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How to Create an Excellent CV

Stephen Canton is a third year MD/MS candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/College of Business. You can follow him on instagram and linkedin.

First, you may ask, what is a CV? What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

Curriculum vitae, which is Latin for “course of life,” is a detailed document that highlights your professional and academic history. On the other hand, a resume is essentially a shorter version of a CV that provides a concise overview of your education, previous roles, and skills. A CV usually focuses more on academic coursework and research, which is often more appropriate for your career in medicine.

In this document, we will provide background on the document and an easy-to-follow template to ensure that you have a compelling CV that stands out among other applications. It is crucial that you start this immediately if you haven’t already. Do NOT be worried if it’s not perfect when you start; the most important thing is that you begin to note your accomplishments now. You can continue to refine it as you go.

You do not want to start crafting this when it comes time for you to apply to medical school or on your ERAS – that’s when it becomes stressful. Also, having this prepared will allow you to have your accomplishments in an organized, ready-to-go document when it comes time to apply for scholarships, research opportunities, away rotations, etc. during undergraduate, medical school, and beyond.

We are providing you with sample CV’s but first, lets discuss how to make your CV stand out.

Here are a couple of steps to be aware of before you start your document.

  1. Contact information: Full name, phone number, and email address. Including your physical address is optional (not recommended in most cases).
  2. Detail your academic history in reverse-chronological order: Medical school, graduate school, undergraduate school, and high school. Only include your most recent two educational experiences (ex, most individuals stop listing their high school after they graduate from college). Dates attended is optional.
  3. Record your professional experience: Company or organization, job title, and dates employed, starting with your most recent job (reverse-chronological order). List your job duties, experience gained, and achievements. Use numbers to measure your impact when possible.
  4. Include relevant skills and qualifications: include both hard and soft skills that make you the best candidate for the job.
  • Hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities, such as reading, writing, or computer programming. Soft skills are the traits that make you who you are, such as etiquette, communication skills, and affability.
  1. List honors and awards: Award, Year awarded the organization that provided the award. You can also include details about the award, such as how often the award is given, how many people receive it, etc. (included details are options but usually a nice).
  2. Include relevant publications and presentations: Relevant citations of presentations, papers, studies, books, or other publications important to your professional history. Publications should include authors, date published, summary, volume, page, and DOI number. Presentations should include the title, date, and location of the presentation. Ensure that you use the same citation style for every citation.
  3. List your professional associations and affiliations: Name of the organization (ex, American Medical Association), geographic location or chapter, and dates of active membership.

Other important tips:

  • Your name should stand out a little – slightly different color or bigger font
  • Always use action words (ex, Served, initiated) for each bullet
  • Make sure that your action word corresponds to whether it is current or if you performed the activity in the past. For example, if you list the activity as Present, the action verb should serving vs. served
  • Ensure that all you have proper spacing
  • Ensure that EVERYTHING is spelled correctly and that there aren’t any grammatical errors
  • Check punctuation
  • It is optional to place a period (“.”) at the end of the bulleted item, but if you do, ensure that you are consistent throughout your CV
  • Hobbies are optional
  • References are recommended
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