Cover Letter & Curriculum Vitae

By Anne Taylor, MD

Your cover letter and curriculum vitae will be the first step in making a good impression with a potential employer. They should not only be a good indicator of your education, training and experience, but should also make a professional impression on the practice representative.

Cover Letter

While the saying goes, "Don't judge a book by it's cover"-we are all guilty of making and giving first impressions that last and may be hard to sway. So, your first impression on a prospective employer must be your VERY BEST EFFORT. When preparing the cover letter, use classy personal stationary or professional paper, and a little heavier stock just feels better. Choose a font that reflects the same-but make it easy to read, no smaller than 12pt. It is not necessary to have it type set, as the quality of computer printers is fine. Finally, it must NOT be a form letter, but instead tailored for the particular opportunity. Keep it short and sweet, one page only. Emphasize your best qualities, keeping the cover letter interesting, accurate and to the point. Most importantly, provide the recipient the best way to contact you, including all methods possible. By putting the extra effort into the cover letter, you can showcase yourself as the ideal candidate who has both the professional skills and training, but also the personal skills and enthusiasm for the job.

Curriculum Vitae

While the rest of the world summarizes their history with a Resume, for us, it is called a curriculum vitae and really has to be the story of your life-or at least the part pertinent to your life becoming a doctor and life (what life?) since then in residency. Therefore, when you first write it, just build on your resume that you used to get into residency. As the years role on, your C.V. can become a lengthy document, but at the early stage one or two pages is sufficient.

The most important feature is organization. The most serious consideration will be given to a CV that is clear and easy to follow. Work history should be in chronological order. There should be no gaps in training or work history -include everything you have done. It should provide key information about your work skills, experiences but should not be too detailed — everyone knows what a surgery residency is about — but be sure to include any extras such as volunteer surgery work, or rotations outside the usual. The educational history must also be chronological-and include specific dates of completion and degree obtained.

Your CV should also contain some or all of the following categories:

  • Personal information -- including your birth date, marital status
  • Education
  • Professional Licenses and Certification-including dates passed on written and/or oral exams
  • Academic/Teaching Experience
  • Technical skills
  • Related Experiences
  • Professional/Academic Awards and Honors
  • Research/Grants/Presentations
  • Ongoing Research interests
  • Organizations/Affiliations
  • Community Service
  • Volunteer Work

Although it is not necessary to provide references at this point, you may want to include a few, perhaps your training program director, particularly if you are applying to an academic position.

You have only one chance at a first impression-so strive to present your credentials as professionally as you can. The thought and care you give to your cover letter and CV will pay off when you are invited to the next step-the interview!