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Seven cardinal sins of medical resume writing

If you want general advice on how to put together a medical resume there is plenty to find online.

There are no excuses for not having the right content but I wanted to share my own thoughts on some dos and don't on formatting and style, arrived at after eyeballing thousands of doctors' resumes over the course of my career in medical recruitment.

Let me firstly assure you that no-one sits down to read your resume for fun, which is worth bearing in mind when you sit down to write it. It is a means to an end. Your mission is to convey relevant information about yourself as succinctly and articulately as possible.

Essentially what I want to know is: can you do the job I am advertising, and do it well; will you be a generally decent person to work with and can I establish this from scanning your resume in 2 minutes or less?

With this in mind here is my list of personal pet peeves when it comes to reading medical resumes:

  • Too long – I don’t want to wade through your entire life story so try to keep it relevant to the job you are applying for and down-play everything else.
  • Too short – a list of job titles tells me very little (doctors are notorious for this). Give me some context about your most recent or relevant work. Describe your place of work, tell me your report lines, list your responsibilities and outline things you have achieved.
  • Bad formatting – when I see all CAPS, bad indents and no paragraphs I start to glaze over. It also makes me think you are disorganised.
  • Spelling errors – first mistake and you are at the bottom of the pile. Second mistake and you are at the top of the reject pile. Spelling mistakes make you look sloppy, careless and several IQ points lower than you probably are. Just don’t do it.
  • Mug shots – personally I don’t mind whether you include a photo or not, but if you do, make sure you are smiling and showing your teeth. Anything else makes you look unfriendly, suspicious or downright criminal. If in doubt, leave it out.
  • Back to front resumes – when I pick up a resume and see that your career summary starts with your first job and culminates in your last I feel a strong urge to move onto the next candidate. Always start with your most recent job and work backwards.

As mentioned, this is a subjective list of my own personal gripes but I am sure that they are shared by many who, as part of their job, have to regularly plow through dozens of doctors resumes at a time.

I thought I'd save my biggest bugbear to last.  Never refer to yourself in the third person. John does not like that one little bit!

Dr John Bethell

Director, Wavelength International

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