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career focus

Usual format for medical CVs
Heading (initials, surname, one
Writing CVs and handling job interviews qualification)
Contact details
Many overseas doctors fear writing CVs and are frightened of job + Postal address
interviews. Elitham Turya explains that there is nothing to be scared of + Telephone
+ Email

t school Dr Sara Kirabo was a prefect for jobs, training positions and research grants, + Personal identity
health issues. At university she partici- and as a source of sorted information for + Names (first name(s), surname)
pated in health education campaigns application forms. + Date of birth
to halt the spread of the human immuno- + Nationality
deficiency virus (HIV). She learnt counsel- + Sex
Sara Kirabo was looking for an SHO post in + Career summary
ling to help fellow students cope with the
paediatrics + Qualifications, dates, institution, and
She showed the CV to her attachment super-
Her interest in counselling led her into a location
visor and was advised to sort out a few points, + Professional organisations (GMC,
career in psychological medicine. After
and to list her publications in a standard royal medical college, MDU, etc)
working as medical officer in a mental hos-
format. They also discussed a cover letter to + Career plan and how the job will help
pital she took and passed the Professional
accompany the CV when applying for jobs.2 you achieve it
Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) tests,
Sara knew that when a recruiter started + Summary of skills and achievements
did a clinical attachment, and found a post as
reading her CV, she would have less than a + Education (dates, institution, course,
a senior house officer (SHO) in psychiatry in
minute to convince them of her suitability for prizes, other achievements)
a desirable hospital.
a post. She wrote a CV that is concise, attrac- + Work history (date, position,
tive, and easy to skim in search of important employer, location, duties, and
How did she do it?
information. It was printed on good quality, achievements)
The first part of this article discusses how
white, 80 g/m2 paper. It would not be the + Courses, conferences attended
Sara wrote her curriculum vitae (CV). The
weight or cost of paper on which the CV was + Presentations at meetings
second describes how Sara handled the job
printed, but the content and quality of her + Clinical audit, research
interview. Sara, her CV, and the doctors
writing that would impress consultants when + Publications in journals or books
named in it are fictitious. Names of known
they shortlisted for interviews. + Additional information—useful skills
institutions are used to maintain a sense of
Sara avoided excess prose and tables and pre- (information technology, languages,
etc) that do not fit elsewhere
sented the information mostly in note form.
+ Hobbies—leisure interests and
Long paragraphs would not allow key points
Writing a CV activities.
Sara wanted a CV that would get her inter- to stand out, and tables would not highlight
+ Referees—names and contact details
views for SHO posts in psychiatry. She read past duties and achievements. Sara’s CV
of two people
about writing CVs,1 talked with junior doc- emphasised her achievements, but contained
tors and sought advice from her clinical no lies:
attachment supervisor. The GMC’s professional conduct com-
Sara had a choice of formats—the tar- mittee found a doctor guilty of serious When she passes part 1 MRCPsych she will
geted, the chronological, and the functional. professional misconduct after she list it separately too till she gets the full mem-
In addition to personal details, a targeted CV made false claims about her academic bership. She will not include failed exams.
names the target job and summarises work achievements and employment history. Sara’s career plan was concise and
history; a chronological CV lists work history The committee suspended her regis- described how the job would help her
from the first to the last job. A functional CV tration for 12 months.3 achieve it. It was on the first page of her CV.
highlights functional skills and achievements Sara wrote the CV in an active language Sara summarised skills she gained from
and summarises work history from the cur- showing that she is an active and decisive her career. In future when she applies for a
rent or most recent post back to first. Sara, individual: she was careful with grammar and specialist registrar (SpR) post she will sum-
like most doctors, used the functional format spelling, used a spellchecker, and then read the marise her skills and achievements to high-
to write her CV.2 CV carefully. Sara was afraid that bad spelling light what the employer would get by
She followed the “Usual format for medi- and poor grammar might lead to rejection of appointing her to the post.
cal CVs” (box), made notes on all items listed, her application. The education entry highlights leadership
typed, edited, and arranged them to produce Let us briefly clarify a few items in “Usual responsibilities held at high school and uni-
a document (figure) that summarises her format for medical CVs” that puzzled Sara as versity to indicate Sara’s leadership potential.
personal, educational, and career details. She she wrote her CV. Under work experience Sara listed posts
can use her CV to inquire about, or apply for The heading announces the subject of the she had held and her duties and achieve-
document and avoids the need for a front ment in each. Her clinical attachment is not
sheet naming the doctor described in the CV. an employment post. She listed it separately
Sara’s CV is headed: Dr S Kirabo MB ChB. under “clinical attachment.”
Sara’s contact details are adequate for the She has no need to hide or minimise any
recruiter to telephone, email, or send her a aspect of her medical career. All legitimate
letter. Her personal identity does not include medical work, including national service,
her marital status, spouse’s nationality or size should be included in a CV. Interviewers like
of her family (she is married and has two to ask questions about atypical careers.
young kids). She could have included her Sara accounted for significant gaps in her
hepatitis B status. career. She had heard that some consultants
Sara’s qualification is MB ChB. When she scrutinise CVs for career breaks and discard
gets other degrees or membership of the those with long unexplained gaps.
royal college of psychiatrists she will add Sara described her research activities,
them to her CV. Her pass at PLAB tests is not listed conferences attended and presentations
a qualification; so she listed it separately. made.

