Medical Residency Resume, CV, & Cover Letter Writing Tips for StudentsSeptember 14, 2021
Last Updated on July 28, 2023
Most people think of documents like resumes and cover letters as separate, independent parts of the application process.
But putting together your application documents is also an essential step in understanding yourself as a job candidate. It’s a way to neatly summarize your unique strengths and accomplishments, making it easier to sell yourself during an interview.
That’s why even medical students using the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) to apply for residency should consider putting together a resume. Here are some tips on how to make yours stand out.
Use Your Medical Residency Resume as Talking Points
If you’re having trouble deciding what to include in your medical residency resume, think of it as an elevator pitch for your medical career. What would you want to say if you had to sum up your experience as a medical professional? If you only had a minute to sell yourself, what would you include?
Use your resume as talking points for a residency interview. You can refer to it when you’re trying to remember what makes you stand out from other candidates.
Keep it Relevant
While it’s tempting to include every accomplishment, award and project you’ve ever worked on,
it’s better to have a curated medical residency resume featuring only your most important accolades and achievements. A resume is like a trimmed hedge – the goal is to make it look as presentable as possible, which likely involves cutting away excess information.
Start by removing anything from high school. Residency application reviewers only need to know about your undergraduate and graduate career. It doesn’t matter that you were president of the high school science club or led a STEM initiative in 10th grade. If it happened before you went to college, remove it.
Make it Easy to Read
When you want your accomplishments to stand out, you have to make them as obvious as possible. Use bullet points underneath each listing and describe your duties or achievements in as few words as possible. You don’t need to use complete sentences; fragments are perfectly fine for resumes. Use a font size between 10 and 12, as anything smaller will be hard to see, and anything bigger will seem like you’re padding your resume. A basic Sans-serif font like Arial is a good choice. Don’t be too creative with your resume formatting – you don’t want it to stand out for the wrong reasons.
Leave plenty of white space between each listing, so it’s easy to read. The harder it is to parse through your resume, the more likely it is that something essential will get lost in the shuffle.
Get Outside Help
If your medical school has a career center or career development department, they may offer resume writing workshops or one-on-one help. Once you’ve polished your medical residency resume, take it there and ask someone to look over it. They may also have examples you can view on their website, like this one from the Ohio State University College Of Medicine.
When you’re writing and revising a resume, the words will start to blend together after a while. With each revision, it will be harder to notice mistakes, typos and errors. And even if you run the resume through spell check, it will still be hard to find every error because your brain knows what you meant to write.
Before you send off the resume, ask a friend, coworker or mentor to look it over. You might be surprised what someone with fresh eyes will find. Ideally, you should ask two people to edit it: someone with and someone without medical training.
The person with no medical training may still catch simple mistakes and errors, while the individual with medical training will notice more big-picture problems.
Use Specific Words
When you’re applying to a residency program, you’re trying to paint a picture of who you are as a doctor. Painting the best picture possible means being specific. Whenever possible, use numbers and descriptive language.
For example, if you led a campus-wide push to get students vaccinated for COVID-19, talk about how many students you inoculated. If you published a research paper, make sure to include the paper’s name, where it was published and when.
Your medical residency resume and cover letter are your first chance to show your skills, knowledge and experience, so make sure to highlight them. Don’t just talk about your love of medicine; talk about how your personal experience with Hashimoto’s disease makes you more empathetic and emotionally equipped to deal with other chronic conditions.
Make the Medical Residency Cover Letter Personal
Including a medical residency cover letter may be optional depending on the program, but students who submit a cover letter may receive more consideration than those who skip it.
Writing a medical residency cover letter should show off your skills, personality and other unique traits. Talk about why you’re interested in your particular specialty. For example, if you’re applying for an endocrinology residency, you can discuss how watching patients struggle with type 1 diabetes impacted your specialty choice.
Focus on why you want to specialize in a particular field, not just why you want to be a doctor. Avoid using generic descriptors, like “I’m a hard worker” or “I’m dedicated to the field of medicine.” Your cover letter should be something only you could write.
Make sure to address the cover letter to a specific individual, like the person in charge of the residency program, even if you’re not confident they’ll be the one reading your letter. It’s much better to pick one person than to have a generic introduction like “to whom it may concern.”
The Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association features some examples of good and bad cover letters on their website to help you understand the key differences.