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CV Guide

Benbryner72x721Ben Bryner -- If I may pick up where Thomas left off in this post about personal statements, another one of the important elements of an application to med school (or residency) is getting your CV or resume together. (Review a discussion of CVs vs. resumes from the good people of the NIH here.) You don't technically need a formal CV to apply via AMCAS, the med school application service, or for ERAS, the US residency application service, since you upload descriptions of all your activities and experience to their websites and the program compiles a "CV" for you. But it's easy to adapt a CV to this purpose. And you do need a CV to give to people who are going to write your letters of recommendation. Plus, they're good things to have at your actual interview if necessary (to hand to the interviewer or to go over beforehand to make sure you bring up all the activities you want to remember).

There's not much to it besides gathering together the important stuff you've done, organizing it into meaningful categories, ordering it in reverse chronological order, trimming the explanations down to make it fit in your target zone, and then slapping your name and contact info on the top. Of course it’s time-consuming, and updating it is one of those not-fun activities I tend to procrastinate on. It plays kind of the same role that cleaning my room did was when I was a kid.

Anyway, you can find some good examples online, as well as some good tips. My advice, which you'll certainly hear elsewhere too: Pick a good font. It should be very readable, but getting away from Arial and Times New Roman is nice. Just don't use something like Comic Sans. (While it's hard to specify the very best font for a given situation, it's often easy to pick the worst for that situation: Comic Sans).

The other thing that lots of people will tell you to do is use "active" words in your CV. These words, like "spearheaded," "quantified," and "reorganized" make you seem more action-driven and emphasize all the things you can do. Our med school counselor sent around a list of these "action words," and you can find an alphabetized list here. Note though, that you should only use words that truly fit the action you're trying to describe. Have someone else read it if you're not sure how much sense it makes.

None of this is really anything new. So I'm going to do something different: I thought of a list of words not to use. Like the lists of "power words," this list isn't meant to be comprehensive, but rather to give you a sense of what words are good and what ones aren't.

Here are just a few words to avoid:









swabbed (especially in the phrase "swabbed the deck;" this is an unimpressive entry-level task for pirates, and should never be used in a CV that will end up in the hands of a residency director, or in the hooks of a pirate captain)



Bonus: Poor Adjectives for your CV









If several of these words were in your CV, then better to catch them now rather than later. If none of them were in your CV, then I'm sorry to have wasted your time, but I hope you can see the larger point. Your CV is a great opportunity to let your accomplishments shine, to prove to the world that you can do all the things you claimed in your over-the-top personal statement. Put in the time to create a solid CV so that all the work you put into your activities comes across, duly impressing the people determining your fate.

July 18, 2008 in Ben Bryner | Permalink


Ben, this is awesome... I'm so stressed out about my CV and ERAS and the whole idea of the personal statement, and this was exactly what I needed: a good laugh... thanks!!! You always have lots of good info in there as well, of course, but I always appreciate your humor!

Posted by: Beth | Jul 22, 2008 3:28:55 PM

Nice post! I feel we need to have skills and experience perfectly.

Posted by: Entertainment Resumes | Jul 23, 2010 3:48:43 AM

Here are some more practical tips on writing an attention grabbing CV:
Firstly always read the job advert carefully and make notes of the key competencies the recruiter is looking for. Once you have this ‘raw data’ then focus on explaining how your knowledge and skills fit the employers requirements.
Secondly target your resume at the job you are applying for as you stand a better chance of getting noticed. Research the job role, industry and company. Use specific industry related key words and terminology to impress the hiring manager. Mention their products or services and also details of their competitors. A hiring manager will be impressed by the fact that you have written something especially for them. All of this may take time, but it is well worth it.

Posted by: CV template | Aug 8, 2010 11:22:21 AM

Always remember that your CV is a passport to getting you a job interview and should be written accordingly. Also note that recruiters will typically only have 2 minutes to quickly scan through your CV, and may have to read through dozens in a day.

In any CV avoid giving a blow-by-blow account of your latest project, its aims, scientific intricacies and results. You can explain these at the interview stage. Keep your CV to a maximum of 2 pages and focus on grabbing the attention of the hiring manager who is reading your resume.

A CV is a marketing tool which should list only those abilities and strengths that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You should adapt and rewrite it to suit each individual job application. Try not to send the same CV to every job you apply for.

Posted by: jobcentre | Aug 23, 2010 4:05:59 PM

Excellent article! This is the kind of simple but effective advice I give clients all the time when working on their CVs or carrying out workshops.

Posted by: UK Government Site | Aug 23, 2010 4:08:24 PM

Hi … I agree that your blog is now /part/ of your resume — and a very big part it — but I can think of other things that are probably as important (which you hinted at), such as all your participation in open communities and the public list/forum/blog/mail that results from those interactions (which can be very similar to a blog), your professional (and social and personal) networks (many of which are based on face-to-face not Internet interactions), the results from specific projects that affect both public and private networks of people, etc. Most of that stuff is probably published in your blog somewhere, but not all of it in most cases. And most blogs are too long and complex for people to easily dig out the history if they are not directly involved. So, that’s the point of the resume. Perhaps your resume, which is generally a private document, now becomes the index to organize all of the public activities online? It’s a portal. It provides links to the documentation of most of what you’ve done, but it also provides a simple organizing mechanism. I think a resume can still be a powerful tool.

Posted by: jobs for international students | Apr 19, 2011 4:09:07 AM

CV writing is a controversial subject - part art, part science. If you ask two people their idea of ​​the perfect CV, you're likely to get two different answers and rather subjective. However, there are a number of "tasks" to do and common pitfalls, which most personnel professionals would agree. If you have these in mind when preparing your CV, is a much better chance of surviving the 'CV elimination'!


Posted by: Cv Template | Sep 8, 2011 12:16:04 AM

What a surprised for me ...is that after emailing my resume new look to the company I was with the application, the director was on the phone within five minutes. He offered me the job temporarily, subject to an interview later in the week. Many thanks for your help! "


Posted by: Resume Template | Sep 8, 2011 2:19:35 AM

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