Tips for Doctors – Resume, Cover Letter and Social Networking

by Sharon Elber


This guide will offer specific advice on how doctors can write a strong resume and cover letter as well as make the most of social media to build a professional network.

Before we dive into these three critical areas of the job search for doctors, let’s review a few general tips on how to craft the most compelling job search materials that apply to all of these categories:

Reinforce Your Career Story

In general, your resume, cover letter, and social media profiles should converge to tell a consistent career story. That is, where have you been, where are you now, and where would you like to go with your career? Most importantly, your career story needs to position the job you are applying for as the next logical step in your career, as well as make the case that you are uniquely positioned to fill the company’s needs.

Since potential employers will be looking at all three of these sources while reviewing your candidacy, the fact that they are reinforcing the same professional narrative helps to strengthen the sense that you know who you are professionally and that you are grounded in your ambitions.

1) Highlight Your Biggest Accomplishments

Putting your best foot forward includes showing off those accomplishments that you are most proud of. Make sure that these moments in your college and professional life don’t get buried in your application materials. This is particularly true if they are directly relevant to the position you are applying for. In that case, your biggest accomplishments should be easy to find on your resume, cover letter, and online profiles.

2) Quantify Your Achievements

Employers tend to be more impressed by numbers than qualitative statements. Statistics tend to feel more authoritative, definitive, and real. Where possible, throughout all of your materials, use quantified metrics to demonstrate your achievements, impressive results, and other qualifications.

3) Focus on Fit

Of course, your social media profile will stand regardless of the jobs you are applying for, so it should be more general so that it can include your overarching areas of expertise and professional points of view.

On the other hand, your resume and cover letter should be more focused, including a finer grain detail on the qualifications that most emphasize your fit for each position you apply for. This often comes down to choosing which experiences, previous responsibilities, or specialized coursework that you want to include on your resume and cover letter to highlight your fit for the needs of each position you apply for.

The hardest decision to make when it comes to writing a strong resume or cover letter often comes down to cutting those experiences that just are not relevant to the specific position you are applying for. Cutting extraneous information, even though it may be very relevant for another position, is critical to communicating to the recruiter that you are the strongest candidate for the position.

Resumes for Doctors

1) Curriculum Vitae Format

Compared to many other employment sectors, the expectations for a medical resume are fairly rigid. The industry standard for doctor resumes is the curriculum vitae format, otherwise known as the CV.

Almost without exception, CVs are longer and more detailed than traditional resumes. Typically falling between 2-5 pages, they include several additional sections to demonstrate your competency that are unique to medical professionals, which we will investigate in more detail below. Doctors that are more advanced in their career may have CVs that are upwards of 7 pages.

In addition, it is important to carefully review the requirements specified by the employer regarding your CV. In some cases, certain sections will be required. In others, you will have more room to decide on what information you feel most demonstrates your qualifications and expertise.

2) Resume Sections for Doctors

Although there is some wiggle room in terms of which sections you choose to include and the overall layout of your CV, there are some clear expectations for what kinds of information must be included to adequately convey your qualifications.

Common sections to include on a medical CV are:

  • Contact Information
  • Education
  • Licensure and Certifications
  • Work History
  • Grants and Fellowships
  • Research
  • Publications
  • Honors and Awards
  • Professional Activity
  • References

Let’s take a look at a few of the sections that are unique to medical professionals:

i) Education

Although most resumes include a section for education, this section on a medical doctor’s CV tends to include more detail. In addition to listing the name, institution, and year of your degrees, you will also want to include:

  • Residencies
  • Fellowships
  • Internships

ii) Licensure and Certifications

In a list format, describe any licenses you hold, including any states where you are certified to practice medicine along with the expiration date. Include the status of any board certifications that are currently under review. If you have passed exams that offer additional certifications such as ATLS or PALS, include them in this section as well.

iii) Grants and Fellowships

If you have done academic research as part of your medical career that has garnered external grant funding, you should include that information in this section. Include the name of your research project, the granting institution, the dates, and the amount of the grant. Although fellowships can be included in the education section of your resume, they can alternatively be listed here to draw attention to your ability to attract research funding.

iv) Publications

If you have published in peer reviewed medical journals, then this is the section of your resume where you will acknowledge those accomplishments. Place the most recent publications first. In addition, if you have presented your research findings at professional conventions, they can be listed here or in a separate presentations section.

Note that it is important to follow MLA citation guidelines to list your publications and conference proceedings. Pay close attention to detail since this is a spot on your CV where it is easy to make small mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless.

3) Resume Design for Doctors

CVs tend to follow a more traditional layout with an emphasis on information rather than fancy design elements. Because the reader is expecting such an information dense document, and has the expertise to sort through it, a medical CV often strays from much of the resume advice offered for other employment sectors.

