How to Write a CV

This article goes through a simple 3 step process in drafting your very own CV from scratch. We have used this same process ourselves to write our own detailed, structured CVs.

At the end, download our template and have a go at making your very own CV.

 

Introduction

If you are reading this, you are probably a medical student or wannabe med student at some stage in your training. You may have already made a decent CV for yourself or you have only just begun to think about it. This article will talk you through step-by-step how you can make your CV from scratch. Then we will talk about developing your CV and how to best use your limited time to take advantage opportunities that suit you and will help you develop as a student. Whatever stage you are at there are going to be nuggets of knowledge in this article to help you.

 

The Purpose of the CV Applicant’s perspective

The CV or more fully the curriculum vitae, is something that may be used at any point in your career. As a medic it can be used to get roles on committees, teaching roles, clinical or research placements, electives and the list goes on. Later down the line your CV forms part of your portfolio that you will use to get into specific training programs
as you progress in your career.

 

Recruiter perspective

The reason that a recruiter wants to see your CV is so they can use it to gauge a few key qualities in the candidates. The top qualities they are likely to be looking for depends on the role. In general, they will want to see somebody who has acquired the necessary skills, has shown commitment and has the capacity to develop their skills.

 

Ultimate purpose of the CV

As you progress in your career you will see a bigger emphasis on the importance of your CV. What is the point of it all? Applicants want to develop their skills to get the roles that they can then add to back to their CV and it can become a repetitive cycle. Recruiters want to appoint skilled applicants who will carry out the task well. Is this for getting onto that training pathway you so want to do in future? Is it for an ego boost? Is it just because you feel like you should do something?

Well… it may be all of those things, but amongst these reasons I emphasize the importance of seeing the bigger picture of everything that you do. For everything you should really ask yourself WHY you are doing it? Ask yourself, “how is it going to add value to me or others?” If you can’t think of a good answer, then first of all you won’t be happy doing it and secondly, it will be really difficult to motivate yourself to do the task. Additionally, recruiters will be able to see through the stuff you have done just for the CV. There should be a good reason behind everything you do…

If you are reading this, you are probably a medical student or wannabe med student at some stage in your training. You may have already made a decent CV for yourself or you have only just begun to think about it. This article will talk you through step-by-step how you can make your CV from scratch. Then we will talk about developing your CV and how to best use your limited time to take advantage opportunities that suit you and will help you develop as a student. Whatever stage you are at there are going to be nuggets of knowledge in this article to help you.

Build your bucket CV

First, we need to make the ‘Bucket CV’. The Bucket CV is a complete record of your achievements, skills and experience that you can add to as you progress through medical school. The CV you send out should be a condensed version of this bucket CV, only including the content that matches the criteria for the opportunity which we will come onto later.

For any bucket CV you will want to start with your name, contact details (phone number and email address) at the top. Then we need to start thinking about some section headings. Each CV is unique and personal so choose the headings which suit you. For the medical CV, here are some examples making sure that you cover it all:

Education, Volunteering/Work Experience, Certificates, Prizes/Awards, Teaching, Research, Publications, Roles and responsibilities, Leisure activities and Interests.

Here is an annotated example of a bucket CV below, split into the different sections:

 

Example bucket CV

 

 

Name: Simran Goyal

Mobile: 07*********

Address: Selwyn College Cambridge

Email: simran@in2med.co.uk

Personal Statement

[who you are]… [strengths]… [weaknesses]… 

This part should add a personal element and relate to the role you are applying for.. you don’t need to write this for the bucket CV

Academics

2nd Year A100 Medicine MVST1b – September 2016-June 2017

  • class
  • description

1st Year A100 Medicine MVST1B – September 2016-June 2017

  • class
  • description of modules

A-levels – September 2013-June 2015

  • subjects, results

GCSE’S – September 2012- June 2013

  • e.g. 10A*s and 1A in subjects: (list them out)

 

Clarity is key! – Notice in this first section how each experience is in date order.
In this section, it is probably best to just go as far back as your GCSEs.

Volunteering

Global Health Leadership Award – 1st-18th August 2018

  • Participated in a two-week Elective Aid Programme delivering healthcare to rural areas of Sylhet, Bangladesh. This allowed me to develop my leadership skills and clinical knowledge in a global health context and understand some of the social, cultural, political and economic barriers for accessing healthcare

Careless Whisphers’ Care Home – August 2016 – Present

  • Every Saturday, I spend 3 hours spending time at a care home for patients with dementia. We serve tea and provide company to elderly people who live far away from their families

(Example-Date)

  • (short description)

 

Volunteering counts as any episode where you have helped others in your own time and not received money for it – This can be helping out in a care home, teaching children or working for an official registered charity. It can be for 1 day or for years. So put down everything you can think of…

The global leadership award example can go into awards or volunteering! You can always put some in both sections and when you send the condensed CV decide which is best.

