While I should have been excited the first time I secured a meeting with an attending to discuss a potential research opportunity, I was incredibly anxious over one line in the attending’s email. “Before our meeting, would you mind sending me a copy of your CV?” As a first year medical student, all that I had at that time was the résumé I used for applying to medical school, and I really didn’t have much to add to it. Instead of preparing appropriately for the meeting by reading the attending’s previous published research articles, I spent two days learning how to build a curriculum vitae on the internet. I was hopeless trying to decide which elements to incorporate from the various examples I read. I pieced together a rather motley document to email him before our meeting (as fate would have it, the attending chose a different medical student for the project).
About a year later, I stumbled upon a model CV from our medical school. I realized how different this version was from the examples I had seen online (largely targeted for the business world). I swiftly constructed my CV based on this guide and over the next two years since then have tweaked the sections and formatting to better align with the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application. This CV template will allow you to accurately demonstrate to mentors, residency programs, letter of recommendation writers, and others your accomplishments and achievements. Copy and paste it into a word document and begin to build your CV. The formatting may require minor adjustments.
We will walk through each section of the CV and try to clarify any ambiguity.
Use your official name, and if you go by another name consider putting it in quotations. List an address that you (or someone) will be checking for mail. List your cellphone number and a non-institutional email address. I recommend creating a separate email address for going through the application process (I used my personal gmail) as some institutional email servers filter out external emails.
This should include any graduate school (your medical degree, any master degrees) and your undergraduate degree. At this point, high school is no longer relevant. I recommend listing your USMLE scores under your degree (in my experience, attendings will ask your Step 1 score if you don’t list it). I also recommend major medical school honors such as election to Gold Humanism Honor Society or Alpha Omega Alpha under your degrees as well. Everything else can appear later in the Honors and Awards section. For your undergraduate degree, I think it is important to include what you majored and minored in. I had an extensive conversation with a chief of the plastic surgery division on one of my away rotations after he noticed from my CV that I had a minor in Theology. You never know what will catch the eye of an attending.
Honors and Awards
General format is to list the award name, and the group that awards is gave you the award (whether that be a school, professional society, alumni association). It is important to also list a brief description of the award. While the award may be well known at your institution or in a given group, don’t assume that everyone reading your CV will know what it is without a brief explanation. Keep explanations to one short sentence if possible. This is where I would list scholarships and research awards. If you have honors from college that are noteworthy, I would also list those here. Any major awards from high school such as being valedictorian or an Eagle Scout (I was asked about this at nearly every institution) should also be included.
In the left hand column, you want to list the time frame that you have worked with this attending. I chose to divide research experiences by individual attending. I have seen others divide research experience by project, but I think organizing it by an attending is best, particularly if you have worked with numerous attendings. I used ‘research assistant’ as my title/role on almost every research experience (the ERAS application portal will ask for these items). I also classified my research experiences by the specialty that the project was associated with (plastic surgery research). I would list the attendings name, with his or her degrees, and academic titles (professor, assistant professor, associate professor, chair, ect.) List the attending’s departmental or divisional affiliation. Then, list a description of what research you did and what your role was. I kept each of these down to one sentence, though I have seen many people write a full paragraph and provide extensive detail. I think either is okay, but lean towards brevity.
While I did not list a work experience section (I went straight through undergrad to medical school and took no time off), if you had another career or worked before coming to medical school, add this section to your CV. Programs will ask about any timeline gaps in your application, so having it already listed on your CV allows them to focus on you and why you are interested in their program.
This is the first of many sections related to research products. This was the bulk of my CV. I have them subdivided in this way because this will help you streamline the process for when you enter the information to ERAS. Under this publications heading, this is where you want to list primary research articles that you have authored or co-authored in reverse chronological order (the most recent at the top). I would listed publications here that have been accepted for publication, are in press, or are already published with a DOI or PMID. Use a standard citation format that includes the authors last names followed by first and middle initials, the title of the article, the journal name, month and year of publication and the DOI or PMID if the article is published. If not published yet, list “accepted” or “in-press” at the end of the citation.
