Honing your resume or CV to maximize success in the job market
By Jennifer J. Salopek Spring 2017
Have you ever had a classmate or colleague who has extreme success in the job market, whose applications generate lots of replies while your inbox sits empty? Have you ever wondered whether there is a hidden formula, a secret network, a magical font? The best advice comes from institutions and practices that are actively hiring, so we went straight to several organizations that were advertising on SIR’s Career HQ site (bit.ly/2pPqPIH) this spring and asked them what they were looking for. It turns out there is a proven formula that increases your odds of a successful job or fellowship application, but it has little to do with the style or appearance of your resume. Rather, it has everything to do with how carefully you read the requirements and how directly you address them with your own skills and experience, demonstrating that you are the ideal person to meet the organization’s needs.
Residencies and fellowships
Most candidates seeking residencies and fellowships in vascular or interventional radiology apply through MyERAS, the system offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which hosts 9,000 programs in total. This year, of 95 fellowship programs in vascular and interventional radiology, 71 participated with ERAS, drawing about 260 applicants, according to Jennifer Nelson, ERAS fellowships Specialist with the AAMC.
Applicants typically begin entering their information into MyERAS in June, and begin applying to programs in November. The system automatically converts information into a standardized curriculum vitae (CV), rendering formatting and design considerations moot. Where you really have the opportunity to shine is in selecting programs to which to apply, sussing out the program’s requirements, and responding to each and every one specifically. Although Nelson says that she and her colleagues encourage participating programs to enter all of their requirements in ERAS, some find it more convenient to keep their own websites up to date—so look there, too.
Remember that you’re striving to rise above the noise. “Application volume is a real struggle,” says Amy Mathis, senior director of ERAS. “Program directors in some specialties can get more than a thousand applications for 20 spots. They’re doing their best to select their future peers and wondering how to meaningfully parse all the information they’re receiving.”
Be discerning in determining which programs to apply to; the firehose approach isn’t likely to net positive results. “The ‘more is better’ mentality is alive and well, but it doesn’t always work. Our best advice is to carefully research programs before applying (this can take some effort). Check the program requirements and tailor your personal statement. Verify all deadlines and meet them,” Mathis says.
Paul Rochon, MD, is director of the Vascular IR Fellowship and Residency Programs at UC Denver. He accepts four IR fellows per year and receives more than 150 applications.
“The personal statement should be well written and should tell the story of the applicant’s interest in IR, as well as what he or she can contribute to the field,” he says. “It should describe his or her previous exposure to IR, even if it’s just been moments; relevant coursework; and any research activities. Spelling and grammar are very important.” Dr. Rochon recommends having an editor review your personal statement, especially if English is not your first language. When reading letters of recommendation, he’s looking for evidence that you’re a team player. He said he also likes to see membership in—and, even better, leadership roles in—SIR.
Diane Herring has been handling recruitment for the IR department at the University of Washington (UW) for more than a decade. One of the requirements that appears in all of her job postings is a “demonstrated commitment to an academic career.” Current enrollment in a fellowship program does not qualify, but she says it’s not uncommon to feel that applicants have not read the job description and requirements.
One of Herring’s pet peeves is CVs with poor formatting and confused organization. “We are looking for general personal data to be clear, including citizenship; work history, in reverse chronological order; education, postgraduate training and faculty experience. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just clear and easy to read.”
Once an applicant is hired at UW, his or her CV is put into a standardized format. Herring offers it as an excellent template for all academic applicants to follow (see sidebar on this page.
In your cover letter, demonstrate that you have researched the program and the institution and directly express why you would like to work there. “I don’t want to feel like I’m a part of a mass mailing,” Herring says. “People I have met before should acknowledge me.” And above, she says, avoid repeat submissions—a real rookie mistake.
Karim Valji, MD, FSIR, chief of IR at UW, says that he doesn’t really care what your CV looks like, but he has two pet peeves as well: “Business-speak turns us off, and no fluff—it looks disingenuous.”
The rules are not so different if you’re applying to private practices, except that you will be submitting a resume rather than a CV. Dan Cohen, MD, managing partner at Radiologic Imaging Consultants in St. Charles, Missouri, was seeking an IR in January. He says he was “pleasantly surprised” at the quality of applications he received—a “good crop of qualified candidates.”
Although resume style doesn’t really matter to Dr. Cohen, formatting, clarity and a crisp look do. He urges applicants to use spell check and to do their due diligence in researching the hiring organization. Knowing that life in the Midwest isn’t for everyone, he looks for evidence that you have ties to the area or an explanation in your cover letter as to why you might want to move there.
“It’s difficult for applicants to break through if they’re not coming from a top-tier fellowship,” he admits. “My job is to ensure that our advertisement is accurate. Successful applicants will hit extra hard on why they are a good fit. If you want to stand out, communicate that you are a team player and willing to do diagnostic imaging when not doing cases. This is a fact of life in private practice: Each of us will do a little of everything.”
Dr. Cohen also advises that applicants review their own social media channels and remove anything that might be inappropriate; he checks candidates out online.
Sample Curriculum Vitae format: University of Washington School of Medicine
Date of CV
The curriculum vitae should contain the following information:
1. Personal Data: Place of birth; citizenship, if applicable; date of birth optional.
2. Education: University of undergraduate and graduate degrees (indicate places and dates).
3. Postgraduate Training: Internship, residencies, fellowships (places and dates).
4. Faculty Positions Held: (places and dates).
5. Hospital Positions Held: (places and dates). Do not duplicate #3 above.
6. Honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, AOA, Prizes, RCDAs, Young Investigator Awards, Teaching Awards, etc.
7. Board Certification: General Medical and Specialty Boards (indicate date received).
8. Current License(s) to Practice: States and dates.
9. Professional Organizations: Include offices held.
10. Teaching Responsibilities: List specific courses, specific responsibility and percentage of responsibility if shared course. Indicate role in teaching committees. List recent CME. List trainees during last 5 years, if primary mentor.
11. Editorial Responsibilities: Include positions on editorial boards. Do not include occasional reviewing duties.
12. Special National Responsibilities: Study sections, Training Grant Committees, American Heart Association and other similar responsibilities.
13. Special Local Responsibilities: University and Hospital committees. Do not duplicate teaching committees listed in #10.
14. Research Funding: Sources, dates and dollars. Include Training Grants.
15. Bibliography (use the format described in (a) for (b) through (f)):
a. First section: Manuscripts in refereed journals with authors listed in the order they appear in the original publication. Include manuscripts in press (i.e. accepted for publication). Number these articles consecutively and include the first and last page numbers of each article.
b. Second section: Book chapters
c. Third section: Published books, videos, software, etc.
d. Fourth section: Other publications e.g. in non-referred journals and letters to the editor.
e. Fifth section: Manuscripts submitted, listed separately with date of submission. Do not list manuscripts in preparation or work in progress.
f. Final section: List Abstracts.
16. Other: National invitational lectures, etc.