Work Experience

Fortis Hospital, Amritsar, India – July 2015

  • Shadowed a Cardiac surgeon in the operation theatre and outpatient clinic, exploring the differences in healthcare between healthcare systems in India and the UK.

Virgin Care Ltd – February 2013

  • A service provider to the healthcare industry. My role was to research the health needs assessment reports for various prisons and hospitals, providing Virgin Care with the required epidemiological and demographic data to build an appropriate and relevant bid to win the NHS contract

(Place of work-Date)

  • (What you did)

 

Here you can include work experience you did during school. As a medical student include any taster days or weeks. The key is to give a short description of what you actually did. Put your most recent/important ones first.
By putting down all your work experience, it might help you realise that you have done more work in a certain speciality, that you might not have even considered.

Certificates

Duke Elder Examination – 5th March 2019

  • Ranked in the 30th centile in an exam designed for medical students interested in ophthalmology.

(Name of Certificate – Date)

  • (Short description)

 

Certificates are given after participation in many medical related activities, such as conferences, talks, for volunteering. When deciding which to include, I would include any certificate of academic achievement at university. Only include certificates of participation if the course was extra-interesting or had an application process to get onto.  

Key message is to keep all your certificates in a portfolio or scan them. Do not lose them.

Prizes/Awards

Windsor Bachelor Scholarship, Emmanuel College – 2016 

  • This is an award given to those who secure a first in the 1st year of undergraduate medicine.

(Name of Award – Date)

  • (Short description)

 

In this section include any awards you may have received from your university. You can win prizes for essays (look at the Royal Society of Medicine website to find these), awards for teaching, Prizes at conferences. 

For awards, I would not include small class awards you received in school. Include any that you might have received in external competitions and university.

Research and Publications

(Option 1) = An introduction to Kaizen – The British Journal of Hospital Medicine – 12th March 2019

  • A peer-reviewed journal article about methods for continuous improvement in healthcare.

(Option 2) = An introduction to Kaizen. Goyal S, Law E. British Journal of Hospital Medicine. 12th March 2019

  • A peer-reviewed journal article about methods for continuous improvement in healthcare.

 

You can either use a similar format to the other sections or alternatively you can just include your publications as a reference and put your name in bold. I personally like option 2.
Here you should include all publications. But if is perfectly acceptable to include research that has not been published (especially at our age). It still shows you are interested, hard working and have done extra things in your own time, broadening your horizons.

Presentations

Oral Presentations:

International

 “The Psychiatry beyond the DSM-5: second update,” International twined Congress (November 2018, Iseo Italy)

  • Oral Presentation of my paper on Decision Making in Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 3rd Symposium, “The Psychiatry between biology and neurology.
National
 
(Example – Date)

Poster Presentations etc. 

We can split presentations into oral and poster presentations. I have further split this into international, national and regional presentations.
Again, you can keep the format in line with the rest of the CV or format it by using a referencing style.

Teaching

Associate Clinical Supervisor – 17th-18th September 2019

  • Delivered three small group teaching sessions for 4th year medical students entering their clinical years, teaching them the basics on how to take a history and cardiovascular and respiratory clinical examinations.

(Name of role – Date)

  • (Short description)

 

Teaching and medicine go together. The word “Doctor” actually comes from the latin “Doceo” meaning “I teach.” Therefore, teaching is one of the most fundamental skills that you should develop as a medical student. Who knows, you might even enjoy it – it really does open up a wealth of new opportunities.
Teaching is something you may have done through tutoring or something you will inevitably gain experience doing later once you reach clinical years and teach younger students.

Roles and Responsibilities

Mastana Arts and Cultural Show Front stage Manager – October 2015 – February 2016

  • This role involved giving directions to lights, sound, backstage managers to create a coordinated team to produce an outstanding show.

Chelmsford County High School Medicine Society Vice President – March 2014- March 2015

  • Organised weekly talks for students interested in medicine

(Name of role – Date)

  • (Short description)

 

Include all the roles you have had in societies, a part of different teams and so on here. Why not just go back as far as school as I have done in the example…

Hobbies

Sports 

  • Selwyn college Women’s football team
  • Part time yoga instructor

Music

  • Involved in an English/Bollywood fusion acapella group
  • Play the acoustic guitar and enjoy singing

Languages

  • Bilingual in English and Hindi

 

The purpose of this section is to show that you are a well-rounded individual with interests outside of medicine that can help you cope with the pressures of medicine.  Be creative, include all your weird and wonderful hidden talents.
For this section I have changed the format slightly as you don’t necessarily need to date each activity.

