How to write and build a medical CV
How to write a CV
A curriculum vitae (CV), also known as a résumé, is essential during your medical training and beyond.
Your CV outlines your experiences relevant to the role you are applying for and helps you stand out from the rest of the applicants. Recruiters can receive hundreds of applications for a single role and may spend less than 45 seconds “screening” a CV.
Remember: a medical CV will have a completely different layout to a résumé for a role in another industry.
Put together your CV during medical school
During medical school, a CV may be required when applying for medical electives, research projects and scholarships. Once you graduate from medical school, a CV is essential.
If you start collating your information early on, you will be sure to remember the exact dates and ensure nothing is missed.
Before sending a CV, always have someone read through it and give feedback. Your university can support you — many universities run workshops throughout the year to polish your writing skills. It is also becoming increasingly popular to hire a professional service to help write your CV.
Your medical CV must:
- be clear, concise and straight to the point —for a student or graduate with little professional work experience, do not write more than two to three pages
- be written in plain business English, free from spelling and grammatical errors
- be written in the third person (do not use first-person pronouns such as “I” or “my”)
- use a professional-looking design with easy-to-read fonts such as Arial or Helvetica
- use sub-headings and bulleted lists to draw attention to important information
- not include a photo, unless you are asked to
- only include information relevant to the role for which you are applying
- never contain fabricated or embellished information.
What to include in a medical CV
Order the information in your CV so that the most relevant information is seen first. Put your personal details, such as name, contact details, qualifications, and medical registration number at the top.
After that, be sure to include the following information, putting the most relevant information higher.
- education and other qualifications, including the institutions where those qualifications were obtained and what year
- professional career history (only include roles which are relevant to the position you are applying for)
- clinical skills, history and experience
- volunteer experience
- research experience, projects, publications and presentations
- professional development courses and conferences attended
- any awards, honours or scholarships
- other useful skills, such as languages spoken
- two to four professional referees.
Who can I use to provide a reference?
You will be asked to provide at least two to three references (sometimes called a referee). Always ask someone if they’re happy to give you a reference before listing them on your CV.
There are different types of references – professional references and personal references.
A professional referee should be someone who has observed your skills in a professional setting. This can include employers, colleagues, a client or a supervisor.
However, many medical students may not have multiple professional references. If this is the case, you may consider listing a personal reference.
A personal reference is someone who knows you well enough to provide an insight into your character, skills and work ethic. Do not list your friends or family members; ask for a reference from an upstanding member of your community. This could include a professor, teacher or volunteer coordinator.
How to build a CV
Your preclinical years are the time to dip your toes in the water to discover what special medical areas interest you; start learning new skills and participate in activities which you can add to your CV.
To build your CV during your preclinical years, you can:
- join a student-run medical club at university, such as GPSN, and attend events that will help you make connections and give you the chance to experience different areas of medicine
- join a GPSN National Working Group project and gain practical experience in leadership, organisation and research
- apply for positions of interest on different committees — a lot of positions do not require previous experience — you can learn important organisational skills, improve your communication skills, and meet many like-minded people
- consider applying for the John Flynn Placement Program — it is a fantastic way to get hands on experience in rural general practice — it offers around 300 rural placements to medical students to experience rural clinical practice in Australia
- gain volunteer experience, for example through your local hospital, overseas volunteering or as a first aid officer
- remember that extracurricular activities are important for your health and can look great on a CV.
By now, you should have a basic medical CV. Your task now is to keep it updated, while still exploring new opportunities.
To build your CV during your clinical years, you can:
- get involved in a research project — this will teach you useful skills for your career
- attend networking events to meet health professionals and researchers in your field of interest
- apply for scholarships, honours and awards
- keep up your extracurricular activities, committees and volunteer experience — if you haven’t involved yourself in these activities, it is not too late to start.
You will need a CV during the application process to the Australia General Practice Training (AGPT) program —the government-funded GP training program.
As a junior doctor, this is the time to tailor your CV to get accepted into the AGPT program.
Both general practice medical colleges have different requirements, and the Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) — the organisations which deliver GP training — may also have specific requirements.
Be sure to complete the mandatory hospital rotations for general practice. You can read more about mandatory hospital rotations on page 69.
During this time, consider doing a short course to expand your skills beyond what you’ve learnt in medical school and in the hospital system. Once you are accepted into the AGPT program, this will make your CV look more attractive to prospective training practices. Different areas in Australia have different healthcare needs; think about where you want to complete your GP training and see if there are any special skills needed to support the population in that area.
Extra courses and skills to consider include: mental health, skin cancer, chronic disease management, children’s health, geriatrics and minor procedural skills.
By Carina Petersen, 2019 GPSN University of Western Australia (UWA) Chair.