How to negotiate time off

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance means allocating time for life—away from work.

By Megan Kimbal | Job Doctor | Winter 2018


Doctors and patients sit and talk. At the table near the window in the hospital. Doctors and patients sit and talk. At the table near the window in the hospital.

One of the more important things to consider when evaluating a potential job opportunity is the amount of paid time off you’ll receive.

Vacation time is usually forefront on most people’s minds, but it is also important to consider paid time off for continuing medical education (CME) courses and medical mission work. These items have a direct impact on your work-life balance.

Clarify “paid time off”

Does the language of your contract clearly define the amount and allocation of the paid time off you will receive?

Many physicians assume that the paid time off listed in the contract is a non-negotiable part of the benefits package, but that is not always the case. Aside from the amount of time offered, what is offered and/or how it is structured can vary by employer.

For example, you may notice that some employers offer both vacation and CME time off separately. Others combine them into one “paid time off” pool.

It does not matter exactly how it is structured, as long as you are aware whether or not CME time off is included. You can then attempt to negotiate for additional time if desired. Assign a priority to vacation time

Before going into a negotiation, it is crucial that you develop a strategy aimed at getting what you need above what you want. Rank your priorities in order of importance. This will serve as a visual reminder while you are in negotiations of where you should stay focused.

Once you see how your paid time off is allocated, you’ll have to determine if an opportunity’s vacation time fulfills what you need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If not, what might you be willing to give up to get more? If vacation time is more important to you than a higher salary, for example, make sure you prioritize vacation time above salary during your negotiations.

Failure to prioritize weakens your position in the negotiation process, wastes valuable time, and may ultimately leave you with an unsatisfying contract. On average, most physician employees get three to four weeks of paid vacation time.

Address CME time

The cost and timing of CME courses should be discussed when negotiating your paid time off.

The CME credits required differ by state. Before you enter into negotiations, know how many hours you will be required to complete. More employers are now combining CME time, vacation time and sick leave into one “paid time off” bucket. Make sure you understand exactly how much of your paid time off is expected to be spent on CME.

Most employers will offer a week of paid CME time off with a stipend for expenses incurred in addition to paid vacation days.

Consider medical mission work

Your main focus as you negotiate your contract should be on your long-term personal goals and professional agenda.

If fulfilling a medical mission is a priority to you, then it is important to make sure your employer is aware of your goal. Medical missions can be short-term (1 to 2 weeks) or long-term (3 to 8 weeks). Before entering a contract negotiation, make sure you know what type of mission you are interested in, and how long you plan to be gone.

There are tax deductions available for medical missions, so this could be something for which your employer is willing to give you additional paid time off. If this is a priority, make sure you keep it high on your list—and ultimately be willing to give on something else you are not as passionate about.

Megan Kimbal is the director of client development at Premier Physician Agency, LLC, a national consulting firm specializing in physician job search and contracts.



How to Optimize Your CV

It’s a competitive market for physicians. Following these tips will help you stand out in your search.

By Nicole Cox and Tom Brennan | Fall 2017 | Job Doctor


Closeup Top View of People handing out documents

The demand for physicians and other health care practitioners is high. So just as you keep up with the latest best practices in your field, you also should keep up with best practices on your résumé or CV. A weak one can cause you to be passed over in spite of your strong qualifications.

In general, a good CV or résumé is specific, true, achievement-focused and relevant. There are a few simple procedures you can perform on your résumé to optimize outcomes. Based on input from seasoned recruiters, here are tips to make it easy for recruiters to find you and match your qualifications to an organization’s needs.

Streamline the formatting

Most recruiters use search engines and applicant tracking systems (ATSs) to find and process CVs. These tools have parsing functions to scan and pull information. If your CV has graphics, text boxes, unusual bullet styles and frilly fonts or other fancy formatting, it may confuse the parsing function, which could result in your CV being passed over by search engines or mishandled by an ATS.

Spell out acronyms, and include keywords to help with search engine optimization. A few carefully chosen keywords will work better than an overdose of semi-relevant ones. Keywords will include your areas of specialty, so they probably will show up as you list your education and career history. However, use the more common terms that recruiters are likely to use when searching. For example, use “coronary angioplasty” rather than “percutaneous coronary intervention.”