266 BMJ CAREERS 19 JUNE 2004

career focus

Fig: Dr Sara Kirabo’s CV

BMJ CAREERS 19 JUNE 2004 267

career focus
She followed the Vancouver style when viewing for. But as she did not know London,
listing her publications.4 All publications, be she visited the hospital, noted the route and
they journal articles, abstracts in conference where the interview would be held. She met
proceedings, book chapters, or whole books, people in the post, some nurses, and one
qualify for listing in a CV whether done consultant.
abroad or in the United Kingdom.
Sara listed her hobbies to show that she has Preparing for interview
a life outside medicine. She gave names and Sara sought advice from junior doctors at
contact details of two referees. After settling in Watford Hospital. One registrar advised her
her new job she will ask two suitable consult- to read her CV before the interview. “Inter-
ants for permission to name them as ref- viewers will have copies of your CV” he said, “and
erees. References from consultants a doctor will question you on its content.” Two SHOs who
has worked with are more influential than had recently succeeded at job interviews
those from supervisors of clinical attach- took Sara through a mock interview and
ments. explained how they had handled questions
The length of Sara’s CV—three pages—was like:
determined by jobs, audits, research, presen- + Why did you apply for this job?
tations and publications done, and courses + What are your career objectives?
and conferences attended. Two to three + What are your weaknesses/strengths?
pages should suffice for most house officers + Tell us about a clinical audit you have
an interviewer was speaking she did not
and junior SHOs. A senior SHO applying for done
interrupt, but listened and answered the
an SpR post may need four to five pages.2 + Tell us about an interesting case you
question that followed the speech.
Sara did not pay a commercial company to have handled recently
Sara was asked about her work in health
write her CV. Such companies do not write + What is the most challenging clinical
education and counselling fellow students.
CVs, but type, edit, and print (produce) docu- situation you have met?
She gave succinct but full answers. Interview-
ments from information supplied by clients.
ers were impressed by her understanding of
They print the document on unnecessarily Presenting for interview
the HIV pandemic.
expensive paper and charge a lot of money What did Sara look like (appearance, confi-
for the service. By following “Usual format dence), and sound like (voice,language)? Critical
for doctors’ CVs” Sara crafted her CV and decisions (trust and distrust, like and dislike, Questions about the past
Sara was aware that she might be asked
asked her supervisor’s secretary for advice on etc) are often made after brief
about past failures. She was prepared to talk
getting it professionally typed and printed. encounters—interviews. Only qualified can-
about one case that did not go well. The
Because she asked politely, the secretary didates would be interviewed. So, it would
cause of mishap had been identified and
typed and printed the CV free of charge. She not be qualifications but the impression she
lessons learnt. She had reflected on the inci-
could have directed Sara to one of several created by her appearance, confidence,
dent and could discuss it confidently and
commercial typists nearby. Sara recently speech, and demeanour that would determine
rationally stressing the lessons and not the
brought her an ornamental basket from the outcome.
failure. She was not asked.
Uganda. Sara dressed for a professional interview
Finally, she was asked if she had any ques-
and not a party. She wore smart, clean, and
Handling job interviews tions. She thanked the panel for the oppor-
