Showing is better than telling. And when it comes to applying to residency programs, a medical curriculum vitae (CV) can show your strengths and accomplishments in your relatively short career in medicine to date.

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A CV is used by professionals in the fields of academia, medicine, teaching and research as an overview of accomplishments that are relevant to the academic realm. Accordingly, it should be updated frequently to reflect the development of your career.

“We talk to students about preparing their CV from their first year of med school,” said Mark Meyer, MD, senior associate dean for student affairs at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “It provides them a working body of information, so that when fourth year begins, they have a collection of their service, their leadership, their research. It provides the longitudinal accounting, which will be used as a base document for their entire professional career.” 

When it comes to creating a comprehensive CV that will help medical students successfully match with a residency program, Dr. Meyer offered a few do’s and don’ts.

Your CV should begin with your educational history. From there, Dr. Meyer recommended that applicants highlight the area of their application that they believe is strongest.

That could be leadership experience, research experience or service work. If you have timeline gaps in education, particularly if you were working, it is important to clarify this in some portion of your CV.

Learn more about the six steps to building a competitive CV.

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Your CV is going to be an important document prior to the residency application process; Dr. Meyer said it can be a well-versed CV can be a key to securing away rotation slots for students entering their final year of medical school.

For residency applicants, the CV is digital. It is, generally, submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), which transmits students’ residency program applications and key information from their designated dean's office to program directors. Because of that, you are likely going to be copying and pasting your CV into fields presented by ERAS. That does take away some of the potential formatting headaches, but that doesn’t mean you should not be dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s.

“It’s an important tool for residency programs that might get hundreds of applications,” said Dr. Meyer, an AMA member. “Residency programs use CVs a lot for discussion during the interview. Whether it’s your education or research background, the items on your CV can help start a conversation.”

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Dr. Meyer has found that sometimes students fail to explain their most significant selling points in necessary detail. If you worked at your campus student-run clinic, for instance, you should explain your role in its success in one or two sentences.

“You need to provide enough accessory information so people can understand that it is a leadership or service activity,” he said.

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Dr. Meyer subscribes to the belief that you don’t want to overload program directors with information.

“They are interviewing a lot of people,” he said. “They don’t have time to invest in looking through nonsignificant details like experiences you had in undergrad or even high school.”

Proofreading is obviously key. As is making sure you are on track in the content of your CV.

Your medical school is likely to have a faculty member or learning specialist who can offer insight on your CV before you submit to residency programs, Dr. Meyer said.

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