Know whether you need a résumé or CV

“Short and sweet” is a good rule of thumb, but an academic or clinician is more likely to use a curriculum vitae (CV) than a résumé. Depending on your definition of the two terms, you may want both or at least a hybrid. Some consider a CV a simple listing and a résumé as a creative tool for “selling” yourself. You can create a hybrid by formatting the first two pages as a résumé and then set up additional pages as a CV-style list.

While a résumé in just about any other profession should be no longer than two pages, a CV can run several pages long. Be sure to include all your education, including residencies and fellowship training. List the following—especially the most relevant:

  • Honors
  • Awards
  • Patents
  • Speaking engagements
  • Publications

Creating a CV is not an open invitation to be verbose. For example, while you definitely want to list accomplishments for each position, list no more than five under each position. Choose accomplishments that are not only significant, but also relevant to the position for which you’re applying.

Make sure your achievements shine

Recruiters will be looking for your ability to deliver results, so list your key achievements. Be specific about the goals you achieved. Rather than something vague like, “led new process implementation,” state what the new process was, your role in the project and the impact on the organization.

Share numbers

Across industries, there is an increasing focus on metrics. The more you can quantify your accomplishments, the better. You can use actual numbers (such as “Launched asthma community outreach program and enrolled 125 patients”) or percentages (“Developed new ablation method reducing procedure time by an average of 7 percent”).

Either way, provide enough context to show the impact. For example, if your objective was to reduce procedure time by 5 percent, make it clear that you exceeded the goal.

Decide whether to include a cover letter

You’ll need to decide this on a case-by-case basis, but in general, the answer is “no.” The recruiters we talked to said they deal with information overload just like everyone else, and they rarely pay much attention to cover letters. In addition, a cover letter is essentially another page susceptible to infection by typos and grammatical errors.

However, some employers will ask for a cover letter. In that case, apply the same approach you’re using with your résumé: specific, true, achievement-focused and relevant. Treat it as an executive summary, tailor it to the open position and organization, and limit it to one page. For example, if you’re applying for a leadership position in the joint replacement program at a large medical center, explain how your background and experience are directly relevant and set you up for success in the role. If you’re applying for a role in a different location, communicate why you’re planning a move.

Don’t hide any gaps

Plenty of people take breaks during their career, and they aren’t automatic black marks. Maybe you took time for additional schooling (a medical degree plus an MHA or MPA can be powerful combination) or moved to a new state because your spouse was transferred. A legitimate gap only becomes a problem when you try to gloss over it. Smart recruiters will spot gaps, and without an explanation, they may jump to their own conclusions.

List the gap in the chronology of your career along with jobs, including dates and a brief explanation. Just the same, be careful about providing too much information, like your age, relationships or children. Employers aren’t allowed to ask for that kind of information, and you shouldn’t offer it.

Pay attention to the first impressions you give

Think of your CV as your envoy in the talent market. You want that envoy to represent you in the best light. Even if you aren’t actively looking for a new position, a solid, up-to-date CV can benefit you. Post it to relevant professional job boards, and a recruiter just might bring an interesting opportunity to your attention. Overall, a good CV helps you optimize your market presence.

Nicole Cox is chief recruitment officer at She oversees all corporate recruiting operations for the organization. Tom Brennan is senior writer at Decision Toolbox.



The Top 5 Physician Interview Mistakes

By Matt Wiggins | Job Doctor | Summer 2017


Physician interview mistakesEmployment interviews are the cause of much angst among the physician community at large. Upon scheduling an interview, you may start envisioning yourself sitting across from much more experienced and potentially jaded physicians, business professionals looking to sniff out a bad investment, or HR assassins trained to pick apart your flaws to ensure they don’t let a weak link through the doors of the hospital.

Though this fear is a bit far-fetched, it’s surprisingly common. The truth is, you can’t control how the interviewers handle the interview, and thus shouldn’t worry about it. You can only control how you handle an interview, and the key to handling it well is to prepare thoroughly and avoid these mistakes that are often a part of the physician interview process.

Mistake #1: One and Done

Many physicians, especially those just finishing training, have in their minds an ideal scenario for practicing medicine. They have preconditions and preconceptions about where and how they want to work. Having such ideas may lead you to interview with only one employer, but this is a huge mistake. Most physicians are not master poker players, and eventually an employer will realize you are only interviewing with them. When this happens, you can forget negotiating for better income, vacation, call schedule, bonuses or really anything else. If they’re your only interview, they hold all the cards: You have nothing to compare them to and lots of motivation to take their offer. At any stage of your career, having multiple interviews ensures you will be able to evaluate factors you may never have thought of. You can use pros from each opportunity to make the others better and negotiate from a position of strength and opportunity rather than weakness and dependence.

