PracticeUpdate: Dr. Obeidat, will you talk about the role that a professional CV plays in awarding a position to a candidate?
Dr. Obeidat: As a medical professional, your CV is one of the most important dynamic documents to keep “in shape.” Your CV serves as your key to open doors for future opportunities and grows as you grow professionally and chronologically. It is where you list and organize your achievements, professional roles, community engagement, academic and professional service, skills, hobbies, and other interesting things about you that you want others to know about.
The value of a well-organized CV
A well-organized CV helps reviewers and committee members consider hiring you and helps form an impression in their minds before meeting you. For example, when I review CVs for candidates for our fellowship program, I pay great attention to the organization of the CV, what is listed, and what may be omitted. For example, should I see grammatical errors or structural errors, I immediately form an impression that the applicant did not take the application seriously since he or she did not pay attention to details in the most important document that tells me about him or her.
On the other hand, when I see a well-organized CV, I am immediately drawn to the applicant and eager to meet with him or her to ask about everything listed on the CV that I found interesting, intriguing, or distinct. You must be very knowledgeable about what is mentioned on your CV, as interviewers will likely ask you at least one question from your CV. Know about the articles you published, for example. It is very important that you are able to elaborate on anything listed on your CV. When we review CVs, we look at who you worked with before and who you have collaborated with. This allows us to find unsolicited references that we can ask for a recommendation for you. Remember that your CV can drive your interview questions and will be the reference document people use to decide whether to offer you a position.
PracticeUpdate: In your opinion, what must be included in any medical professional’s CV?
Dr. Obeidat: Not all CVs are the same; you can be creative in your CV but within certain formatting formalities. Also, several key components are found in any strong CV. These components can grow over time to become individual pillars for your CV — the more pillars you have, the stronger your CV. However, the quality of each pillar is important; while a thick pillar may look good upon initial glance, if the material contained in it is not of sufficient quality, the pillar remains weak, no matter how thick it is. The most important pillars for any medical professional can vary; but, in general, each medical professional CV should include the following:
Structure of a medical professional’s CV
Education: This section should list your undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and the area in which the degree was awarded; for example, an undergraduate degree in fine arts, a master’s in biology, and a doctorate in biomedical sciences. It also includes a medical degree, such as a Doctor of Medicine, or Doctor of Philosophy degree. List the year of graduation and the school and its location for each degree. If you have a primary mentor, you also can list that person here.
Postgraduate training and fellowships: Here, you list internship, residency, and any fellowship training. List important details, including years and institution(s) attended.
Appointments: Here, you can list any positions of employment that you held, including those in medicine or outside medicine.
Hospital privileges and licenses: This serves as a place to list any privileges you have in hospitals and any state or other medical licenses, including currency and expiration dates.
Certifications: Include board certifications or other certificates; as an example, a master of multiple sclerosis certificate or certificate in medical education.
Awards and honors: List all awards within or outside the medical field and any honors, including membership in honor societies.
Membership in professional organizations and societies: List all your active and past memberships here. Be specific with the year you became a member; for example, American Heart Association, 2019–Present. If you are not a member anymore, list the years of membership; for example, American Heart Association, 2019–2023.
Editorial and scientific review activities: In this section, you may list any editorial duties you may have held or are currently holding; for example, a member of the editorial board of a journal or a magazine or an ad hoc reviewer for journals or conferences.
Leadership positions: This is a section where you can list all of your leadership roles, including local, regional, national, and international leadership positions; for example, as treasurer for the student neurologic interest group at your medical school. List the years you held office. Also, you can list any committees you served on or are currently serving on. If you have several, you may divide them into subsections using headings such as local/regional, national, and international.
Research or other grants: This applies as well to grants you received to attend conferences or society meetings; for example, a resident travel award to the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.
Invited lectures or seminars: This is a section where you can list any invited lectures or platform presentations that were part of a scientific meeting. Also, you can list invited lectures outside of medicine; for example, “I was invited to talk on the topic of gardening with native plants at the local community center.” Remember to list all activities that you participated in.
Teaching or tutoring activities: List all formal and informal teaching activities, including tutoring other trainees. Be specific on dates and the topics that you taught.
Mentorship: If you have mentored other people, this section will serve as your opportunity to list them and in what capacity you mentored them. For example, residents may have mentored medical students, medical students may have mentored undergraduate students or junior medical students, and so forth. For faculty, the list would typically include the fellows, residents, students, and junior faculty mentored.
