My Pharmacy Student CV sucked.
I was told in my first year of pharmacy school that I needed a CV and that it would contain everything I accomplished.
So, being a young and foolish man that I was, I included everything, the good and bad.
Its format was sloppy, the content was unimpressive, and it didn’t impress managers.
It wasn’t until I asked my mentor to review my CV that things started to change.
I was so thankful for his advice. I believe his help improved my chances in receiving interviews and job offers.
What follows are my lessons from my trials and errors (mostly errors) that will improve your CV.
- Be original, don’t use a CV template
I reviewed CVs for one pharmacy school’s students and it seemed like everyone used the same format. I asked one student about it and he said, “The faculty gave us this template to follow”.
While it may seem convenient for the students, it’s actually hurts their chances of receiving job offers.
The students’ school recently held a career fair, and can you guess which CV was a breath of fresh air to the recruiters? The ones who didn’t use the template…
- Follow the same format!
When a manager reviews your CV and finds a plethora of inconsistencies (even just one or two) in format, she may discredit you.
One manager said this to me about format inconsistencies,
“I don’t take you seriously if you don’t take this job interview process seriously.”
- Remove negative space.
Negative space is blank space on your CV. My first version had a lot of negative space in the header and footer of the first page. My mentor suggested to put my name, address, contact info in the header on the first page. Don’t use negative space to increase your pages.
- I recommend your “description” (the information about your rotation/education/activity etc.) on the left, and date on the right.
Too many CVs have the date on the left of the page, and the description on the right. This creates lots of negative space to the right of the description.
Switch places and use the space underneath the date for the descriptions of your accomplishments/responsibilities.
- Use Page numbers.
Page numbers help the “hiring manager” (the person who decides whether or not to interview you) organize your printed CV.
Often hiring managers will print out your CV. If they forget to staple your CV together, you provided page numbers to guide them.
This simple trick shows the manager that you’re thinking of them, and that’s always a good thing.
- Staples vs. Paper Clips
Do you staple your CV or bind the pages together with paper clips?
There’s no right or wrong answer here.
I’m more partial to paper clips because it allows the manager to take the paper clip off and spread the CV on a desk.
If you have the chance, you could ask the hiring manager what form they would like your CV, paper clip or staples. Again, always be thinking of what’s best for the manager.
- Ask for a professional review.
Its so important to check for grammar.
You probably found a few grammar issues with this post. That’s because I’m not a great writer, honestly (or editor).
But your CV is different. It must be without error!
If you would like me to review your CV, send me a message below and we can chat J
- Use Month and Year for dates.
No one needs to know the exact day of the start of your rotation.
Don’t use 6/4/12-7/13/12.
This is confusing and not easy to read.
Make it simple for the reader to understand. Use only the month and year for past jobs, education, volunteering, etc.
- Reverse chronological order.
Start with most recent and work backwards.
This is standard CV expectation.
Do not start with your high school background first. Why? Because that info isn’t relative to a pharmacy hiring manager. They don’t care about the accomplishments in high school (unless you gave a TED talk or went into space). They want to know your accomplishments as it relates to pharmacy.
- Use simple and consistent font.
I use Georgia size 11.
I like how it reads.
Use what is comfortable to you.
Also, consider asking your reviewer if what font he or she considers easy to read.
Many common types are Times New Roman, Arial and Trebuchet MS. Don’t use a font size bigger than 12, 14 is too big.
- Name your electronic CV “Last Name_First Name_CV”.
The point of this tip is to make it easy for the hiring manager (likely a pharmacy residency director) to find your electronic CV.
A student once sent me an electronic copy of his CV, which he entitled “CV”. Do you know how difficult it was to find his CV on my computer? I had to ask the student to send his CV again.
You can obviously do any variation of the name “Alex_Barker_CV”), but it’s helpful for managers who have multiple CVs to review.
- Add “, Pharm.D. Candidate” after your name.
You will be a future pharmacist. Be proud! You’re almost there. Flaunt while you got it.
It doesn’t matter if you use “PharmD” or “Pharm.D.”. I remember arguing with a good pharmacy friend of mine about this. But it really doesn’t matter.
- Don’t use your school’s email.
It won’t last forever. Use your gmail/yahoo/hotmail account. If you don’t have one, NOW is the time to make one. I highly recommend gmail over all others.
- Please use a professional email account.
“corn_dog87@XXXX.com” is not legitimate.
Yes, I saw this email on a CV.
- Use only one mailing address.
