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Residency CVs: Dos and Don’ts

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

Understanding some core ‘dos and don’ts’ will make the CV-writing process much smoother. Here we will work through some core tips on both what to do, and what you simply must avoid. Remember that CVs should be updated regularly, and that your CV you submit for residency must be the most up-to-date version possible. That means avoiding the temptation to re-use your one that you may have made some months before for a research position, for example – and instead working hard to craft something that really advertises you as a potential resident for the specific program that you are interested in.

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Residency Dos when writing your CV

Do: Work through from your education first. You must begin your CV with your education – failure to do so will make program directors ask serious questions of your educational achievement – and your goals with your CV. After your education, you can choose which area to focus on next – it’s advisable to focus on the strongest sections first. That might mean moving into your research experience after your education, or perhaps working into your clinical experience as the second section.

Do: Focus on your stand-outs. If you’re particularly strong in one area, do not be afraid of really highlighting it and making the most of it. Many program directors feel that students fail to sell themselves as well as they sometimes could, as they feel constrained by the format of the CV. For example, if you have exceptional research experience, do not be afraid of making your research section a little longer and delving into this in detail – it will make you stand out from other students.

Do: Get as much feedback as you possibly can. This is absolutely vital. Feedback includes both advice on the actual content in the CV – which should come from a faculty member of the medical school, attendings or senior residents who have been through the process – and more granular feedback on spelling and grammar after the pure content is decided upon.

Do: Use techniques like gapping and parallelism. Gapping is the use of incomplete sentences to more concisely present information. You will no-doubt be used to this from medical records and notes – for example, you can write ‘Student body head. Managed team of 15 students, led planning and organisation for student body of 8000, and developed new protocols for voting.’ Some words have been omitted, yet what remains is professional and immediately intelligible. Parallelism means to keep the structure of your phrases the same throughout the document. In other words, if you use a particular verb phrase in one part of the CV, then use them throughout. That means you would say ‘led a team of X’ and then ‘Drove progress in Y’ rather than ‘led’ then ‘drives’.

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Residency don'ts when writing your CV

Don’t: Include extraneous information. The more superfluous information in your CV, the weaker you will appear as a candidate. A program director will wonder why you felt it necessary to include this weak information – did you not have something stronger to represent you as a candidate? Therefore, think long and hard about what you include, and ensure that you run potentially less-impressive content past a faculty member at your medical school. That means including a scholarship, but not including the fact that you won a class prize in your sophomore year. Consider only content that will make you stand out in the broad scheme of all candidates for residency – who are likely to be exceptional themselves across many different areas and domains.

Don’t: See the CV as just a minor part of the greater residency application. Your CV is a vital document not just for this application, but for your life overall. Keeping it updated and accurate is vital for securing away rotation slots, for example, or for securing research experience. Of course, for ERAS the CV is digital and you will copy-paste your content into the fields that are given to you – that can mean that you are tempted to simply see it as a box-ticking exercise. However, working to produce something of real-worth will pay dividends not just for your residency applications, but for your wider career.

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