Dr. Daniel’s Top 10: CV Writing Tips

Top 10 Tips for Curriculum Vitae Writing


If you have not yet started one, it is a good time to do so now.

A curriculum vitae (CV) is similar to a resume but differs in length, what it is used for and what it includes.  A resume is a concise (1-2 page) summary while a CV is more detailed and typically 2 or more pages.  CVs are used primarily for academic, education, scientific or research positions.  Here are some recommendations.  Please feel free to include more.


1.  Start Early:  It is important to keep a portfolio of pertinent activities and their dates as they come.  If you volunteer as a science fair judge, write it down.  If you win an award, write it down.  These activities build up quickly and you don’t want to forget any of them only to later spend hours or days trying to remember what you did and when you did it.  Later on you may take out what you feel is unnecessary.

2.  Sell Yourself:  I know this is tough (maybe not for everyone… lol) but this is all you have to impress a program.  Remember they have a stack of great candidates.  This is a quick screening tool.  What will make you stand out?

3.  Content:   There is wiggle room on this but you should consider having these sections:

  • Identification/Contact:  full name listed at the top followed by contact information (address, phone, email).  Use professional email accounts and make sure the account will remain active.  Remember, you do not know where this info may end up circulating.  It may be best to use non-personal contact info (i.e. school operator phone number and school address) but you need to make sure you can really be reached this way.  No need to title it curriculum vitae… they already know this.
  • Education:  list all institutions and years of attendance post high school.  I would also include summer school.
  • Professional Experience:  list inter/externiships, advisory board committee, volunteering at hospitals, etc.  If applying to med school may consider adding work positions or things like
  • Teaching Experience:  including tutor positions.
  • Professional Organizations:   List all organizations you are a part of and any leadership positions you hold.  Look into
  • Honors and Awards:  Deans list, scholarships, etc.  The further along you are the more relevant things should be.  For example, when applying for medical school they are looking for more well-rounded candidates so an award for MVP of your intramural ping pong team may be worth mentioning while this probably should not be put into an application for residency and above.
  • Research/Publications:  list any research work you have taken part of. Include all published papers, abstracts, or poster presentations.
  • Personal Info:  Hobbies, interests, activities, married, children etc.  Pretty self-explanatory.  Keep short and sweet avoiding verbose language.

4.  Timeline/Length:  Unless specified by a particular academic institution, I would arrange things in reverse chronological order.  Start with your most recent experiences.  Most people want to know what was recently done and care less about what you did 10 years ago (although it may still be relevant).  Your CV should be at least 2 pages long.  The further your career goes, the longer it will get.  It may then be wise to have a short and long version.

5.  Design:  Don’t merge things together.  You want this document to be pleasing to the eye.  Consider using line separators between sections.  I would avoid color.  Remember many people reading these are middle age so keep the font size large enough and style simple (Times New Roman).

6.  Think Outside the Box:  You need to beef up your CV.  Join medical professional societies.  While traveling internationally, consider volunteering for a day or two.  Ask professors if they have a project you can assist with.  Publish papers.  Tutor and mentor others.  There are so many ways to stand out.  Interviewers will find something interesting to discuss.  I remember running into the program director at UT southwestern who still remembered me years later because I included that I was a cartoonist on my CV.  She loved it.

7.  Always Have Access:  Keep a copy on you at all times.  Place it in your email or drop box so you can print or email to someone when needed.  If going to a school or career fair print out a few copies and take with you.  You may consider printing on good strong paper.

8.  Do Not Lie! This is very very important!  You would be surprised how often this occurs.  Everything can be traced so do not jeopardize your future.  Many well respected professionals get busted years or decades later for falsified information on their CVs.  Don’t plagiarize anything or include any information that is not yet completed.  Even if you are sure a paper will be published, just wait until it is official before adding to a CV.  Be able to explain everything on your CV.

9.  Avoid Controversial Information:   I personally think it is great to include things like volunteering at your church, mosque, temple etc.  I would avoid including controversial politically related information.  You never know where the reviewers stand on those topics.  Also, there is no need to put down your grades or GPA anywhere here.  They should get a sense of that possibly from your awards and they should have access to it from another source.

10.  Review:  Proofread and have a mentor review it for you.  Take this to someone already doing what you want to do.  Otherwise you may get very bad advice.


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