The Ultimate List of CV Guidelines

“Just give me a chance to get in front of the decision makers, and I will make them want to hire me.” Most Job Candidates


You’ve heard over and over again the importance of a first impression.  It’s the key moment when someone decides who you are and what is important to you.  In the hiring process, it’s your first (and perhaps only) opportunity to reveal your intelligence, values, and purpose.  When applying for a job, applicants often view their interview as that first impression opportunity, but the truth is, the first impression actually happens well before then.  That’s right- your CV is the real first impression!  You may be able to “knock their socks off” during an interview, but first you need to secure that interview.  Experience sifting through thousands of CVs (some good and some not so good), has lent itself to this ultimate list of guidelines for creating one that is top-notch.  So dust off that CV, and let’s get to work!


What Decision Makers Want to See

A Professional Format – What does your CV look like to the person reading it?  Specifically, does it appear professionally written?  This is your initial chance to stand out from other candidates.  Decision makers can tell whether you put time into crafting a CV that accurately reflects where you are, where you’re going, and where you want to be.  Additionally, have your contact information displayed front and center.  This is not the best time to display your creativity with clip art; use simple fonts and appropriate spacing, which provide a clean and concise reading experience.

Chronological Work History – Decision makers want to see first what you are doing now.  Your work history should begin with your present employment listed first and work backward in time as you go down the page.  Be sure to include the month and year for each position held.  This is especially essential for physicians engaging in locum tenens work.  Additionally, any substantial gaps in employment should addressed (more about this later).  Don’t leave any room for assumption, or people will often assume the worst.

Relevant School and Training – Be sure to highlight relevant accomplishments.  Did you participate in any electives that are pertinent to this opportunity? Have you held positions of leadership, such as Chief Resident?  If you have received any awards or special honors, your CV is the place to display these accomplishments.  Leadership roles and formal recognition for achievements can be equally as important as job experience, and should be included on your CV.  Just like your work history, list them in sequential order, most recent first. 

A Concise Personal Statement – Use this section to your advantage by discussing what drives you. What are your motivations for pursing this opportunity?  Highlight any special abilities you possess or notable achievements you have obtained throughout your career.  Keeping your personal statement short and concise is key.  Be selective; include only your best and brightest accomplishments.

Available References – You don’t need to specify reference names or contact information on your CV, but be clear that you have them available upon request.  Many decision makers desire to check references at some point in the hiring process, so a small note addressing this possibility may subconsciously put them at ease.  Assuring the reader that obtaining and contacting your references will be a smooth and easy process is just one more mark in your favor.


What Decision Makers Do Not Want To See

Excess Publications – Listing every publication to which you have contributed is an easy way to turn a great, 2-4 page CV into a cumbersome, 20-page CV very quickly.  No one has the time or desire to read through a list of 100+ publications.  List only the publications that are relevant to your current job search.  If you have more than a few pertinent articles, choose the best of the bunch.  You don’t want the reader to miss notable, relevant work, because he or she is overwhelmed by a long list and skips this section entirely.

Gaps Without Explanation –Did you take a sabbatical or leave of absence? If so, let the reader know why and what you have been doing in the meantime.  Unexplained absence can be cause for concern among decision makers who are looking for a physician on whom they can depend.  Have you continued to participate in continuing education or done pro bono work during your absence?  If you are re-entering the workforce, discuss what you have done to maintain or refresh your skills.

Job Hopping – Unfortunately, one of the quickest ways turn off a potential employer is to have a CV that displays a pattern of changing jobs every three years or less.  You may have legitimate reasons for moving so frequently, but your readers won’t know this unless you tell them.  Combat the assumption of “job hopper” by addressing this type of pattern in your cover letter.  A strong, valid explanation as to why you’ve had to change jobs so frequently can salvage your chances and keep you in the running.

Poor Grammar – Spelling and Grammar issues are a no-go.  It is imperative that you review, edit, and scan your CV for typos and incorrect sentence structure.  Many readers will move to the next CV after the first error, so do yourself a favor and proofread!


For most vacancies, employers receive a great deal of CVs to consider.  Follow these tips to stand out from your competition. Organizations don’t always make the right hire, because some of the strongest candidates are never invited to interview.  Don’t let this happen to you!