Don’t use two addresses. I reviewed a CV that used a permanent and temporary address. Most managers will not send you letters via snail mail anyway.
- Start with your education.
The first subject on your CV, if you’re a student, should be education.
After you’ve held your first job, you can move education down the list.
- Don’t include your high school education.
Unless you graduated from Hogwarts, high school education is not necessary to list.
- Use “Anticipated Graduation: 20XX”.
You haven’t graduated yet, so what do you place next to education?
Keep it simple.
Write “Anticipated Graduation: 2016”
A student wrote in a CV I reviewed, “My date of estimated graduation: …”
- Don’t lie about achieving a degree you didn’t earn.
Many people do not finish degrees before entering pharmacy school, and that’s fine.
But don’t lie (or mislead) about a degree you didn’t finish.
If you didn’t achieve a bachelor’s in Biology, then say “Biology Studies”
- Destroy the Objective Statement of your CV.
Don’t put an objective statement in your CV.
Yes, I’m 100% serious.
They are FOOLISH statements that provide NO EXTRA VALUE.
“To use the knowledge and experience gained from completing a Pharm.D. degree program to blah blah blah.”
Managers know what your CV’s purpose.
They know you want a job.
A Objective Statement is useless and doesn’t enhance your CV.
A risky idea that I started to use is this:
I added a “Top 3 Accomplishments” Section.
Instead of telling managers what I want to do, I tell them want I’ve done. This shows the director what I’m capable of.
Whenever I include this in my CV, every manager asked me about those three things during the interview. They are usually impressed.
- Add accomplishments and responsibilities for jobs.
If you don’t include your responsibilities and accomplishments at your job or rotation, a manager can safely assume you didn’t accomplish anything during your experience.
Tell your interviewer how awesome you are!
- Use the “Verb-Result Method” for accomplishments and responsibilities.
Each accomplishment for your jobs/rotations should communicate how you achieved a result.
Start with a verb and then describe your method that accomplished something.
“Reviewed medication lists of estimated 20 patients daily and offered therapy recommendations to physicians for ICU floor rounds daily.”
You informed the manager what you did (reviewed) and how you did it…
- Don’t use the first person on your CV.
Don’t ever, ever, ever say “I”.
This is incorrect to do on your CV.
- Don’t include irrelevant information.
Personal information should be left out.
Do not include your relationship status (complicated), religion, ethnicity, age, hobbies, interests.
A manager won’t care that you enjoy ponies, basketball, or midnight Taco Bell runs.
A manager wants to know if you will fit the position.
- Talk about yourself, not a group.
Students often include group projects on their CVs. This is okay to do. However, your CV should describe your contribution to the group, not what the group accomplished as a whole.
When you interview for a position, it is YOU who is being interviewed, and not a group of people that you were a part of.
You can mention that you were a part of a group; because managers like to see teamwork.
- Get some if you don’t have any.
Every pharmacy director knows that pharmacy school is extremely difficult.
But those students who gain work experience during pharmacy school have an advantage over those who do not.
- Include experience in other fields.
Mention any experience you have in other fields. If you worked in fast food, management, retail industry, sales, education, etc., it may bring you an advantage.
Hiring managers (residency directors too!) love to see prior work experience. It demonstrates you know how to hold a job.
- Don’t include your IPPE and EPPE rotations for residency applications.
They aren’t worth including as experience unless learned or accomplished something amazing.
- Include credentials of your preceptor.
This is simple respect for your preceptors.
- Only include the town, state and (at your own risk) phone number of rotation sites.
I reviewed a CV that included the entire mailing address for each rotation.
Your interviewer isn’t going to be pen pals with your former preceptors. Not worth it.
- If you haven’t accomplished anything as a member, include groups at your own risk!
I made the fatal mistake of including all my pharmacy organization memberships on my CV.
During an interview, the manager asked me how I contributed to one of the organizations I listed.
I turned red, and realized that the only thing I did for that group was volunteer for a brown bag event.
Let’s just say I didn’t get a second interview.
- Describe briefly how you contributed to the cause.
Volunteering is extremely important to include on your CV. Managers want to know that you contributed to a cause.
It is helpful to include a description of the event/organization because your CV reader may not know what the event or organization is.
For example, I volunteered for Casas por Cristo, a American organization dedicated to building houses in Mexico and Guatemala.
Very few know about it, so I wrote a short sentence on it’s purpose; after that I described what I accomplished.
We could talk longer about CVs, but what tips/tricks do you have? What mistakes do you see in CVs?