I question I often get asked is “How do I write a medical CV?” Understandably, it can seem daunting when you’re not sure what ‘good’ looks like. Unlike, non-medical CVs, they’re usually much lengthier and require more information than just your career history.
Most importantly, a question you should be asking yourself about how to write a medical CV is “What does the hirer need to know about me?” And “How can I make my CV stand out from all the other medical CVs?”
How to write a medical CV
To write a good medical CV isn’t just one factor but a blend of elements to get it right. Bear in mind the 3-second rule – yep! That’s right! Apparently, it only takes 3 seconds to make an initial judgement on a CV. For some, that may sound extreme but first impressions really do matter and can impact whether someone chooses to spend time reading it.
So let’s break down the question “How do I write a medical CV?” into easy some steps …
Firstly, let’s talk about the layout and look of your CV. For example, you may have fantastic medical experience that closely aligns with the job, but if your CV is poorly laid out, it just won’t get noticed.
From a design standpoint, ensure everything is easy and clear to read. Try introducing a touch of colour for headings (dark blue or grey looks good). Use a professional font (ie. Arial, Calibri) and keep the font size to between 10-12. Try to maximise the white space on the page without it looking overly cluttered. The reason for this is because medical CVs are often so lengthy, that this will keep the pages down.
In addition, use the alignment features to create neat and tidy blocks of text. Don’t use tables as they can interfere with the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that NHS employers can use to screen CVs. Instead, use the tab function to create neat columns. Make sure to create clear headings between sections so it’s easy to read at a glance.
Finally, use bullet points … and lots of them. The reason for this is that recruiters just don’t have the time or inclination to read paragraphs and paragraphs of text. Ideally, they want simple-to-read bullet points that are results-focused. The best way to achieve this is to start each point with an action/power word.
Structure it clearly
Generally, CVs start with your most recent job and work back chronologically throughout your career.
There is lots of conflicting advice on structure and layout and there isn’t an absolute set way you should write it. Largely, how you structure it will depend on the post but I’d always advise a brief personal statement outlining training, experience and career motivations at the beginning of your CV.
Following a profile, you should set out main headings that sum up your work experience. I would suggest putting sections in order of the priorities of the job specification and level of the position. For example, if you applying for a consultant post, your leadership skills/experience should be prominent fairly early on in your CV rather than right at the end.
You can download my free medical CV template for an example of how you might want to lay it out.
Whilst it might be tempting to simply cut and paste your CV to an application for a post, this is definitely not advisable!
Every application you make should be closely tailored to the post. You can gain this information from the person specification and qualifications. However, I strongly recommend also applying the knowledge you’ve gleaned from pre-interview visits to be added into your application.
Person specifications will often say what is essential and what is desirable so it’s no good outlining experience that isn’t particularly relevant to the post
Think about who your audience is and the message they are giving a prospective employer about your character, skills and professionalism.
Highlight your experience
Highlighting clinical capabilities is a main feature of any clinician’s CV, and in the case of more senior and competitive posts, you should include what sets you apart from others.
Whilst you don’t want to skip over anything too important, avoid giving too much detail, particularly about the many conferences and courses you have attended. Ask yourself “what is the relevance of this?” A lack of strategy can be concerning for an employer.
In addition, you don’t have to highlight each and every project you have ever carried out. But at the same time, you should highlight the impact of relevant quality improvement projects. This might include giving examples of improving patient safety, such as an audit you have been involved in or a service that has enhanced patient care.
Research is a section that should be prioritised on your CV if you are applying for an academic job or a professorship. Other sections should include education, teaching experience, leadership, publications, presentations and courses.
Consider the length of your CV
Medical CVs are generally long, but at the same time, they shouldn’t be over 4-5 pages maximum. That’s because people just don’t have the time or inclination to read overly long CVs. With good planning and clear structure and layout, they can state everything that’s necessary in a succinct yet dynamic way.
For more in-depth detail, see the other blogs in my November series ‘What should be in a medical CV?’ And, for the pay-off of CV writing services, ‘How much does it cost to have someone write your CV?‘
If you need assistance to write your medical CV, please do get in contact with me to enquire about my CV writing service.