Stick to traditional fonts, such as Times New Roman and use bullet points to separate details within each section. Be sure there is a balance of white space on each page to make the document look less like a wall of text. Try to manipulate the text so that new sections are not cut off at the bottom of the page.

Keep design elements simple: Bolded and italicized fonts, a few lines here and there to clearly denote sections, and the occasional use of infographics where they amplify quantifiable achievements. However, your goal should be to craft a resume that communicates seriousness and professionalism over flare and personality.

See resume samples for healthcare professionals.

Cover Letters for Doctors

The cover letter is an opportunity to provide much needed context to supplement your other application materials. Think of it as your chance to tell the big picture story about why you are a strong candidate for the position. In addition to emphasizing your fit for the position at hand, a doctor’s cover letter should include the following elements:

1) The Human Side

While your resume may read as a cold list of facts and figures, the cover letter is your opportunity to give the recruiter an impression of who you are as a person, including your professional style, values, and priorities. A well written physician’s cover letter will convey a picture that implies you will be a pleasure to work with and a true asset to the patients you will serve.

Be sure to devote at least some of your cover letter to emphasize the personal and professional qualities that make you a value-added member of a healthcare team. Examples include your ability to coordinate with nursing staff, empower patients to make informed decisions about treatment options, and actively participate in a collaborative environment with other physicians.

2) Geographic Preference

If one of the reasons that you are interested in a specific job has to do with the town or city in which it is located, the cover letter is the right place to include that preference to let the hiring manager know that you intend to stay and build a life there. This is because, according to career experts, retention is one of the major hiring decisions when it comes to choosing physicians and other medical professionals.

3) Provide Context for Negatives

Another issue that may be important to include in your cover letter is if you have any marks on your record such as having your medical license revoked, having been the target of malpractice suits, or had issues with your DEA numbers being revoked. These problems will be identified during the hiring process, so it is generally considered a good idea to provide an explanation in your cover letter to let potential employers know that these situations have been resolved.

4) Specific Skills and Interests

If you are particularly interested in one or two aspects of the job, the cover letter is the place to communicate that preference. For example, if the position will give you an opportunity to work closely with some of the leaders in your specialized area of medicine on unique medical cases, this is the place to make that clear.

5) Contacts

If you have a close relationship with someone at the facility where you are applying, it can be beneficial to name that connection in your cover letter as it can work in your favor. However, be sure that you contact that person in advance so they can be prepared to speak on your behalf if approached by the hiring manager.

See cover letter samples for healthcare professionals.

Social Networking for Doctors

1) Professional Networking Platforms for Doctors

i) LinkedIn

Perhaps the largest social media platform designed with professionals and career development in mind, LinkedIn is an excellent place to start building your online visibility. It includes tools to help you connect with other physicians in your specialty, professional organizations related to your discipline, and even institutions so that you can learn about emerging employment opportunities.

ii) Sermo

Sermo boasts that it is the largest international platform for physicians to connect with others on a global scale. It was founded in 2005, and as of 2019, has over 800,000 medical doctors who are easy to find through their various specialties. Designed to promote collaboration, Sermo offers tools to connect, communicate, and provide perspective on real world medical issues.

iii) Doximity

Doximity is a platform that has a national focus in the United States. It is open to healthcare professionals across the healthcare field including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and administrators. It offers safe and secure collaborative environments to discuss clinical cases and also provides tools for professional networking across a wide domain of specialties, organizations, and institutions.

2) Using Social Media: Tips for Doctors

i) Grow Your Private Practice

If you have a private practice, then you already know that part of competing for a sustainable patient base requires a strong online presence. Social media platforms allow you to build some online engagement with your patients without the upstart and maintenance costs of a high-end interactive website.

Social media can allow you to build a community with those of your patients that choose to participate. Use it to forward interesting articles on health and wellness, empower your followers with news articles on recent medical breakthroughs, and consider inviting other medical professionals in your area to share about their work, opening the door for some potential affinity marketing.

In addition, social media platforms offer unique opportunities to create targeted advertising so you can get your message out to the patients you are best positioned to serve. Not sure if you have the time? Consider hiring a freelancer who specializes in helping physicians in private practice craft their personal brand and inspire an engaged readership.

ii) Engage with Leaders in Your Specialty

Social media offers you a chance to increase your job prospects by becoming more visible to the people and institutions doing the kinds of work that are at the center of your passions. Follow their feeds, engage with your own perspective, and build your network by striking up meaningful conversations with other people in your specialty.

iii) Mind HIPAA and Other Ethical Considerations

Opening up conversations about clinical practice is always fraught with the possibility of violating patient confidentiality. Although you are already aware of the necessity to respect patient rights to privacy, be sure to be doubly cautious when participating in online communities devoted to healthcare issues.

Be sure to generalize any clinical information shared in public spaces and use only secure and private channels for discussing particular cases (following the same HIPAA regulations as you would with any other discussion of patients).

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