Mistake #2: Failure to Prepare

You would never take your boards without preparing. You would never invest your money without researching ahead of time. You would never propose marriage without some sort of knowledge of the person and some plans in place. The same should be said for interviewing. Before sitting across the conference table from a much more experienced interviewer, you should do the following:

  • Research the employer’s location, reputation, background, achievements, size, patient population, recent headlines and any other important information you can get your hands on.
  • Create a list of employment priorities for yourself, and your family if applicable, in order of importance.
  • Develop a list of questions specifically designed to learn about your priorities so that if time runs short or you lose your nerve, you will at least leave the interview with an idea of how your most important concerns would be addressed in that situation.
  • Finally, review what you know about the position they are interviewing for. Prepare a list of the top three to five things that make you a good fit for that job and make sure that the questions they ask are answered in a manner that conveys those main points as much as possible.

Mistake #3: Interviewing Dory

You can tell I have three kids 10 and under when I reference a Pixar movie. If you haven’t seen it, “Finding Dory” is a cute animated movie that is sort of a sequel to “Finding Nemo” and follows the character of Dory, an adorable blue fish that suffers from extreme short-term memory loss. This obviously leads to a lot of bad decisions, mistaken identities, frustration and comedy. It’s not so comedic, however, when physicians display the same thing while interviewing for employment opportunities.

I’ve heard it said that we forget 50 percent of what we hear within one hour of hearing it and close to 70 percent within 24 hours. This means that just one day after an interview, you may only retain 30 percent of what was said. No one should make a major life decision based on 30 percent of the information. The solution is to take notes during the interview and to use the same prepared questions for each interview. This will both help you retain what has been said and give you a way to compare different opportunities (specifically, how they measure up with regard to your top priorities) in an apples-to-apples manner.

Mistake #4: Failure to Follow Up

Take some advice from an earlier generation and send a thank-you note, card, letter or email after your interview. Simply showing appreciation for the interviewers’ time speaks volumes about your communication and relational skills. It can also improve the prospective employer’s perception of both your bedside manner and your potential as a colleague. I’ve seen physicians get offered positions in highly competitive situations as a result of their interview follow-up—don’t forget to do this!

Mistake #5: Not Taking this Advice

The physicians who will do well are those who will listen to the advice of people who have worked with thousands of doctors before them. It’s tempting to believe that interviews are either easy—just an opportunity to answer questions about yourself—or impossibly hard. In actuality, interviews should not be taken lightly, but they also shouldn’t be cause for nightmares. By preparing thoroughly for your interview, you can interview the prospective employer simultaneously. Based on their answers to your questions, you can decide whether you want to work for them. Their answers will also help you compare multiple offers and ultimately negotiate the best employment opportunity possible.

Matthew J. Wiggins is partner and senior consultant for Pattern.



From good to pitch perfect: Avoid common candidate communication errors

Don’t let poor communication blow a strong first impression.

By Therese Karsten | Job Doctor | Spring 2017


Your communication skills showcase your ability to organize, reason, handle technology and interact with staff. Employers know that the way you handle administrative tasks during recruitment is a harbinger of how you will handle administrative tasks in employment.

Plus, error-free communications keep you at the top of the candidate slate. In a competitive job market, missed communications give time for another equally qualified candidate to grab the employer’s attention while you’re trying to reschedule or reconnect.

Here are some practical tips for staying on top of your communication game.

Check your outbound voicemail message

Is your voicemail message professional but engaging? Is your name clearly enunciated? If not, the managing partner trying to call you may not know if she’s reached you. She may leave a message, she may not. She may be thinking, This can’t be the right number. A physician looking for a job would never leave a generic outgoing message on the phone number he gives to employers.

Check the email address on your CV

Is it one you actually check? If not, Murphy’s Law dictates that it will be the address that will actually be emailed. We’ve also had candidates miss emails because they used their training program email addresses to pose questions, but expect the answers in their personal email inboxes. For the duration of the job search, set your email application default to show “all incoming mail” so you don’t miss any crucial job search communications.

Check your telephone presentation

When you call a recruiter, don’t say “Hi, how are you today?” That’s how salespeople and outside search firms open a conversation. You, the physician, are our top priority, so your strongest open is “Hi, this is Dr. Smith.” Don’t say, “I’m calling about the internal medicine ad—is that job still available?” Recruiters are working on anywhere from 15 to 50 jobs at a time, and we need more information to answer you best.

