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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made on Medical Resumes

Written by: Matt Craven
Published on: Dec 21, 2021

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Photo credit: Eviled/Shutterstock

Here at CVIA Careers, we provide medical professionals with free resume appraisals and, as a consequence, we see hundreds of resumes each month. Seeing so many resumes, you can’t help but notice trends, and the same mistakes are made time and time again. Whether you are looking for new jobs, posts or grants, it is important to get your resume right.

People’s attitudes towards their resume are a funny old thing; we all accept that things in life progress such as corporate brochures becoming websites, letters becoming email, cash becoming debit cards (the list goes on) – but why is it that the average person is still using the same resume format that they stumbled upon when leaving school, college or university? 

Below is a list of the top mistakes typically made by medical sector job seekers.

  1. What’s a resume?

To write a great medical resume, first you must understand what a resume is! “Of course, job seekers know what a resume is” I hear you cry, but many a resume has been written with the wrong mindset.

Let me clear up where I am heading with this – many medical professionals see their resume as a historic list of where they have previously worked – let’s call this their rear-view mirror. What I recommend you do when writing your resume, is focus on the front windshield. What I mean by this, is to focus on where you are heading in your career and how you can add value to a future employer, rather than merely describing the duties and responsibilities of your previous jobs.

A medical resume should be much more than a simple list of roles – it should be an evidence-based document that communicates why someone should hire you, it should be a business case that explains where you can add value, and it should be a personal sales document that sells you as a potential employee.

Now, medical resumes are very different to a standard resume, for one, they are much longer! Your medical resume should always include the following sections: Profile; Education; Certification and Licensure; Postgraduate Training; Practice Experience; Professional or Teaching Appointments; Research and Publications; Accomplishments; Professional Society Memberships; Personal and Professional References.

The medical resume is NOT the place to discuss anticipated compensation, reasons for leaving previous positions, personal health problems, examination scores, or licence/DEA number.

  1. First impressions

Your opening paragraph is your opportunity to create a good first impression and really distinguish you from other applicants to secure new roles, posts, or grants. Some call this section a Professional Summary, some a Personal Profile, and some use all sorts of variations, but one thing is for sure, creating an opening paragraph full of clichéd behavioral competencies such as “working well in a team,” “working under pressure,” being “honest, reliable and trustworthy” or having “excellent communication skills,” isn’t going to make the right first impression.

Instead, focus on your medical specialism, your experience across different healthcare/medical settings, i.e., critical care patient management, and your medical/surgical sub-specialties.

Perhaps the heading “Personal Profile” is partly to blame as it may lead some job seekers to think about describing their personality, but this is not what recruiters are looking for. Focus more on job-based skills that are aligned with the requirements of the role described on the job description.

  1. Accomplishments

Failing to include accomplishments in your medical resume is arguably the biggest mistake you can make. After writing your resume, ask yourself the question “How can a prospective employer ascertain that I am good at my job?”. If your resume is failing to communicate this, you have a problem. A resume should be at least 30% focused on accomplishments, providing tangible evidence that you are good at your job.

For the avoidance of doubt, an accomplishment is something you did that made a difference. It is not a task or something that is simply part of your everyday responsibilities, it’s something that had a tangible outcome, where your actions delivered a measurable business benefit.

  1. Being too brief!

A medical resume shouldn’t be "War & Peace," but it should provide enough information for the reader to understand what you have been doing in your career. Many professionals are under the impression that a resume must never exceed two pages, and although this length is not a bad yardstick for many jobs, when it comes to a medical resume, three to four pages is more appropriate.

  1. Information architecture

Creating a list of duties and responsibilities in a random order is another common faux pas. The flow of information in a medical resume must be well thought out, and random lists are difficult to follow.

For a stand-out medical resume, always provide a synopsis about your practice experience, academic and professional appointments, fellowships, and other interesting training experiences. You can then hit the reader with your key responsibilities, not forgetting the all-important key accomplishments.

There are two strategies to present your experiences and employment in your medical resume, and these are gapping and parallelism. Gapping allows you to present information concisely using incomplete sentences, and parallelism ensures you keep the structure of your phrases consistent throughout the document. You should use both gapping and parallelism when writing a successful medical resume.

As previously mentioned, a resume should be at least 25% focused on accomplishments rather than just tasks, and having a sub section of each position dedicated to your key projects and accomplishments will help to demonstrate that you are indeed, good at your job.

If you are interested in having a free 1-2-1 evaluation of your medical resume, please email CVIA Careers at, quoting WPM1.

Matt Craven is Managing Director of CVIA Careers