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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.)
- Professional Society Memberships: List any professional organizations
to which you belong and the years of your membership. Include
leadership positions held, if any.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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: http://www.amsa.org/resource/amsarc/bs.cfm.
- 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,
A part of every application process is the preparation of a personal
statement. Nearly every residency program will require you to submit
a personal statement. A personal statement serves to complement
and supplement your CV, including a description of your qualifications
and strengths in narrative form. The idea is to capture the "real
you" and combine this with your values, goals, and aspirations,
producing an end result that will make your application stand out
from the rest.
Feel free to highlight items that are found on your CV, if they
remind your reader of experiences you have had that make you well
prepared for the position. Convey both the seriousness of your intent
and your individuality, which may include the following:
- Skills you possess that are valued by that specialty in particular
- Coursework that shaped your specialty decision and how
- Experiences outside of school that were significant to you personally
and professionally (balance relevant personal and medical examples)
- Interests and experiences outside of medicine that demonstrate
your values and individuality
- Characteristics that you are looking for in a residency program
- Personal and professional goals (i.e. location, focuses, academics
vs. private practice, etc.) that exemplify your uniqueness
- A story or interesting anecdote to capture the reader's attention
Far from a meaningless exercise, the ability to write clear, realistic, and
carefully considered goals will leave your reader with a strong
impression of your maturity, self-awareness, and character.
The importance of good writing skills cannot be over-emphasized. The quality
of your writing in a personal statement is at least as important
as the content. Unfortunately, not only are good writing skills
allowed to deteriorate during medical school, in some sense they
are deliberately undermined in the interest of learning to write
concise histories and physicals. For the time being, forget everything
you know about writing histories and physicals. While preparing
your personal statement try to:
- Write in full sentences. Write clearly, using simple rather
than complicated sentences.
- Use short, well-developed paragraphs (one typewritten page,
double-spaced between paragraphs, is best).
- Avoid abbreviations. Do not assume your reader knows all
the acronyms that you do. As a courtesy, spell it out.
- Avoid overuse of “I” statements, such as I think,
I believe, I feel. Since it is autobiographical, it is implied
that they are your thoughts. For example, changing “I
think I would like to be involved…” to “My
plans are to…” eliminates the “I” statement
and is decisive.
- Conversely, do not be afraid to use “I” when it
is called for. For instance, "I" should be used to avoid awkward
- Avoid using jargon. If there is a shorter, simpler, less
pretentious way of putting it, do so.
- Use a dictionary and spell-checker. Misspelled words look bad.
- Use a thesaurus. Variety in the written language can interest,
but don’t get carried away.
- Get help if you think you need it. For a crash course in good
writing skills try The Elements of Style, by Strunk and
White. If you have a friend or relative with good writing or editing
skills, try to enlist their help. You may also obtain editing
help from Chuck Kennedy and Steve Jones in the Office of Student
The effort you put into polishing your statement or sketch is well
spent. Revise and rewrite it as often as necessary. Have someone
critique your drafts. Follow directions on the application regarding
length, spacing, typing, etc. Prepare your statement on a computer
and have a text only format ready for pasting into electronic applications.
If a hard copy is desired, print it on high quality bond paper.
It may be helpful to have a supportive faculty member go over your
personal statement with you. The authors of your recommendation
letters might also appreciate a copy for additional background information
about you that might not otherwise emerge on daily morning rounds.
You do not need to write separate personal statements for every
program, as long as the one you write contains the information the
application requires. Refer to faculty advisors for tips on what
a residency program in your desired specialty would like to see.
Some programs may ask for an autobiographical sketch. This is similar
to a personal statement, but it requires more information about
the personal events in your life, in addition to your goals and
personality characteristics. You may find it difficult not to overuse
“I” in an autobiography. Nevertheless, give yourself
enough time to reflect—writing a personal statement and/or
autobiography is very challenging. Remember, in the early part of
the residency selection process, it is the closest thing your reviewers
have to knowing you personally.
Sample Personal Statements