You can use many tricks and tips to improve both your CV presentation and interview performance. UK graduates may pick up some of these in medical school, but overseas doctors can be at a disadvantage as they may not know what CVs and interviews in Britain are really about.
It is vital for success in both your CV and your interview to prepare well by learning as much as possible about the employing body, the bosses, the unit, and the job, etc. An effective CV should be written only after a thorough analysis of the job specification, person specification, job advertisement, and trust or practice website.
This is your "sales" documentinformation about you that allows the selection panel to decide whether you have the skills, personal attributes, experience, and qualifications for the post being advertised.
Many overseas doctors come from very different cultures and medical systems, where qualifications and "years in post" can be strong factors in appointment. It is a common mistake to think that merely listing experience and qualifications is enough. These days it is not. Certainly without these you are unlikely to get shortlisted or appointedbut with stiff competition the final decision can rest on more generic skills, such as evidence of teamworking and teaching, which will need to come under an "additional skills" subheading.
"CV building" is the process of identifying what is missing on your CV and then taking on specific responsibilities or experiences so that you can fill in these gaps.
Currently, an increasing number of posts have an application form either in addition to or instead of a CV. An application form allows the selection panel to have information about candidates in a standardised format, which makes comparisons between candidates easier and also finding relevant information easier. The disadvantage to the candidate is that there is less room for creativity and a greater requirement to be succinct. Application forms also tend to ask more essay-type questionssuch as "give an example of how you deal with a difficult patient" or "explain a case where you feel you learnt a lot." This format is considerably more searching than a CV, where you are merely listing jobs, procedures, and papers. The answers people give are often much more revealing than they realise.
Get it edited
Once you have completed your CV and/or job application get several people to read through it. Firstly, ask someone who has excellent spelling and grammar to check for mistakes. Secondly, try to find a doctor in your own specialty to read through the documents and point out anything that looks odd or things you could do to improve it.
A main problem in seeking advice, however, is the possibility of receiving conflicting feedback, which can seem confusing. If there is no consensus in the opinions offered, you need to assess for yourself which information seems right for you.
What if your CV is not working?
If you are not being shortlisted despite submitting numerous CVs, this may be because:
Your CV is not selling you as well as it could
The posts you are targeting are very competitive and attracting many high calibre candidates
You are applying for the wrong job for your particular level of skills and experience.
After a few applications have been rejected, it is worth doing something differentlyfor example, seek some further careers advice or restructure your CV. It is common for a CV to have to go through many drafts before the final version.
Some people are just born performers and sales people, so coming across well at interview is easy for them. However, many more are either very nervous or generally unprepared, and so they may not be offered the jobnot because they are unqualified or unable to do the job but because they can't convince the panel that they have what is needed. Doctors often think that "selling and salesmanship" is beneath them, yet being able to influence and persuade others is a key skill for doctors in many aspects of their career.
Interviews are about selecting the best person from the candidates being interviewed. They are competitions and therefore warrant some time spent in preparation and training.
The technique for doing well at interviews can be learned with practice. For some doctors this means having to go through a few unsuccessful interviews to "learn the ropes." But doctors who have fundamental problems with interview technique may need to have many weeks or months of organised interview practice and perhaps some one to one training. The following tips may help.
BeforeBe sure to read through your CV (the copy that you sent for this particular job), application form, and job description the night before or on the way to the interview. Take any other documents with you that might be usefulfor example, copies of any research papers that you have contributed to, health certificates, or work permit information.
Some CV "don'ts"
Do not use the same CV for every job application (if you do this, you are not "targeting" appropriately)
Do not include copious details about schooling on the front page
Do not repeat the same information under several job headings
Do not write huge paragraphsthat is, more than five linesof unbroken text; bullets are better
Do not use a chatty stylea CV is a professional presentation
Do not make grammar and spelling mistakes
Do not adopt poor chronology. You should start with current jobs and work logically backwards
Do not use inappropriate terminology
Do not use an inconsistent layoutfor example, fonts, headings
DuringUse good eye contact with the interview panel and smile occasionally. Don't give short monosyllabic answers, but equally don't ramble or be repetitive. The right length and balance of answers is almost as important as the content.
AfterWrite down all the interview questions (and your answers if you can recall them) immediately you come out of the room. This will allow you to start building an interview "question bank" and help you to pinpoint the questions where your answers are letting you down. If you don't get the job, ask for some feedback from the interview panel either on the day or by calling back later in the week. The human resources officer on the panel may be better at doing this than the doctors.
What interviewers want
Shortlisting may be based on criteria such as qualifications, paper experience, and academic flair, but interviewers are aiming to find out a lot more than this. They want to find a confident and competent person who can show that they know what the job entails but also be aware of their own limitations and know when to seek help.
Lectures on CV and interview skills are often included in deanery induction courses for overseas doctors
How to structure your CV (see www.medicalforum.com/CV_headings.html)
Common interview questions (see www.medicalforum.com/interview_qlist.html)
Sonia Hutton-Taylor, founder, Medical Forum Career Management