine practice. But use this kind of information judiciously. And always reserve it for the cover letter, never the CV.
Write a good cover letter. A well-prepared CV should be a simple, concise listing of your qualifications. It should be non-specific enough that you can send it to any prospective employer. Your cover letter, in contrast, should be tailored to each job opening. The letter is the best way to separate yourself from others chasing the same job. So rewrite and edit until it’s clean and polished.
Investigate. The typical medical-journal ad doesn’t tell you much. But if there’s a phone number, call it and try to speak with a decision-maker, perhaps the medical director. Since this isn’t always possible, you may have to settle for an office manager or secretary.
First, ask the person to verify the qualifications listed in the ad. Then, try to learn what kind of patients they see, and how many on an average day. What procedures are done in the office? What percentage of the business is Medicare, Medicaid, HMO, PPO? And so on.
Jot down people’s names and anything you’ve learned about them. The secretary, for example, may tell you that the director is out sailing. That doesn’t help much with the cover letter, but it could prove useful during an interview.
Address the specific job. You may learn that the practice wants a doctor who can handle any patient who comes through the door. On the other hand, the employer may be primarily interested in a physician who’s tops at detecting a grade I heart murmur and reading ECGs. Your cover letters for these two jobs should be very different.
Say when you’ll be available. The letter should clearly state when you’re available to speak on the phone, be interviewed, and start work. Don’t be afraid to list good and bad times to be reached, or to specify that you shouldn’t be called at work. Note specific days, or parts of days, when you can be interviewed. Mention an upcoming vacation or trip out of town that you’ve scheduled for the near future. If you’re a homeowner, married, or have children in school, it’s important to mention when you could start in a new area.
Lifestyle preferences. If your primary reason for seeking the job is to get to a particular part of the country, to find a better climate, or for cultural reasons, say so in the cover letter. If you’re in a small town and prefer a city, or vice versa, point that out.


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