Residency CV: Frequently Asked Questions

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

Applicants for residency programs will have numerous questions around what to include in their CV, how to format it, and what to avoid. Here we’ll work through six of the most commonly-asked questions regarding residency CVs.

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The top 6 Most Frequently Asked Questions for Residency CVs

1) How long should my CV be?

Answer: There’s no ‘set length’ for a CV. However, most students will have a CV that is between 3 to 5 pages. What’s vital to remember here is that you must both avoid obviously bulking the CV out with extraneous information, and having a CV that is too short (indicative of either a lack of experience or having missed out certain information that should have been included). Therefore, if you find that you are struggling to make up 5 pages, aim instead for 3 or 4 high-quality pages that are packed full of real value. Equally, if you have 6-7 pages, cut this down and highlight the most useful information across five pages instead.

2) Why do I need to write a CV?

There’s one main reason that your CV is needed – to highlight your experiences to program directors, so that they better understand who you are as a candidate and as a person. That means you must cover core areas (like your education and clinical experience) and will also need to cover areas that give some indication of who you are (like your extracurricular activities and your personal interests). Equally, your CV is vital for providing information to your letter writers for your letters of recommendation – you must have it ready for them so that they can use it as a reference. This ensures that there is consistency, and that they are able to best represent you.

3) How long should I spend writing my CV?

There’s no ‘right length of time’ to spend on your CV. Instead, you should ensure that the time spent provides you with adequate chances to iterate and develop the CV. That means a first draft; subsequent re-writes with assistance from both other medical students and attendings or faculty at your medical school; then time to polish and correct grammar and spelling with assistance from others that you know. This process will take some weeks, realistically – so don’t underestimate it and ensure that you devote adequate time to it.

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4) Does everyone use the same template for their CV? Is there a correct template?

No – there is not one specific template for CVs. However, all CVs will follow a similar pattern. That means you must start the first page with a header that includes your personal details – and today, many will choose to include a professional-looking headshot (which adds a little personality and character to the document immediately). Equally, there are some parts of the CV that must be included – education, clinical experience, etc. These can be found in our complete guide to the residency CV. In terms of further formatting, ensure that you use traditional fonts and approaches – that means correct indenting, Times New Roman font, etc.

5) Do I need to list my extracurriculars?

You must list some of your extracurriculars, as these will display who you are and allow you to advertise certain attributes. A CV that is entirely devoid of extracurriculars will be something of a red-flag to program directors, who are likely to see you as someone that only focuses on academic achievement and therefore perhaps won’t be a good team member or valuable part of the program outside of their core work. However, you must equally avoid superfluous content – focus on extracurricular activities that are of real value to you, and that you can use to demonstrate how you are exceptional – and that you can reflect on.

6) How should I format experiences?

All experiences should be formatted in reverse chronological order, within a section. That means the most recent experience should be at the top of the section, and the oldest should be at the bottom. Equally, you should ensure that you maintain consistency with how you lay out your role, the name of the institution/program/team, and your activities and duties. You should also try to include a brief reflection for each section as well.

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