Instead, say: “Hi, this is Jenny Smith, and I’m a third-year internal medicine resident at the University of St. Louis. I’m calling about your ad on PracticeLink for intensivists for Presbyterian/St. Luke’s in Denver.” The same goes for voicemails. A succinct, informative intro gets you what you need from us as quickly as possible.

Know when/how to use “reply all”

If an employer asks you a question via email and has other email addresses on the Cc line, use “reply all.” Cc is an abbreviation for “carbon copy.” It means the sender intended for a third party to see the email and implies that the sender also wants that recipient to see your response. If you ignore this, you are depending wholly on the initial sender not only to notice that you didn’t copy the other person but also to relay your response.

Make the most of the subject line of email

Recruiters receive up to 400 emails a day, and the only way to prioritize is by subject line. Use that line to convey urgency, and even use the urgent flag when warranted. “No location yet for Friday lunch” is going to get a recruiter or practice administrator’s attention immediately. An email with subject line “Update” is not—it doesn’t convey that an urgent reply is needed.

Identify yourself when texting

Texting is the best thing since sliced bread, but make sure you identify yourself in the initial text. “This is Dr. Jenny Smith checking to see if the group was able to move the dinner to Thursday. I have to give final dates to my program by EOB today.” We have wonderful applicant tracking systems that recognize names, email addresses and phone numbers in emails. But on a smart phone, all we see is a phone number if you are not stored as a known contact.

Leave a voicemail

We know, we know—many physicians under 35 simply don’t do voicemail. When the recipient sees a missed call, he should simply return the call, right? But recruiters and practices receive a lot of calls from vendors. We return messages, but we won’t redial every incoming call. Leave a message!

Know the steps to the conference call, WebEx or Skype interview dance

Verify the time zone. Try to click or dial in early to allow time to troubleshoot. If you can’t get in, or nobody is on the line after the scheduled time, email or text the organizer. If you are all alone on a conference call and someone is trying to call you, hit “hold and accept” to see if it’s the organizer. It’s not uncommon to have technical problems, and recruiters may be trying to reach everyone with a new number or to reschedule. Once on a call, don’t ever put the call on hold—just mute the call if you need to answer a page. (Hold means we all hear your hospital’s hold music and can’t talk among ourselves!) Also use the mute button if you need to sneeze, cough or hiss “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?!” at someone.

Don’t guess on reference contact information

Even if you are closely connected to a practice you are joining, the employer has to comply with HR protocol and document that they have checked references. Give us the right numbers and email addresses upfront!

Don’t copy/paste your thank you message

Employers forward your thank you note to others on the decision team. Of course there is going to be some commonality, but try to think of something relevant to that interviewer’s conversation with you. It’s painfully obvious when we all get exactly the same three sentences. Conversely, there are a lot of virtual oohs and ahs when we see thoughtful and original thank you messages.

Name documents thoughtfully

If an employer sends you a form to complete or asks for an updated copy of your CV, pause before hitting save. Every day we receive CVs with crazy names like “Ryan Resume—v 8 with research obj statement” or “St. Mary’s document.” The candidate who puts her first and last name and the title of the document in the file name is telling me that she is detail-oriented. She is thinking about what might be helpful to us in storing documents related to her prospective employment with us.

Inform the employers you decide not to join

Even if you’re not taking the job, close the loop with an email or phone call. I hear excuses like “They’ll just know when I stop responding” or “I didn’t want to respond because I hadn’t actually signed yet.” Once you have negotiated the key terms of your contract, it’s time to tell the unsuccessful suitors so they can move on to other candidates. Don’t end things on a sour note by going dark in a misguided attempt to preserve options. Wish the employer the best of luck with their search. It’s a small world, and you want to be remembered as a terrific candidate who acted with class and manners throughout the recruitment dance!

Therese Karsten, MBA, CMSR, FASPR is the director of physician recruitment for HCA Physician Services Group.



The who, what and when of contract negotiations

Your first employment contract may look like it’s written in a foreign language. Here’s a guide to help you know what to look for and what to negotiate.

By Jeff Hinds, MHA | Fall 2016 | Job Doctor


Most physicians, particularly those finishing training and looking toward their first practices, have had years of medical training but almost no training about how to find a job—and, once they’ve been offered one, how to determine if contract terms are fair. Here’s some advice on what to look for in a contract and what to know as you head into negotiations.

