Things I Wish I Learned in Radiology Residency

October 10, 2014

Lessons that should have been part of radiology residency.

As a member of the editorial board for Diagnostic Imaging, I’ve been asked to write about topics that may be interesting and/or helpful. Though I am now an attending radiologist, in my heart I still consider myself a resident and fellow advocate.  As such, I've decided to devote my first few columns to things I never learned in residency but could have really used

Question: How do I make my CV shine?

Answer: Laminate it! 

All kidding aside, the market for radiology jobs is down and the added uncertainty surrounding the new board certification has not helped matters. I don’t want to belabor those issues, but rather try and provide some guidance of what the newly graduated resident or fellow can do to try and help them land one of those scarcely available jobs. In particular, how to optimize your CV to help it stand out among the massive pile that may land on a potential employer’s desk.

What makes me an expert in this topic? To be honest, nothing really. I was lucky enough to have my CV reviewed early in my career by someone who spends a lot of time reviewing and editing, with a very keen eye for details. I paid close attention to the feedback he provided and started to look at my CV in a different light. Since then, I've reviewed numerous CV's in a variety of different settings and have noticed certain recurring issues.

If you are ready to click away from this article, bear with me for one second, and take note of these next five key points which I will expand upon in further detail:[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"28394","attributes":{"alt":"Jonathan Flug, MD, MBA","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_1691195361296","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"2879","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 221px; width: 166px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"Jonathan Flug, MD, MBA","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Keep your CV up-to-date constantly.

Only include necessary information.

The most important information should be on the first page.

There is no single format. The best format for you is the one that highlights your particular skillset.

Font and sizing should be clear and easy to read, and not include typos.

Find someone to review and be open to feedback.

Let's break down these five points and expand further.

Keep Your CV Updated
At certain points in your career, you will be forced to put together a CV; when you apply to medical school, when you apply to residency, when you apply for fellowship (most of the time), and when you apply for a job (most of the time). For most of us, at least 10 years will pass between the first and potentially last revision of your CV. A lot can happen during that time, and if you're like me, you will forget most of it unless you write it down. Can you really remember the full title of the abstract you submitted to RSNA in 2009? Can you really remember the exact order and list of authors?

My advice is to consistently update your CV. If you were just placed on a hospital committee or had an abstract accepted to a national meeting, open up your CV and update it as soon as you receive the email confirmation. Were you just asked to give a lecture to medical students and want to include it on your CV? Add it right away and update the file name of your CV with the current date so you know when it was last updated.

Keep What’s Important
At some point in your training, you will encounter the full professor with the 50+ page CV. No one expects you to have anything close to that early on in your career, and they probably would not believe you if you did. While it may be tempting to attempt to lengthen your CV, it is very easy to spot a CV that lacks substance and is filled with fluff. This will be even more apparent when your CV is sitting in a pile of 50 for comparison.  

Take a long look through your CV and try and decide what is real, what is important to the person evaluating you, and what is just background noise. Once you do that, take out the noise, or move it to the end. The overall package may be smaller, but the message will be stronger. Additionally, doing this early on will help you realize some of your weaknesses and will give you the opportunity to strengthen your CV before it is too late.

You may be wondering when and where I will address the new boards in this article. Unfortunately, the person reviewing your CV may not be completely aware of the new board certification process, and as such, I would be sure to include your current status, which may be board-eligible, along with the earliest date you will be eligible to take your final certifying examination.  

Be Upfront
Once you have eliminated the fluff and background noise, you need to further strengthen your message by condensing the most important information on the first page. We all know how short attention spans can be. Now realize that the person reviewing your CV might be looking at 49 others. You can make or break your chances by the info that is present, or absent on the first page.

This ties in with my previous point. I have seen several CVs with multiple addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses on the first page. This unnecessary information takes up prime real estate. All I really need is one way to email, mail, or call you. Secondly, I have seen CVs with a lengthy description of college activities on the first page, or multiple lines wasted on the mailing address and phone number of your college. While your college and degree are important, you are (hopefully) being evaluated on your radiology skills. Were you a college athlete and want to make this known on your CV? It is important, but if it is all I see on page one, I might wonder what you have done since then. Find a more appropriate place for the rest of this information, if necessary at all.  

Even Tom Brady had this figured out on the post-college resume he sent out in pursuit of a finance job before being drafted by the New England Patriots.

Format Appropriately
While on the topic of where to place items on your CV, I believe there is no one right CV format. There are specific topics that need to be included, such as education, publications, etc, but there are many ways you can go about this. Try to find a way that highlights your particular strengths and skillset.

Your CV needs to be laid out clearly and easy to read. While you may not want to directly copy the layout of someone else's CV because of what I mentioned above (no two CVs are the same), you may want to copy the font and formatting of someone else's CV. Look at just a handful and you will begin to notice which ones are easy to look at and which ones give you a headache. After looking at a pile of 50 CVs, the small formatting issues will stand out even more.

In the world of spellcheck, typos are just inexcusable. It sends a bad message: that I am reading your CV more carefully than you did when preparing it. I may be a little picky when it comes to this, but I also think it is important to have the correct, complete names of your institutions and other items listed on your CV. For example, I went to the Tufts University School of Medicine. If I see a CV that has education listed as Tufts Medical School, I will be wary. When discussing research presented at national meetings, list the entire name of the meeting, which can be easily found using google. Similarly, you may be listing research you have done with well-known radiologists during your training. Many of these radiologists are well-known to others. Be careful not to misspell their names, because it will be obvious, and it will make me question the validity of your work with them.

Find Someone to Review
Over time I have asked numerous mentors and colleagues to review my CV and have done the same for others. Any time you open yourself up for criticism can be tough. In particular, you are opening yourself up to feedback and input on what you have worked on for the last ten years and how you see yourself. That being said, you need to do it. The people I have done it for at least tell me they have found it helpful, as I did when Douglas Katz first reviewed my CV before applying for fellowship and gave me a detailed list of 46 comments that I needed to address. You can choose to incorporate their suggestions or ignore them, but you should at least be aware of the impression your CV gives to others.

Last but not least, I want to stress the importance of looking out for our co-residents and fellows during this tough time. If someone has provided you with help and guidance, turn around to your junior trainees and help lead them in the right direction as well.

Do you have specific questions about CVs in general or your own individual CV? Post them in the comments below and I will answer as best I can. If you routinely review CVs and have other feedback, let us know in the comments.