Medicolegal Issues

Curriculum Vitae 101


By now, if you’re a final-year resident, you should be thinking about your plans for when you finish your residency. Before you begin the job search in earnest, it’s a good idea to create or update your curriculum vitae, or CV. You might be thinking, “That’s easy. I haven’t done anything yet!” That might be the case, but in reality, you probably have done more than you realize.

Whether you are just starting out or need to freshen a rough draft, here are some recommendations for creating a CV.


The first step is to capture all the things you have done. Start by taking a sheet of paper and making columns with the following headings: licensure/documents, honors and awards, presentations/publications, research activities, committees, teaching, community service, and special skills. List each of the things you’ve done in each category.

Don’t be modest. You have to sell yourself. No item is too small for consideration for your CV at this stage. Get together with other people in your residency class and brainstorm together. They might help you think of certain activities that you have not already thought about. Here are some key points to keep in mind as you brainstorm each section:

  • Licensure/documents: If you haven’t obtained a license in the state where you want to practice, now is the time to do it. Make sure advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and BLS are current. If you haven’t taken your board exam, mention that you are board-eligible and include the date you plan to take the exam.
  • Once you’ve created your first CV, you will need to develop a system to update and maintain the document. The easiest way to do this is to keep a “career folder” on your desktop or in a filing cabinet. This will help you catalog all the extra things you’ve done throughout your career.
  • Honors and awards: You don’t have to receive a trophy at a fancy awards ceremony to fill out this section. Did you ever receive a letter from the department chair, program director, or clerkship director giving you a special commendation? Such recognition might be worth a mention.
  • Presentations and publications: If you have been published, include the citation here. Many residents present posters at regional meetings; this information should go in your CV. Have you given a presentation for “Morning Report” or a “Morbidity and Mortality Conference”? If so, these count as presentations, too. Many residents have written Web-based materials. Cite these as well.
  • Teaching: Consider all the activities you perform for medical students. Have you given the students any prepared lectures? Have you been a preceptor for their physical exam labs? Have you provided mentorship for a student? Significant time spent mentoring also should be reflected on a resident’s CV.
  • Research: QI projects generally count as HM research projects.
  • Committees: Think about all the meetings you’ve attended and determine if any of them count as providing services to the residency or hospital.
  • Special skills: Proficiency in thoracocentesis or lumbar puncture procedures qualifies for this section. If you speak a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language, include it here.

Rough Draft = First Attempt

Now that you have gathered your information, it’s time to organize it. Web-based resources and templates are plentiful, and many can help you write the CV. If you are applying for an academic position, you will need to keep a detailed CV. If you are not applying for an academic position, it is best to keep your CV at no more than two pages in length; however, you might want to keep a comprehensive (and lengthier) version on file.

Maintain a Career Folder

Once you’ve created your first CV, you will need to develop a system to update and maintain the document. The easiest way to do this is to keep a “career folder” on your desktop or in a filing cabinet. This will help you catalog all the extra things you’ve done throughout your career.

Write notes to yourself, with the date and time spent on certain activities. Then, at regular intervals, document them on your CV. It’s best to update your CV every six months.

The career file also can be used to keep evaluations, letters from patients, or anything else that exemplifies your accomplishments at work. Having a system for organizing your achievements will help you negotiate a raise and assist with future promotions or tenure.

Cover Letter

A cover letter should be no more than three to four paragraphs in length. Keep it simple and to the point. Briefly state how you heard about the job opening and why you are interested in the job.

Take a paragraph to identify the skills and experience you have to offer the HM group. The final paragraph should be used to explain how you intend to follow up and the best way you can be reached (phone, e-mail, etc.) to arrange an interview.

Interview Tips

A well-written CV can lead to several interview offers. Here are some important tips to help you obtain that all-important job offer:

  • Have a clear vision. It’s important to know what you are looking for. Having clear goals will help you know exactly the kind of job you want and avoid wasting time and energy.
  • Set aside time for a phone interview. You can learn a lot about an HM program during this time; give the interviewer a chance to learn about you, too. Use this step to screen out those places you really want to visit in person.
  • Show up on time. Give yourself enough time to reach your destination, park, and find the meeting location. If possible, take a test drive a day or two before.
  • Remember, your appearance matters. Dress professionally in conservative business attire. Furthermore, always act professional. Avoid negative talk about past attendings or employers. If you are going out for lunch, avoid ordering alcohol.
  • Write down questions to ask. This will give you more clarity and ensure that all of your questions regarding the prospective job are answered.
  • Show interest in the program. Ask appropriate questions, even if you have all the information you need. Don’t leave without asking about the next steps in the hiring process.
  • Talk about money last. Contrary to popular belief, it’s OK to bring up the topic of money during an interview. Just don’t make it your first—and only—question.
  • Check out the town. Bring your spouse or partner to explore a prospective relocation site. Look into housing, schools, your potential commute, and recreational activities. TH

Dr. Garcia is assistant professor in the division of hospital medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio. Dr. Patel is a hospitalist at HPMG Regions Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.


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