The Daunting Resume

Resume writing is a more of an art than a skill and I learn more about it with every passing job interview. When I started off, I believed that I needed to pack every single detail of my life in to this document. It ended up a complete repertoire of crap, from my first fart to extra-curricular college bullshit (in keeping with faecal analogies). If you put yourself in a recruiters shoes, they skim over thousands of these standard templates made up of different versions of the same achievements in different fonts and colours. Here are a couple of tips to stand out:

Questions to ask yourself before you pen anything down

  1. What is the value(s) you want them to see in you ?
  2. What are the traits that the recruiter is looking for?
  3. Is it a start up with an informal culture or a multinational ‘suit and tie’ company?

Open strong: It’s a lot like dating, you have to get it right from the get go. Remember, you never get a second chance at a first impression! Always start with a short summary encapsulating who you are, what you bring to the table and why they should hire you. The first couple of sentences (15-20 words) are key. This foreplay serves two purposes, firstly it will give them a reason to look at the rest of the document and secondly, will give you chance to turn the battle of wits in your favour in proving that you are the right person for the role.

You have the edge: If you’re looking at roles outside the clinical domain, you already have a differentiating factor. As a doctor, your professional persona is very different so don’t try and be one among the herd; instead, focus on your clinical experience, research work, social/outreach experience, medical writing skills etc. This really helps you stand out.

Brands: If you attended a top 10 medical school, published in international journals and/or worked in a well known hospital, the brand will help your cause SIGNIFICANTLY. (I never realised the brand value of St. Johns Medical College until well after I was done there).

Length: Some prefer the one pager and others claim that it’s difficult to paint a picture in such a little space. I honestly favour the former since most people suffer from ADHD and can’t really read through an entire detailed CV. Laszlo Bock of Google suggested, “A good rule of thumb is one page for every ten years of work experience. A crisp, focused resume demonstrates an ability to synthesise, prioritise, and convey the most important information about you.”

The unnecessary: Unless it’s absolutely crucial avoid the silly semantics about extra-curricular activities and hobbies and other frills. This holds true unless some aspect aligns with the job profile. (For example, stating you love travelling and that you are very flexible will give you an edge for a role which needs one to be on the road a lot.)

Customise: Tweak your resume for every opportunity you apply for, don’t use the same one for every application. Every role/company values different skills and your value offering will also change accordingly.

Link Out: Include links to your LinkedIn profile, Researchgate/ Google Scholar page, personal website etc. to allow you to save space as well as give the recruiter an opportunity to know more about you and scrutinise your work more carefully, if interested.

Pearls from my experience: 

  • Read the job description and profile first. Most companies list the qualities and type of person they are looking for (Align your resume accordingly).
  • Start with a short summary
  • Focus on your accomplishments rather than droning on about responsibilities.
  • Try to highlight skill sets rather than chronologically list the work experience you have gathered
  • DON’T cram text in or use small font sizes ­— it has to be readable on a phone screen too.
  • DO NOT Cut and paste your resume from your LinkedIn profile (or copy a friends, they might be applying for the same job; true story!)
  • Always send an attachment as PDF and not a word document. (Use the save as .pdf option on word or use the online word to pdf converters)
  • Most importantly, always have someone (preferably a mentor) read it before you send it out and incorporate their feedback. My mentor still hammers me for having, what he claims is, the ugliest and most redundant CV in history!!


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