Latest posts by Dr. Dan (see all)
- Dr. Dan’s Top 5 CV Tips for Residents - July 7, 2016
- Introducing Dr. Dan: Your Residency-to-Working-World Guide - June 10, 2016
Ten years ago was a simpler time. I was unaware of how a mortgage worked, I thought of Facebook as “thefacebook,’’ and certainly nothing was “bae.” (Aka “cool,” for the uninitiated. Giving summer physicals to teenagers annually expands my vocabulary.)
Back then, I had my first college job at the Career Center on my undergraduate campus, where I conducted workshops and individual sessions on how to craft a compelling, professional resume. The job allowed me to explore the business world while indulging my detail-oriented personality (med school foreshadowing anyone?). Along the way, I learned several foundational truths about resumes, many of which apply to new residency grads. Here they are.
1. Use Your Template, not the Template
Your resume is a reflection of you. Customization and personalization are strongly encouraged, if not essential.
Too many resumes are borne of the cookie cutter templates available on word processing programs and online. In many cases, these templates are poorly formatted and haphazardly organized. Whatever you do, promise me you won’t use them verbatim (yes, many people do this.) Simply filling in the blanks is a surefire path to a forgettable resume.
Instead, skim around the templates, but then start with a blank page. Consider your goals and take highlights from a few examples you find. This may be a section name, bulleting style, or a formatted header. For example, my resume includes an “Advocacy and Professional Interests” section. This contains several current projects and worthwhile residency experiences that I consider valuable.
That specific section might not be appropriate for your resume, but you get the idea. Customize within reason to make your document memorable.
2. Keep It Brief
Hot take: most residency graduate resumes should be one page long. That’s right: one. I sympathize, believe me! You spent the better part of a decade (perhaps more) jumping through hoops, and now it’s your chance to tell the world! Not so fast. Brevity will reflect more positively upon you than a lengthy tome about how exactly you tortured those mice for your research project.
It’s reasonable to start with a longer document comprising all your experiences and then whittle away. Cut and edit and cut again, balancing simplicity and completeness. It’s certainly tempting to dust off those slick undergrad moves of compressing margins and massaging that text size to 11.25. Please don’t. Remember: your resume gets you in the door and the interview gets you the job. Better to leave the reader with a few follow-up questions rather than inundated with extraneous detail.
3. Keep It Relevant
For a few months during college, I was also a janitor for a few months (the resume gig was far livelier!). Once upon a time, the janitor job was featured prominently on my resume. Today? No way. Residents should focus on residency and (maybe) the final two years of medical school for resume-worthy material. Recent is relevant. Don’t feel obligated to fill space, it will make the editing process far easier.
4. Paint a Picture
The most effective resume sections tell a story over the course of a few bullet points. To do this, briefly present a situation or task you faced, describe how you dealt with it, and report the end result. This format is compelling because it expresses something concrete and specific, qualities often lost in the detail-free, thesaurus-heavy nature of most resumes. Best of all, telling a story invites follow-up questions and allows you to shape the narrative of the upcoming interview.
Here’s an example from my own CV:
Developed and implemented a program with my wife, a pediatric dentistry resident, that provided a child’s first toothbrush at the well-child visit following eruption of their first tooth. Over 500 toothbrushes were distributed and resident knowledge of infant oral hygiene nearly doubled over a six-month study period.
5. Ask for Help
It’s tempting for residents to “wing it” when it comes to their first resume. Several ego-fortifying years of post-undergraduate education is likely to blame. I strongly encourage anyone drafting a resume to seek out multiple reviewers. Find a savvy mentor within your program or reconnect with a trusted med school faculty member. Send one to a law student/attorney friend and ask them to (literally) parse every word. Email a copy to your parents or siblings, as this will allow you to gently humblebrag while reminding them you’re still alive. The more input you receive, the more effective your resume will be.
Your final resume should highlight your unique qualities in a focused, memorable way. Done correctly, this document will open the door to the next step of the process: interviews. I’ll walk you through the basics of phone interviews next month. Because phones, I’m told, are so bae.