ERAS allows you to specifically designate these, so if an abstract you presented at a conference gets later published in a journal, you can list that here.
ERAS has you specifically designate book chapters as separate from primary research publications so I recommend listing it separately on your CV. ERAS requires you to submit all of the publishing details of the book. This was very difficult for me to determine for one of the book chapters that I helped write. I recommend getting in touch with your attending to make sure you have the appropriate information to list these citations.
This section could include articles that you were featured in or wrote. One of my posters at a conference was picked up by a news network and an article was written on our work. I listed it in this section. I also helped to create a surgical video that was published online. I listed it here.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important sections for ERAS and I think it is very important to have up to date when you give your CV to mentors or are applying for away rotations. Submitted manuscripts can be listed on your official ERAS application (this section composed 37% of all of the publication/presentation listings on my ERAS CV when I submitted my application). This is a great feature of the application process, particularly given the long duration of the peer-review process. Simply list the authors last names followed by initials, the title of the project, the journal it was submitted to, and the moth and date of submission.
Manuscripts in Preparation
You cannot include this on your official ERAS CV. However, this is a great indicator to mentors, letter of recommendation writers, and program directors of projects that are close to submission. List the authors last names followed by initials and the working title of the project. Your goal should be to move as many projects from this category to the manuscripts submitted section.
Studies in Progress
Again, this section cannot be added to the ERAS CV. For the same reasons as above, it serves as a nice demonstration of your ongoing scholarly activity. List the authors last names followed by initials and the working title of the project. Work diligently to get as many of these projects finished and submitted before the application deadline.
You should list these in the same general citation format. Start with the authors last names followed by initials and the title of the talk. List the conference or setting of the talk. Include the city and state where the talk was given as well as the month and year. It is also important to list what type of presentation it was (poster, oral, plenary, ect). For abstracts that were accepted but not able to be presented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I would also include a brief caveat statement explaining this.
Activities and Service
This will become a substantial portion of your application and CV. List your role or title, the organization that it was affiliated with, and the city and state of the experience. Here, it is also important to give a description of what your role was. There may be many experiences or activities that would be well known to someone at your institution that would not be recognized outside of your school. It is okay to go a little deeper into each of these if you would like to, however my personal style is to maintain brevity.
This is where I would list memberships to honor societies from college (Phi Beta Kappa for example) or election to honor societies in medical school (AOA or GHHS). Also, if you have become a member of a specialty organization (when I was interested in urology, I became a student member of the American Urological Association) include it here and the length of time you have been a member.
List any languages other than English that you are proficient in and indicate the level of proficiency. Being fluent in another language is an extremely attractive quality. But if you list it, be ready to speak it. One of my interviews for residency was conducted completely in Spanish because the interviewer wanted to test if I really was fluent in Spanish as I had listed.
Some people will build an extensive list (I have seen people list 30+ hobbies). To me, that seems like a bit much. I would select 5-10 maximum hobbies or outside interests to include. These are one of the most commonly asked questions in interviews. So if you list hiking as a hobby, be prepared to discuss your most recent and favorite hikes. If you list cooking, be ready to walk an attending through your favorite recipe. If you list a musical instrument, you should be ready to tell the interviewers what songs you play. While you want to show that you are an interesting person outside of the hospital, don’t list a hobby or interest if you aren’t able to speak on your involvement or interest in that particular activity. You will be asked.
Composing a CV for the first time can be a daunting task. This post helps you with what to include in your CV and how to organize it. Keep these tips in mind when formulating your CV and set aside time to update it regularly. Be sure to carefully review your CV and ask a family member or friend to give it a read over for you. Remember, this is your way of presenting your accomplishments and activities. Invest in the time now to organize and format your CV well and it will payoff for you later.
Do you have questions about how to compose a CV or what information to include? Leave a comment below or contact Med Student Edge directly.