References

(1st referee) Name

[Role]

[Address]

[Email]

[Phone] 

(2nd referee) Name

[Role]

[Address]

[Email]

[Phone]

 

A reference is from somebody who knows you well. The referee be willing vouch for you that you are who you say you are if they get an email/call from the recruiter.

In reality they are unlikely to do this. Ideally, the referee knows you professionally and might be your past or current supervisors, tutors, director of studies. 

To get a reference email who you will want to put down as a reference and say what you are applying for. Send them your CV and ask if they are willing to let you put them down as a reference. Some will be kind and send you a separate letter of recommendation.

Well done, you now have the basics to make your bucket CV. At this stage you may have nothing under a few of the headings such as prizes and awards or certificates but don’t worry there is plenty of time and opportunities at clinical school and beyond to build on these things. For example, you get certificates for even attending a conference. The format of this bucket CV doesn’t have to be stunning as it is for your own personal reference. If you are struggling to fill up a section, just merge two into one. For example, you could include all research, certificates, prizes under academic enrichment. The key to remember is that no one is going to see you bucket CV, so fill it up, keep it organised and just watch it grow over time.

There is a template for you to get started on your own bucket CV with at the end of this article.

Now that we have this (by far the most important step), let’s see how we can covert this into a proper CV tailored to a specific role. 

Decide which areas you want to develop

 

 

The bucket CV is a great start. However it sounds, looks and reads like a long list. If you sent that to a recruiter, I’m pretty sure they would not even have time to read it. That does not mean that all the work we have just done has been a waste, instead it sets up the perfect platform from which you can start to link bits together to give your CV a sense of direction and use it to apply for specific roles. Great!

First, you need to decide which areas of the CV you want to develop and what roles you are going to apply for. There are no shortage of opportunities at clinical school and you will have to learn to say no as well as yes. You may be bombarded with CV-building opportunities via society-specific email bulletins, medic FB pages etc. How to choose? Which areas do you want to be focusing on?

To help you decide we have two thought exercises.

 

Exercise 1: Broad Skills to Develop

 

 

Skills you need to develop as a medical student fall under 3 main categories. Three broad categories include:

  • Research: research projects, literature reviews, audits, published articles, systematic reviews, case reports.
  • Teaching: peer to peer, tutoring experience, talks
  • Leadership: Committees for societies, QI projects, roles of responsibility.

Write down the experiences you have in these categories so far:

Category Experiences
Research

Teaching

Leadership

For any career having some experiences from each category is going to be very beneficial. For your particular career you may wish to have more teaching experience because you want to be a professor for example.

So, let’s have a little think of the kind of doctor you want to be in future and what experiences are going to be most valuable:

Surgeon –> Hands on experience/logbooks/research

  • Medic –> Work experience/Volunteering/Working out of your comfort zone
  • Professor?
  • Healthcare consultant?
  • Global Health Doctor?

For these things ask yourself which of the three skills you want to be developing right now to achieve this? It is impossible true that many skills overlap, but you need to appreciate that time is limited to focus on the biggest priority first. Remember, none of this is possible without passing medical school first, so remember to revise and do well in your exams!!!

 

Exercise 2: Showing an Interest in Specialities

 

 

Let’s try another exercise, what category of medical student are you?

  1. I have a good idea of what specialty I want to do in future.
  2. Have a few options for specialty in future.
  3. No idea what I want to specialize in.
Category 1:

You can start tailoring your CV to show commitment to this specialty.

Find somebody who is in a position you want and ask them how they got there. For example, I found out about the Duke Elder prize exam for ophthalmology just by talking to doctors on the wards.

Category 2:

Go to conferences and use your student selected components to explore different specialty options. By building your CV in these specialty areas you will keep your doors open and also discover whether they actually interest you.

This should help you decide between your options.

Category 3:

Don’t worry if you are in this camp. Many FY2 doctors still don’t know what they want to do.

 Having said that it does help to start thinking about what actually does interest you. First step is deciding medicine? Surgery? GP? Alternative careers? Or others find it easier to definitely rule things out and see what they are left with.

 Then go to category 2.

The key message to take away is that writing a CV just like going through medical school is a journey. We had our bucket CV in the last page. Now we are giving it a bit of direction. Now read on to discover how we can make it applicable for specific roles.

Making the Condensed CV and Personal Statement

 

So, after step 2 you have a clearer idea of the areas of your CV you want to develop and now you can start applying for roles! Now, you don’t want to send off your bucket CV as the average recruiter will scan your CV in under 30 seconds, so you only want to include key pieces of information that match the opportunity. Therefore, you will need to whittle down the bucket CV into a concise two-page document, keeping the headings and experiences that will show the best side of you.

At the start of your CV you can add a short personal statement paragraph to add a personal element to the CV to highlight your motivations for the role. This should not be longer than 50 to 200 words and the key to this part is making it personal to you. Read the paragraph back to yourself and ask if it could have been written by anyone or whether it is unique to you.

