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Writing a Curriculum Vitae

It is never too early to construct a CV. Opportunities to advance your career come along every now and then, so keep your CV up to date. It can be used for many things besides job applications – such as grants for travel or research, promotions, and applications for postgraduate courses.

CVs should be neat, concise, and easy to read. Use fonts that are easy to read (12 points minimum), good quality white paper, generous margins (at least 25 mm), and headings or bullet points to make it easy to scan. Resist any attempt to ‘dress-up’ your CV. Experienced assessors can see through such attempts and it only takes one uncovered instance of hyperbole to destroy your credibility.

Organising the structure of your CV

There are three main ways to organise your CV: the chronological, functional, or hybrid model. The chronological approach clearly outlines the development of your career path but lacks detail. The functional approach concentrates on skills and abilities. The hybrid model is usually the best choice because it emphasises both skills and experience. CVs can take many forms, but the following text outlines a fairly conventional approach.

Personal details

The key details are: name, address, contact details (phone, fax, email), registration details, and memberships of professional associations. It is best to be comprehensive as it is easier to edit an extensive document than to try and add details from memory.

Overview

The next item should be a paragraph summarizing your achievements and indicating the direction of your career. This allows readers to understand your circumstances and ambitions. It provides a context for the more detailed information that follows. If applying for a position, state how it would help you to achieve your career plan.

Qualifications

List details about your education and qualifications. Constructing a comprehensive account from the beginning provides a better scaffold for adding new information and makes it easier to follow the progression of your career. However, when applying for a position, it is usually best to present information in reverse chronological order. For instance, it would be crazy to start off with details about your primary school education when applying for a Senior Registrar position. For qualifications, list the dates, courses, institutions, and locations. Mention non-academic achievements (such as school prefect, sports teams, special interest societies, and so on).

Work history

Your work history should include the position titles, dates, names of employers, and short summaries of each position. Include comments about the nature of each position as well as the experiences and skills that you accrued – don’t forget to mention your teaching experiences, prizes, computer skills, participation in audits, and memberships of committees. Include summaries of any research activities. Whenever possible, provide evidence of your skills and attributes.

Publication record

Give priority to books and original articles published in peer-reviewed journals. If possible, consider listing the citations for each article. Use the same format that journals use to cite publications. It is best not to list articles ‘In preparation’ – instead include a paragraph entitled ‘Current research interests'. List abstracts and other minor publications separately. List details of all meetings where you have given a presentation or displayed a poster. Don’t forget to include material published in a digital format.

Maintain an up-to-date CV

One of the biggest problems with CVs is that they are incomplete. People who write their CV under pressure over a couple of days invariably leave out key pieces of information – a CV will not do you justice unless it is thoughtfully constructed over a prolonged period. Maintaining an up-to-date CV also draws attention towards any deficiencies in your career and allows you time to make adjustments. Constant revision also gives you the opportunity to refine your CV by correcting poor grammar and eliminating typographical errors.

Tailor your CV to the circumstances

Each position is unique and requires a different mix of skills and experience. Go through your work history, emphasising the skills and experience most relevant to this position. Summarise or leave out information that is not relevant.

Consider writing a one-page CV

It is useful to keep a current one-page CV as a PDF for easy dissemination. However, constructing a one-page CV requires a lot of thought, especially if it is constructed around skills and abilities rather than the conventional headings. If appropriate, add a short list of your major publications with their citation records.

Additional information

Online resources:

The Physician CV (The Doctor Job)

Writing a CV that brings interviews (Physicians Search)

Resume writing (American College of Physician Executives)

Books:

Resumes for the Health Care Professional, 2nd Edition by Kim Marino

Australian Resumes For Dummies by Amanda McCarthy

The Global Resume and CV Guide by Mary Anne Thompson

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