Resume Writing

Curriculum Vitae (from:

Preparation of a curriculum vitae (course of life) is an important and necessary part of the application process. One of the primary functions of a CV is to provide a succinct chronicle of your past experience and training.

Competition for desirable residency positions can be intense, and a professional looking CV can mean the difference between “getting your foot in the door” or a polite brush-off. Your CV is really a personal advertisement: it must sell as well as tell. The appearance and format of your CV are as important as the information it contains. No matter how talented you are, a disorderly or flamboyant CV may prevent or stop a potential interview.

In general, a CV should not be a lengthy document. No matter how many accomplishments you list, you will not impress anybody if they cannot quickly pick out two or three good reasons to choose you over someone else. Let your CV help you put your best foot forward.

Sometimes a CV is referred to as a resume. In fact, these terms are probably interchangeable. Academic or educational circles tend to use the term curriculum vitae, or CV, more frequently than resume, and CV’s tend to become longer than resumes as experience and publications accrue. Because of the nature of the medical profession—where the years for preparation are highly structured and generally comparable from institution to institution—a chronological format for the medical CV is often preferred.

Some reference books on different CV formats are listed at the end of this section. There are also examples of the types of material to be included and a suggested format for its presentation as well as sample CV’s. Here are some tips to help you get started:

General Tips

  1. A chronological CV should be arranged in reverse chronological order with the most recent information listed first. It should be apparent immediately where you are presently.
  2. At first, it may be difficult to decide what is appropriate to include in your CV. It may seem that the residency application forms have already captured everything you have to say about yourself. Try to remember that an application form is limited to the few things that residency programs want to know about everybody. Your CV lets you give information that is unique to you. Try including everything you can think of at first and take it out later if it does not seem pertinent.
  3. The appearance of your CV is extremely important. A personal computer is an excellent tool with which to set up and maintain your CV. You may wish to take advantage of the templates available through your word processing program. When you have finished designing the content and format, be sure to print it on a laser printer. Use standard 8 ½ by 11-inch paper in a white or very lightly colored high quality paper stock.
  4. The language of a CV is abbreviated and succinct. Resist the temptation to use explanatory sentences or language that will distract the reader from the basic information being presented. When applying for residency training, you will have the opportunity to express yourself in a personal or autobiographical statement.
  5. Everyone’s CV is different. Even if you use one of the formats suggested in this section, your CV will not look the same as other applicants’ because it will not have the same content. Do not worry if your CV is different from that of a friend applying to the same residency program. There is enough variation in format that no residency program director is looking for a specific style. You get points for neatness and readability—you don’t get points for setting your CV up like Denton Cooley’s.
  6. Be honest. If you have not accomplished anything in a particular category, then leave it out. Do not create things to fill in the spaces. You can be specific about your level of participation in a project or activity, but try not to be misleading: i.e. you can say you coordinated membership recruitment for your AMSA chapter, but do not say you were “president” unless you were.
  7. The following section will list some items that should be included in every CV and some items that can be included. Obviously name, address, education, and awards should be included in very CV. Items such as grades, board scores, personal data, and publications should only be included if it would be to your advantage. Listing these is not mandatory. Tips for including personal data (age, children, marital status) are given below. Many students will have nothing to include under publications and/or presentations. If so, do not set up these subheadings on your CV.

CV Components

  1. Name, Address, Telephone, and Email: Give your full name. Make sure you can be reached at the address, telephone number(s), and email that you list. Include hospital paging numbers, if appropriate, and indicate if there are certain dates when you can be reached at other locations. This may be a good place to add your AAMC ID.
  2. Education: List your education in reverse chronological order, starting with The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Include the name of the institution, the degree sought or completed, and the date of completion or date of anticipated or expected completion. Remember to include medical school, graduate education, and undergraduate education, but omit high school information.
  3. Honors and Awards: Any academic, organizational, or community awards are appropriate to list, but you must use your own judgment about whether an achievement that you value would be valuable to the person reading your C.V. (Note: Grades from the UTHSC-H grading system—Honors, High Pass, etc.—are not the same as the honors to be listed in this section.)
  4. Professional Society Memberships: List any professional organizations to which you belong and the years of your membership. Include leadership positions held, if any.
  5. Employment Experience: List the position, organization, and dates of employment for each work experience. Use your judgment in listing campus and summer jobs, especially if your list is long.
  6. Personal Data: You may include some personal information, such as date of birth and marital status, at the beginning of your CV, or you may summarize it all in one section. Keep in mind that federal law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age, race, sex, religion, national origin, or handicap status. Therefore, you do not have to provide this information. Discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of child-rearing plans, i.e. number of children or plans to have children. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal for you to volunteer this information. You may elect to include it on your CV if you feel it is pertinent your candidacy for the position. For example, you may specifically include marital status if you want to prompt a discussion during the interview about maternity/paternity leave policies or childcare responsibilities. Likewise, you may feel you want the program to know how old you are, if you think your age places you at an advantage for some reason. If you do include your age, do so by listing birth date, not age in number of years.
  7. Although social security numbers and examination scores are frequently included, they are probably not necessary and may be unwise to include in a CV. If this information is pertinent to your candidacy, it will be requested on the application or at some point in the application process. Do try to include a list of your outside interests or extracurricular activities in this section or in a separate section. It will help to develop a broader picture of you personality and character. Also any special talents or qualifications that have not been given due recognition in other parts of the CV should be highlighted here or in a separate section. For example, you should include things like fluency in other languages, ACLS certification, etc.
  8. Bibliography/Presentations: List any papers published or presented by title, place, and date of publication or presentation. If this list is very lengthy, you may want to append it separately.
  9. References: These are generally provided through Letters of Recommendation, but you may be asked to give both personal and professional or references. If requested, these names may be included on the CV or appended as a part of a cover letter or application form.

A Final Point

Some students my question the need to prepare a CV, feeling that there is some redundancy of information already on applications and personal statements. However, creating your own, personally formatted CV will be beneficial to you in a number of ways: being able to refer to a completed CV will simplify the creation of your application, you will need to supply a copy to Student Affairs for your blue book (this will enhance your MSPE/DL), and it is good interview etiquette to hand a CV to interviewers when you meet with them.

Suggested References

  • Bostwick, Burdette E., Resume Writing, A comprehensive How-To-Do-It Guide (fourth edition), Wiley Publishing, 1990.
  • Dickhat, Harold W., The Professional Resume and Job Search Guide, Prentice-Hall, 1981.
  • Brennan, L., Strand, S., and Gruber, E., Resumes for Better Jobs (sixth edition), Wiley Publishing, 1994.
  • Hochheiser, R., Throw Away Your Resume (third edition), Barons Educational Series, 1995.
  • AMSA’s Student Guide to the Appraisal and Selection of House Staff Training Programs, American Medical Student Association, 1997. Available from AMSA:
  • Tysinger, James W., PhD., Resumes and Personal Statements for Health Professionals (second edition), Galen Press, 1999.
  • Le, T., MD, Bhushan, V., MD, Amin, C., MD, First Aid for the Match (fourth edition), McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2006.

Sample C.V.s


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