Please find two example of personal paragraphs. These two have both been written by an applicant applying for the role of a supervisor (teacher) to tutor students about Human Reproduction. Try spot the differences between them…

 

Example Personal Statement (BAD)

 

“I would be good for the role of a Human Reproduction IB supervisor as I am skilled, passionate and dedicated. I have been through this same course very recently achieving 2nd  place in my year group. Additionally, I have experience in women’s health having had work experience on an obstetrics and gynaecology ward at a young age and then when I went to Bangladesh to deliver a women’s health project with a team of medical students. I also have teaching experience, having delivered engaging talks to students at my college.”

This paragraph does mention relevant experience to the role; however, it comes across as impersonal and we cannot gauge the motivation of the individual for this role. They have mentioned that they are skilled… but skilled in what?  There is no point listing attributes such as passionate, dedicated and skilled without evidence of these. They have mentioned relevant experience such as sitting the course recently, having teaching experience, and clinical experience in women’s health. What is missing is WHY these things are important for the role. They can read your CV and find all the things you have done. The personal statement needs to link these experiences to how it will help you act better in the role you are applying for.

 

Example Personal Statement (GOOD)

 

“I am applying for the role of a Human Reproduction IB supervisor, as I believe my dedication to women’s health would allow me to fulfil this role to its full potential. My interest in the subject led me to rank 2nd out of 253 students in the year when I took the Human Reproduction course myself. I developed an interest in women’s health after my first work experience placement took place in an obstetrics and gynaecology ward when I was 16. From there I decided to pursue medicine, alongside my passion for global health. I had the opportunity to go to Bangladesh last summer where I was able to aid the implementation of a maternal health project called “The Baby Bundles Project”, which delivers antenatal care to rural areas. Visiting Bangladesh and seeing first-hand the effects of poor maternal health, reaffirmed my interest in areas related to women’s health. Having completed second year recently, I understand the pressures that students face and aim to alleviate some of this by providing high yield supervisions each week during Lent term. By Lent, I will have 8 weeks of maternal and child health experience which will also allow me to add a clinical dimension to the supervisions. Experiences in public speaking and leading interactive teaching sessions with students from my own college will serve me well in delivering engaging supervisions. I would be delighted to be a HR supervisor as I believe medical education is one of the best ways that we can ‘pay it forward’.

This is an example of a good personal statement paragraph. It has clearly outlined the role the candidate wishes to apply for and their motivations for the role which are specific to this applicant. It is verging on the longer side; however, each sentence has a purpose and it leaves no doubt in the mind of the reader regarding the motivations of this individual.

The second section then goes onto explain the more subtle points about why they are suited for the role that is harder to get across in the objective CV, understanding pressures students face having been through the exact same process not long before.

1. Add References

 

 

You need some proof for the things you have put down in your CV. For most roles having 2 or 3 references is all that would be needed. A reference is the name, role and contact details of somebody who knows you in a professional setting who can confirm who you are to the recruiters who may sometimes decide to contact your reference. The reference can be added to the end of your CV and should be from somebody reputable who knows you well. For example, this could be an old tutor, your supervisor or director of studies. You will need to ask their permission to put their name and contact details down. Sometimes the person you ask for a reference from may be kind and go a step further by writing a letter of recommendation for you.

2. Combine your Hobbies and Skills to make Something New

 

 

For example, a friend of mine was interested in helping the homeless, was good at teaching and knew first-aid. They used this to develop a course that teaches CPR to homeless people- those who need this training most. You can code? – build a website that’s useful to people! You are good at teaching? Find a gap in education and teach what you are interested in.

3. Talk to people

 

 

Each doctor has been on their own journey to get to where they are and they often have useful careers/life advice. You will find doctors you look up to and want to be just like, ask them what they’ve done. They might offer you opportunities to get involved in projects if you show an interest. 

4. Use good resources

 

 

  • Google: use google to find conferences in the specialty you are interested in. It’s really that simple.
  • Conferences: they provide handy careers advice. If you have a project specific to a specialty, there is no harm in submitting an abstract to them.
  • Project Cutting Edge Website: If you are interested in surgery this site tells you all the meaningful wats that you can start building your portfolio.
  • RSM Website: for the essay prizes section, talks and conferences

5. Tailor it to your speciality

 

 

Undertake projects in that speciality (you can use those projects you did in your intercalated  degree!!) for posters and presentations at conferences. Look out for essay prizes. You can find some on the RSM website or other sites via a simple google search. The key is being proactive.

Siimran Goyal
University of Cambridge

About The Author

Simran is a recent graduate from the University of Cambridge who will be working as a junior doctor in London.