Writing A Strong NHS/ Medical Consultant CV

Though many candidates ensure that they acquire the right experience to obtain a consultant post, they are often let down by their CV. On this page you will find valuable tips to avoid common pitfalls.

Length Of The Consultant CV

Size is always a contentious issue. Whereas, in normal business CVs, the maximum recommended size is 2 to 3 pages, in medicine this is simply not possible, the main reason being that for some candidates the list of publications and courses is simply too long to fit in a small number of pages.

On average, a consultant's CV for a medical speciality will be approximately 10 pages long, whilst for a surgical specialty it may go on for 15 pages or more. Some candidates are interpreting this as meaning that their can go on for as long as is needed, but one should always bear in mind that a CV is a communication document designed to get you short-listed. It is therefore essential that the information is presented in a meaningful, well-ordered and concise fashion. Whatever information is contained in your CV, the important information should be contained within the first 5 pages if possible.

General Consultant CV Format

The format for a medical CV for a consultant post is generally as follows:

 

Personal details

Do not fill most of the first page with personal details. Your name, address and various contact details should be able to fit at the top of the first page over 4 or 5 lines (like headed paper). At a push, no more than one-third of the front page should be taken by personal details.

Stick to the essentials. For example, there is no need to mention your Hep B immunisation status (as many people do). Your status will be checked when you start your new job. If you are not immunised, Occupational Health will soon sort you out. Similarly, although your driving licence status, your MDU membership number, your marital status and number of children may be interesting facts, they are best kept for a "Miscellaneous" section at the back of the CV as they will not directly affect your employment.

Having a short Personal Details section on the front page will ensure that you start describing your education and current employment on the first page or the beginning of the second page, where they are most accessible. Include:

  • Name (Make sure it matches your GMC registration name)
  • Address
  • GMC registration number
  • Date of entry to Specialist Register & NTN
  • Date of birth (not essential if you are older than the "norm")
  • Telephone numbers (not too many - your CV is not a telephone directory
  • Email address - avoid casual addresses such as karmaqueen@xxxxx.com or superdoctor@xxxxxx.co.uk [Yes, some people do put these on their CVs ...]
 

Career aims

This should be no more than 20 lines. No recruiter will read beyond that length. Instead they will seek to explore this area further during the consultant interview.

This section (provided it is short and to the point) is best placed at the front of the CV as the content constitutes an important part of your motivation to apply for the job. Placing it after a long list of audits, publications and courses will almost ensure that it does not get read at all.

It is worth spending some time on your career aims as they can be helpful is projecting a proactive and dynamic image of yourself at the start of the CV. A good career aims section can prompt your recruiters' subconscious to read your CV in a more positive light than they would otherwise have done.

Avoid simply writing "I want to be a consultant etc". We know that already! Mention any special interests that you are keen to develop (make sure it will be possible in the post that you are applying for), any service development that you want to become involved in, any ambition on the academic front (e.g. research projects or interests that you want to develop, any teaching involvement and at what level). You can also discuss your managerial ambitions. Be aware though that the career aim section will need to be tailored to the job that you are applying for (no point going on about research interests if the post does not involve research) and that writing a good section will therefore require some understanding and knowledge of the job description.

Do not write your life story and what a marvellous individual you are. There is no room for waffle in a CV and it is not the place to sell your interpersonal skills (this is for the interview. Stick to facts and avoid any mention of communication, team playing and other generic skills.

 

Qualifications

List your qualifications in reverse chronological order. Start from your medical degrees (including any intercalated degree) - no one really cares about A' Levels.

List relevant dates and place of study

Include your CCT/CCST date (unless you have already included it at the top).

List any qualifications you are currently studying for (e.g. medical education degree).

 

Prizes & awards

This is fairly self-explanatory. Make sure that you include the date of the awards, who granted it and why is was granted. If you obtained a first prize for a poster, it would be nice to know how any many people you competed against. Avoid corny prizes such as Christmas quiz and other meaningless prizes. It may be that you will need to repeat some of this information later (for example, if you obtained a first prize for a presentation, you may want to repeat it in the presentation section), but this does not matter; having the prize on the first page will create a good impression, and repeating it later on will help placing it into context.

