Creating a Curriculum Vitae
The Office of Student Affairs encourages our students to use this sample CV as a guide in creating a curriculum vitae (CV). This format is organized in a “chronologically backwards” timeline, which gives the reader a clear view of the path you took to get to your current status. Here are a few tips about preparing your CV:
1. Remember that a CV is not an exercise in documenting how great you are: its purpose is to provide the reader with a clear, concise history of your education, achievements and accomplishments to date, in a fairly truncated format. This particular format makes it easy for the reader to follow your career/education path, while providing you with a format that is easy to update.
a. Use at least a 12-point font. Times New Roman is a standard for many reasons, not least in that it allows for more text on each page.
b. Use narrow margins: you can fit much more on each page.
c. Disavow yourself of the notion that you are going to ever again have a one-page resume.
d. Refrain from “I, me, my” statements; use objective language.
e. The better you prepare your CV now, the easier it will be to update it in the future.
f. Make every word tell.
2. The staff writer prepares your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE, otherwise known as your Dean’s Letter) in your third year, and that document is largely based upon your CV. Thus, the clearer and more comprehensive you make your CV, the easier it is for the staff writer to accurately and comprehensively convey your history and accomplishments in your MSPE.
3. At this relatively early point in your career, it’s better to err on the side of too much information in your CV, rather than too little. Eventually, older entries will likely be deleted.
4. Remember that, for the purpose of your CV, it’s okay at this time to include activities (jobs, volunteer, etc.) that are unrelated to medicine, provided they demonstrate an acquisition of skills, or a long-term/repeat employment (e.g., working the same summer job all through undergraduate school). Such information, while not “medical”, conveys a great deal about your viability as a potential employee.
5. Put a reminder in your smart device to periodically remind you to update your CV: it will keep you from forgetting to add new information and prevent scrambling at the last minute to make sure it’s current.
Creating a Personal Statement
One of the many tasks you’ll do as part of your residency application process is write your own personal statement, a rare opportunity for you to actually “make it all about you”. A personal statement is not a CV or a resume, nor is it a regurgitation of either of those documents: it’s essentially a sales pitch, with you as the product, and it has two main objectives:
- To convey to the residency programs what you’re looking for in your residency and that you bring the appropriate skills, background, abilities and experiences to succeed and;
- To let them know that, in terms of all of your many attributes (values, maturity, compassion, philosophy, etc.) you are the “best match” for their program, and that you are exactly what they seek in a resident.
And you will do this in 700 words or fewer. For some people, it may be easy; for others, not so much. But for each of you it requires serious consideration of what you want to do in your medical career (a decision you likely have already made), why you want to do it and what makes you the best candidate for the position. That means making time well ahead of the application process (read that again) to put pen to paper and get your personal statement started. Here are some tips to guide you:
1. Timing: start thinking about your personal statement in January of your residency application year. Yes, January. It needs to be completed and ready to upload in September. Put an alarm reminder in your mobile device to remind you to return to this task every month, so you don’t suddenly remember on August 31st that you haven’t written your personal statement yet.
2. Starting: this is the hardest part for many students. A good way to break the ice for yourself is to talk it out: find someone you know and trust who is willing to let you sit down and verbally explain your answers to the four questions ERAS asks:
- Why do you want to go into this particular specialty?
- Why do you want this particular program?
- What do you bring to the table?
- What do you hope you get out of this residency program?
This is a great exercise to get your thoughts organized. Don’t worry about the length at this point: you’ll trim and trim, and then trim some more, before you’re finished.
3. Write a Rough Draft: this is not your CV redux, so don’t list all of your educational and scholarly accomplishments. Simply start your draft by finishing these sentences:
- I am choosing this specialty because…
- I want to enter this particular residency program because…
- I would be the best match for this specialty in this program because…
- My career goals include…
4. Think about who your audience will be: might be the program director, the people with whom you’ll interview or others who comprise the selection committee. Some will read it very closely, some will not. They want to learn, from your own words, what your goals are, how you see yourself fitting into their environment, what you will add to their program, and what you hope to get out of being a resident there.
5. Ask someone to review/proofread it: this could be your academic or career advisor, a faculty member or the SOM staff writer. Be open to suggestions and constructive criticism.
6. Some nuts and bolts writing tips:
- First and foremost, remember your Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” No one knows you like you know yourself.
- Start with something interesting and personal related to your choice of specialty: a patient you treated, an experience you had, a quote from one of your mentors. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. If it sticks in your mind, it obviously means something to you so explain that, but briefly. Don’t use ten words if you can use four. Or three.
- Don’t lie about anything. Seriously.
- Don’t wallow in why you went to med school: that’s almost over.
- Focus on your specialty and what experiences you have had that relate to it.
- Don’t try to be funny, and don’t raise political or religious issues.
- Keep the “I, me, mine” statements to a minimum. There are better ways to write about yourself. If you don’t know, ask someone.
- Check every word for spelling, check your grammar, check your punctuation. Then have someone else do the same thing. This document must be absolutely letter-perfect.
- One you’ve finished, your statement should be in Times New Roman, 12 point font, 700 maximum words.