socially appropriate clothes—not a T shirt or
An interview is an occasion when individuals tunity, said she had talked with doctors and
jeans. She could have worn trousers, a shirt,
or groups meet and talk with each other, with nurses on the ward, and had no questions.
and a jacket, but she felt more comfortable in
one side asking questions and the other She was told a decision would be made later
a skirt, a shirt, and a matching jacket. She
answering them. In a job interview an appli- that afternoon and that she could wait for the
took her hepatitis B serology status, eligibility
cant (interviewee) is seen and questioned by result if she wished. She said she would wait.
for limited registration, and passport with
an employer or their representative to deter- She left the interview room confidently and
mine the applicant’s suitability. politely.
Although interviewees strive to convince At 5.30 pm., three of the 10 interviewees
interviewers on their suitability, interviewers were offered jobs. Sara was among the suc-
At the human resources department Sara
ask themselves a few questions about each cessful doctors. She accepted the job offer.
made her inquiries politely and waited
calmly. On entering the interview room she
Is she the most suitable? Did Sara have the Elitham B Turya consultant in child health
was introduced to three consultants and a Trafford NHS Trust, Manchester
right personality and drive? Was it the right
human resources officer. She shook hands
job for her?
with a moderately firm grip and made direct EBT acknowledges the help of a Ugandan senior
Will she do the job? If interviewers felt that
eye contact with panel members as they were house officer whose career inspired Sara’s CV.
although capable, Sara would not willingly
introduced to her. She sat in the chair indi- 1 Strunk W, White EB. The elements of style. London: Long-
perform her duties, they would not appoint
cated by the chairman, made herself com- man 1999.
fortable, and waited for questions. 2 Ritter RM. The Oxford manual of style. London: BCA for
Will she fit in? People want somebody who Oxford University Press, 2002.
She spoke clearly, concisely, and simply; 3 GMC. GMC case book: doctor suspended after making
will fit in nicely. Sara would be appointed if
neither whispering nor shouting. She false claims. GMC News, 14 October 2002.
interviewers felt she would fit into the
watched interviewers’ faces to see if they 4 International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.
team—character, drive, dependability, initia- Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to
heard and understood her answers. She did biomedical journals. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:36-47.
tive, congeniality, etc.
not draw attention to her weaknesses nor
Pre-interview inquiries argue with interviewers. She smiled and
After sending out 60 applications, Sara was laughed appropriately.
shortlisted for interview by two mental Sara answered the questions asked. She Further reading
hospitals—one in Yorkshire and the Mauds- gave concise but informative answers confi- + Turya EB. Your career after PLAB:
ley in south London. The interviews were on dently and politely. If a question was not clear survival tools for young doctors.
the same date. Her supervisor recom- she asked for an explanation or for it to be Manchester: Edukom, 2003.
mended attending the London interview. repeated. When she did not know the + McErin S. Writing the medical CV.
Sara did not have to visit the Maudsley. answer, she said so confidently. She did not Manchester: Edukom, 2004.
She could have rung and spoken with the use jargon or abbreviations unless she was
incumbent of the post she would be inter- sure the interviewers knew them too. When

268 BMJ CAREERS 19 JUNE 2004