Media appearance: If you have been featured in media (for example, a podcast or radio interview), this is the place to put that. If possible, include a link; always include a description of the media appearance.
Publications: This is the section where you list your publications. You can have subsections that each focus on certain types of publications. For example, the ones I use in my CV include sections for original research articles, case studies, case series, review articles, book chapters, editorials and letters to editors, and other online publications. An example of other online publications includes narrative medicine, such as a poem or a story. Also, you may have a section for published abstracts, typically published in the conference proceedings and found in Google Scholar.
Hobbies and interests: You can list hobbies and highlight if you have any achievements. For example, if art is a hobby, list if you have participated in art exhibitions.
PracticeUpdate: How advisable is it for people to get professional help to prepare their CVs? Despite all the best credentials in the world, wouldn’t this be good insurance?
Dr. Obeidat: This is a great question, and my answer is that it’s not necessarily the way to go. It depends on how you define professional help. For example, this interview is a form of professional help; showing your CV to a mentor is considered seeking professional help. I asked several of my mentors to review my CV and refined it based on their feedback. Also, one can find advice online nowadays. So, it is an option for people to hire a professional to prepare their CVs. With the advent of artificial intelligence, I suspect some programs can provide some help. My advice is that you show your CV to mentors and colleagues and get their feedback.
PracticeUpdate: Do you have general advice for how an applicant should approach contract negotiations?
Dr. Obeidat: One thing to remember as a medical professional is that you are always in demand, and institutions, aka employers, are willing to negotiate as much as they can to hire you. You have completed many years of training, long nights of studies, taken calls, and sacrificed a lot to get where you are, so don’t skip the opportunity to negotiate and get what you need to continue to succeed.
It's not all about compensation
Some people think negotiation is all about compensation, but it goes beyond that. First, know your worth and what you are bringing to the institution you are joining; have goals in mind, and what you want to achieve in the next 5 years. Ask for things that you need to be successful. For example, ask for startup funds (which I forgot to ask for when I got my first job, and it was a missed opportunity). Ask for an office and support staff, and know your conference allowance, days you can use for professional development, and vacation/sick days. Make sure you ask about protected time to allow you to start a research program if one of your goals is to do clinical or basic research. Ask for time to use for teaching if you are considering a job in an academic institution. If you are considering a private or community setting, know your overhead structure and the costs billed to you as you sign up for a clinical job. Know what the call structure is, and whether there are colleagues such as advanced care providers who will be helping you. Ask about signing bonuses and relocation reimbursement, as the latter can be costly. If you have a loan, some employers offer a loan forgiveness incentive, so ask about that.
Remember, it is always best to ask; the worst can be the answer “no.” Make sure to interview at multiple places and get more than one offer to compare. I learned from some offers about things I needed to ask for which I hadn’t considered. Some people will ask a professional (ie, a contract attorney) to review their contract, which is fine if you can afford it.
PracticeUpdate: To what degree is a person’s CV linked to his or her negotiating advantage?
Dr. Obeidat: The stronger and more organized your CV is, the stronger your negotiation power because you have already demonstrated excellence, and the employer wants to hire you and not lose you to another employer. So, ensure that your CV is well done and represents all of your achievements.
PracticeUpdate: What is your advice to professionals in their early career when applying for various positions?
Dr. Obeidat: My advice would depend on the person’s interests and goals for the next decade. For example, suppose someone wants to practice in an academic setting. In that case, his or her needs and wants may differ from those of a colleague considering private practice or a community-based position. Most important is knowing your worth, interviewing multiple potential employers, consulting with your mentors and colleagues, and making sure that you talk with your family and loved ones if they are moving with you. Be open to hearing “no” as an answer for some of your requests but “yes” for others. Don’t forget that you need to be happy at work to excel!
Know your goals for the next 10 years
While total compensation is important, it should not be the primary driver of accepting a position. Make sure you weigh all aspects of the opportunity, including work environment, support system, friendly co-workers. Most importantly, know which position aligns best with your goals for the next 10 years.
When I selected my current position, my goals were to establish a robust clinical practice within my subspecialty, establish a fellowship program to train future neuroimmunology and multiple sclerosis specialists, and establish a clinical trial program in multiple sclerosis and related disorders. I saw that the institution was willing to support me in achieving the goals I set for myself and allowing me to succeed.
For some, geographic location can be a primary driving factor for a position, and this is, of course, important and can sometimes come with a few sacrifices on the negotiation terms. However, always ask for what you want and remember, you may or may not get it. Remember that the worst question is the one that is not asked!