 

Current appointment

If you are currently doing a locum consultant post or are working as an associate specialist, then it may be worth isolating your current post from the rest of your training. This will give it more weight

 

Past appointments

For all your jobs, you should provide:

  • Dates: no need to give the exact day on which your started and ended the post; the month and year will be sufficient.
  • Job title and specialty/subspecialty
  • Hospital name (avoid giving the full name of the trust; this is not a legal document, but a document designed to give an idea of what you have done so far).
  • Name of supervising consultant

Make sure that your jobs are listed in reverse chronological order (i.e. going backwards in time). They are more interested in your recent experience than your House Officer posts or even your elective!

At consultant level, you should avoid having a CV whereby each job's duties and responsibilities are summarised under each heading. Since you are likely to have done dozens of different attachments and posts, it will drag on over many pages and it will make it difficult for the reader to extract what they need to know. You should make the recruiters' job easy by summarising the information in a way that they can digest easily. We therefore suggest that at this stage, you only list in a tabular format the jobs that you have done. Your overall experience can then be summarised in a separate more concise section. See next.

 

Summary of skills and experience

Your future employer will only really be interested in what you have to offer, i.e. what you can do now, and not what you did 10 years ago when you first became an SHO. You should therefore find a way to summarise your experience using appropriate headings.

Here are some examples of how you can subdivide your experience (Note: these are only examples and you will of course need to tailor your themes to the post that you are applying for and to your own experience):

Paediatrics

  • General Paediatrics
  • Neonatal
  • PICU
  • Other general medical/surgical experience

Psychiatry

  • General Adult Psychiatry
  • Substance Misuse
  • Outreach
  • Psychotherapy
  • General medical experience
 

Obs & Gynae (example 1)

  • Obstetrics
  • General gynaecology
  • Specialist gynaecology experience including uro-gynaecology and gynae-oncology

Obs & Gynae (Example 2)

  • Obstetrics
  • Gynaecology - clinics
  • Gynaecology - theatre
 

Cardiology

  • General cardiology experience
  • Paediatric cardiology
  • Procedural experience

Anaesthetics

  • General anaesthetics
  • Obstetrics anaesthetics
  • ITU experience
  • Other relevant experience (transport, etc)
 

Under each heading, you need to describe the extent of your experience and proficiency. For best effect, you should follow a number of essential rules:

  • Use bullet points, not sentences.
  • Use active wording such as
    • "Gained thorough experience of the management of patients with ...",
    • "Confident in...",
    • "Perform xxx independently...",
    • "Responsible for ...",
    • "Proficient in ..."
    • "Played a fundamental role in ..."
    • "Instrumental in ..."
    • "Gained exposure to ..."

Avoid personal statements such as "I really enjoyed this post because it gave me the opportunity to ... etc". The CV is designed to present facts. Its role is two-fold: to get you short-listed and to provide talking points for the interview. Keep your personal statements until the interview, where you will be able to use them most effectively.

If you are applying for a surgical specialty, you should avoid listing all the procedures that you have done. Instead it may be wiser to include in the CV a summary of your log book. Ideally this should fit one one page only. If it is longer than one page, you should include it as an appendix to the CV (i.e. at the end) so that it does not push the rest of the CV too far back.

 

Managerial experience

This should include any experience of managing people and resources, including:

  • Designing rotas
  • Leading projects such as audits or research
  • Designing and implementing teaching programmes
  • Representing colleagues on committees (e.g. clinical governance or other team meetings)
  • Deriving and implementing new guidelines
  • Involvement in recruitment (though simply sitting on interview panels is not really a managerial activity).

If you want, you can include experience outside of medicine, though you should place it at the end. You might actually want to split this section between "Medical" and "Non-medical".

You can also include any management courses or events that you attended. Note: this information may be repeated in the courses section, but this does not matter. Repetitions are acceptable provided they are not concerning a huge amount of information and provided they serve a purpose (in this case, presenting a complete picture of your management experience without getting the recruiters to cross-reference the information for themselves).

 

Teaching experience

Include all formal and informal teaching done. Mention the type of audiences that you have taught (juniors, peers, nurses, GPs) as well as some of the key topics. Naming topics helps being credibility to your answer.

