February 27, 2014

3 Tips for Writing an Effective Resume for Medical School

Rob Humbracht

As you get ready to apply to med school, you should update your resume.  But it's not because you will use a resume when you actually apply to med school.  You don't submit a resume as part of AMCAS or AACOMAS.  

So why should you update your resume?

Because it's the most-requested document by letter of recommendation writers (the second most requested is a personal statement).   Updating a resume doesn't have to be time-consuming.  Here are my top 3 tips for producing an effective resume to give your letter writers:  

1) Use a format that's easy to read.

The format itself doesn't matter that much; you just want to make it easy to read for the letter writer.   Here are two free sites that allow you to create a good-looking resume:

2) Your resume should be no more than 2 pages.  

1-page resumes are for job applications, where time is of the essence to the hiring manager who's sifting through dozens of resumes.  When applying to med school, however, the letter writer has asked you for your resume (presumably she wants to read it), so you can let your accomplishments spill over to 2 pages.  Don't abuse that attention, however.  More than 2 pages starts to resemble an autobiography.  

3) Make your bullet points interesting.

Most med school resumes read like this:

Hospital Volunteering -  May 2012 - October 2013
* Assisted nurses and CNA's with their regular duties
* Answered phones and helped keep papers tidy
* Processed patients and helped transport them to different parts of the hospital
* Brought towels, food, and other items to patients
* Helped bathe and turn patients to ensure greater patient comfort
* Provided emotional support for families and patients
* Assisted in ICU and Surgery Departments

Boy, there's not a single bullet point in there that's actually exciting to read.  If you have nothing interesting to say, then at least keep it short (no more than, say, 3 bullet points).   Often there's something interesting buried in your experience, lying hidden, like a tiger waiting to pounce.  Think about an interesting story that happened to you at your experience, and see if you can turn it into a bullet point.   Here are bullet points from experiences my students have actually experienced:*

* Helped persuade schizophrenic patient to put down his fork and return to his room
* Helped deliver two babies in delivery room, helping "catch" the babies as they were delivered
* Served as first responder to helicopter landings, helping to escort patients from the helicopter to the emergency department

(note that these bullets are each from a different student's volunteering experience. Can you imagine, though, if they were all from the same unbelievable volunteering program? Best. Program. Ever.)   Now those are some exciting bullet points!  You probably don't have anything quite as exciting, but it can't hurt to try to bring the more interesting bullets to the fore of your resume.  Not only will your letter of recommendation writer be impressed, but he may make his letter stronger because he sees just how interesting your experiences have been.

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