Home Career How to craft the perfect CV

How to craft the perfect CV

Forget the vacation photos, but do tailor your CV to different recruiters

April 2007

Published in the April 2007 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when physician recruiter Regina Levison saw the photograph a job candidate submitted to her office recently, two words jumped to mind: No way!

The job-seeking physician sent a photograph of himself on an island. At a bar. Nursing a cocktail.

“Wouldn’t you have some concerns about alcoholism and malpractice issues?” Ms. Levison, president of Levison Search Associates in El Dorado, Calif., asks with a laugh. “If you are looking for a party boy, he’s your guy.”

“Any substantive committee work, community service, published papers or teaching experience is a plus to me.”

~ Catherine H. Messick, MD, MS
Wake Forest University School of Medicine

That case of poor judgment shows that physicians “smart, well-educated and attentive to detail by their nature “sometimes miss the mark when staging themselves in the job market.

To help you better present yourself on paper, Today’s Hospitalist spoke to four recruiters who regularly screen candidates for hospitalist positions. They shared tips on what they like “and do not like “to see cross their desks.

  • Send a CV, not a resume. For starters, the document to prepare for a hospitalist position is a curriculum vitae “CV “as opposed to a resume. While a resume is appropriate for a management or industry job, such as a medical director at a health plan, a CV is used for clinical positions.Both documents summarize your professional life but use different approaches. A resume is organized to highlight skills and experience. A CV, on the other hand, chronologically lists employment history, education, professional service and honors.In terms of length, disregard the traditional advice for resumes, which holds that they shouldn’t be longer than one page. “Don’t let someone rule you out because you haven’t put in enough information,” Ms. Levison says.When it comes to whether you should include an objective on your CV, recruiters are of different minds, depending on whether they work for a single hospital system or are recruiting for positions through several employers.

    Some advise including one. “An objective helps the interviewer understand the interests of a potential candidate,” says Susan Legg, physician recruiter at Regency Hospital Company in Alpharetta, Ga., a national network of critical care hospitals for medically complex, long-stay patients. Make sure the objective “is clear and concise,” she adds. “Avoid generalizations and broad statements that could apply to any candidate.”

    Ms. Levison, on the other hand, who recruits for many different hospitals, prefers to see the objective in a cover letter or accompanying e-mail. Better yet, she urges hospitalists to craft different versions of their CV, one for individual institutions that includes an objective, and one for independent recruiters that doesn’t.

  • Paint a chronological picture. List your experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your current position, and put start and end dates in front of each job title and description.”I want to know what they are doing now and when they got there, and then down the line because I have to look for gaps” in work history, says Randy Keister, director of physician recruitment at the three-hospital Susquehanna Health in Williamsport, Pa.Gaps “whether you were fired or just took a year off to travel “should be explained in your e-mail or cover letter. Catherine H. Messick, MD, MS, interim section head of general internal medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., says that while gaps on a CV may represent nothing more than organizational problems, she may not have the time to look more closely.”It makes me worried that at best the candidate is not organized,” she explains, “and at worst there is something wrong in their background.”
  • Provide the basics. Ms. Legg says the most common CV mistakes she sees are candidates forgetting to report their licensure status and board certification or board eligibility. Remember to include citizenship and visa status.”A physician without board certification should describe the patient population with which he or she has the most experience,” she says.Another basic: Provide home address, home e-mail address, and home and cell phone numbers. And when listing your current and former positions, Ms. Levison points out, note how many beds there are in those hospitals and how many physicians are in your group.”Physicians in smaller hospitals don’t have the same access to specialists,” she says, “so they’re used to perhaps providing more breadth of treatment than in a large teaching hospital.”
  • Be upfront about your needs. If you have non-negotiable job criteria, mention those in your cover letter or e-mail so the recruiter does not waste time reviewing your CV.”Some people want to work seven days on and seven days off, and that’s not the way our hospitalists work,” says Mr. Keister from Susquehanna Health. “So if that’s not a negotiable issue, I want to know upfront.”Going through an interview process with the hope that the hospital will meet your demands when a job offer is made is risky business; the hospital may have policies or standard practices that forbid what it is you have in mind.Along the same line, if you submit your CV to a search firm, be clear about the types of jobs that you will accept.

    “Sometimes a physician will say ‘I don’t want any 24-hour rural hospital shifts’ or ‘I want an urban or suburban hospital only’ or ‘I don’t want anything more than a 10-hour shift,’ ” Ms. Levison says. “Communicating that in a cover letter or e-mail is wonderful.”

  • Provide key personal information. Recruiters say that it’s a good idea to identify personal information that helps a recruiter recognize a fit “or a poor match “with the hospital and community.At Susquehanna Health, for example, Mr. Keister wants to know about marital status. “It shows if we need to consider job opportunities in our area for a spouse or significant other,” he says.Mr. Keister also likes to see applicants list their hobbies. “If their interests are theater and the symphony, we have some of that here, but there’s more in the big cities,” he says. “If they like the outdoors and sports and boating, we have plenty of that to offer and I know what to talk to them about.”Dr. Messick in Winston-Salem likewise looks for information about professional interests, future goals and even personal connections to the area.

    “It helps me decide if someone will be a good fit for my program,” she says. “I want people who I think will be happy because it helps with retention.”

  • Distinguish yourself from other candidates. “I look for applicants who have something extra,” Dr. Messick says. “I want people who have been involved in their organizations beyond just patient care. Any substantive committee work, community service, published papers or teaching experience is a plus to me.”Ms. Levison is particularly interested in leadership skills and experience. “Maybe they are involved in a committee or two within the hospital or within their group,” she says. “Any way they can show they have leadership abilities is very helpful.”
  • Do it yourself “but use a proofreader. Ms. Levison tells doctors not to pay a professional to prepare their CVs, in part because she wants to see that candidates are computer-savvy.”If I ask you to e-mail your CV and you say ‘It’s not on my computer, I’m going to have to fax it to you,’ that tells me you are behind the times,” she says. “No one can work in medicine today without knowing how to use a computer.”
  • Send pictures to your mother, not the recruiter. And while more CVs these days tend to include photos, Ms. Levison says that recruiters do not want to know what you look like.

“When we get CVs with pictures, we delete the pictures,” she explains. If a physician who included a photo ended up not being hired, “it could be construed that we are discriminating against someone, rather than evaluating his or her experience and skills.”

Lola Butcher is a health care business writer who is based in Springfield, Mo.