One of the aspects that they will be looking for is an awareness of a range of teaching methods. You should ensure that you mention the various methods that you used (bedside teaching, formal lectures using PowerPoint, informal/formal supervision, videos, etc).

Mention any formal training received and courses attended.

If patient education is a big part of your job, then it may be worth mentioning your experience of it in the teaching section.

 

Audits

List the title and date of the audit in reverse chronological order.

For each audit you should provide a short summary, providing the aim of the audit, your role, the conclusions drawn and actions taken as a result (2-3 bullet points, 5 or 6 lines maximum).

 

Research

Indicate the year of each project, quote the title of your research and provide a short description of your role in bullet points format. Present the information in reverse chronological order.

 

Publications

Make sure you are telling the entire truth (including your ranking on the authors list). Interviewers have been known to check the database in front of candidates at the interview.

Present your publications in a tabular format, in reverse chronological order. List the title, authors and relevant dates. Ideally, you should place the year in the left hand margin and the rest of the information on the right.

Many candidates present their publications in the conventional manner i.e. with the authors first, followed by the title of the publication and then the journal. If you follow this approach, the titles will be all over the place on the page (since the title starts after the list of authors) and this may make it difficult for the recruiters to see exactly what you have written on. You may thus wish to adopt a different listing approach, with the title coming first, followed by the authors and the journal. To make the information even more readable, you may even wish to present each element on a different line (i.e. title on one line, authors on the next line and journal on a third line).

Your publications should be listed in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent first. This will ensure that the most interesting information is seen first. If you have a substantial number of publications and you feel that the list is just too long, you should try to weed out some of the less interesting papers/cases. Remember that the CV is designed to achieve a purpose, which is to get you short-listed. It is not necessarily an entire biography. If the content gets in the way of readability then get rid of some of the less interesting stuff.

To improve readability, you may wish to separate your publications in relevant categories (e.g. peer-reviewed papers, abstracts, case reports, book chapters, etc).

 

Presentations

List the dates (year, month will suffice), the titles and authors. This should be presented in a tabular format to improve readability.

If you obtained any prizes or awards, mention them under the appropriate presentation.

If you can, try to separate your presentations in different types (assuming you have enough of each type to do this) such as: international, regional, local.

 

Courses & meetings

Courses and meetings normally feature straight after the clinical experience in an SHO's or SpR's CV. For consultants however, this information is not as important as the rest and it is therefore acceptable to place it towards the end of the CV (It means that your recruiters do not have to read through pages of courses before they can get to your managerial experience).

  • For each course, show the date, title of the course and organising institution.
  • Present the information in a tabular format.
  • Make sure that you mention the organiser as opposed to the place where the training took place.
  • As well as clinical courses, included management, research and teaching courses.
  • Leave out all courses which relate to exam preparation; it adds no value.
 

Computer / IT skills

Include all relevant basic software e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Internet.

If you can use digital photo manipulation software or have experience of web design you can mention it here too.

Include all specialist software (statistics packages, reference managers etc).

Include databases that you frequently search for literature searches.

Do not mention skills that you have no real experience of if your experience is only basic and at hobby level. For example, "Can use Corel" would only make sense if you are actually proficient at using it, but not if you only use it to view your holiday snaps!

 

Language skills & special interests

By any means state the languages that you can speak if in small number as well as your degree of fluency (e.g. German - basic, French - conversational). If you speak several dialects due to your ethnic origin, it is best to place them under an umbrella definition (e.g. fluent in 7 Indian dialects ) rather than list them all separately.

Mention any involvement in voluntary work and list your hobbies. There is no need to find fancy hobbies to sound interesting. Spending time with your children makes you sound more "normal" than climbing Mount Everest every week-end!

Strike the right balance between group activities and lonely activities

"Having fun" is not a personal interest as far as CVs are concerned. Nor is "Drinking with mates".

 

Miscellaneous

This section can be used for information in which you feel the interviewer may have an interest but that does not have major importance as far as your eligibility for the job is concerned (e.g. driving licence, marital status & number of children, etc). You should keep this section to the bare minimum.

You might also want to include your memberships of various institutions (though some prefer to place these in a separate section.

 

References

No more than three unless otherwise requested. Provide their name, job title, correspondence address, telephone number, fax number and email address.

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