The Parties Involved

The first step to navigate the negotiation process successfully is to understand who will be involved in the process. From the employer’s perspective, the exact title or role of the individual who handles negotiations will vary by organization—it may be an in-house recruiter, practice administrator, CFO, CEO, attorney or someone else entirely. Regardless of the title or role, it goes without saying that the employer will likely be better versed than you when it comes to the contractual terms within their agreement. It is also worth noting that the agreement was written by an attorney to help protect the interests of the employer. There is too much at risk professionally and personally for you not to ensure the same. Because of this, it is highly advisable that physicians also seek outside assistance from an attorney to help with contract review and negotiation. The investment is minimal when compared to the potential ramifications.

The Proper Timing

It is equally important to know when the actual negotiation process begins. Though certain contractual terms may be introduced early in the process, such as during phone interviews or site visits, formal negotiation of terms should occur later in the process after a contract offer has been made. There may be instances in which employers ask for your feedback on particular terms (e.g., compensation), but it is in your best interest simply to collect the information shared by the employer at that point and hold off on all negotiations until an offer is in hand. Otherwise, you run the risk of being too aggressive and losing a potential offer before it has even been made. Waiting until later in the process will also allow you ample time to collect or research market data, gain feedback from peers or advisers on questionable terms, and assess your overall leverage before determining what to negotiate and how aggressive you can actually be in negotiations.

The Negotiable Terms

Knowledge of which contractual items are actually negotiable is paramount heading into the negotiation process. Though most physician contracts nationwide are similar from a structural standpoint, there are some key provisions/terms that vary by organization and affect the overall quality of the offer. Below are examples of some key items that may be negotiable in any given contract. But again, it is highly advisable to obtain a qualified health care contract attorney to fully assess all terms and determine the most appropriate revisions to seek based on your unique situation.

Base Salary. How does the salary offered compare to published salary surveys and benchmarking data both nationally and regionally for the given specialty? What competing offers exist within the immediate area to determine market value and provide leverage?

Pre-Employment Compensation. What are standard signing bonus and relocation reimbursement amounts for the specialty and region? What is standard when it comes to student loan reimbursement and educational stipends?

Productivity Compensation. What are the metrics used to calculate productivity compensation, and are they reasonably attainable based on the market data available? Will a base salary remain in place for the duration of the contract term, or will compensation transition to productivity-only?

Termination Language. What termination with cause and termination without cause provisions exist, and are they adequately defined? Is there a notice and cure period in place that provides the physician with added protection from termination with cause?

Restrictive Covenant. Does the contract possess noncompete language, and are the time and distance restrictions reasonable? Do the restrictions apply to areas surrounding a single location or to areas surrounding multiple locations that are part of the employer’s network?

Professional Liability Insurance. What type of professional liability insurance will be provided—a claims-made or an occurrence policy? And if applicable, will the employer or the physician be responsible for the full (or partial) expense of acquiring tail coverage?

Scrutinizing your contract, even with a lawyer’s assistance, may seem laborious at first, but it’s time well spent. By negotiating contract terms before you sign, you will reap the benefits of a more advantageous agreement for years to come.

Jeff Hinds, MHA, is president at Premier Physician Agency, LLC, a national consulting firm specializing in physician job search and contracts.



Creating your desired first impression

Looking to move forward as a candidate? Improve your chances with these tips.

By Jeff Hinds, MHA | Job Doctor | Winter 2017


In the absence of any pre-established relationship, the content of your CV and other application materials are all an employer knows about you before deciding whether to consider you as a candidate for their job opening. The reality is that you may be filtered out as a viable candidate for your dream job before you even have the opportunity to sell yourself via a phone interview or on-site visit.

There will likely be competition for any position you decide to pursue, so how you market yourself as a candidate should not be taken lightly. Though the content of your CV and other application materials may appear very basic on the surface, it is the minor details that can set you apart and differentiate you from the competition when all else is equal.

Create a strong CV

The first document that will be required by all employers is your curriculum vitae (CV). Employers use the CV as a screening mechanism to filter out candidates who don’t seem like the right fit before proceeding to phone interviews.

To determine fit and qualification, they look for obvious items like medical training and education, work history, certifications, licensure, professional associations, honors and awards, research and publications. Your goal is to include all the pertinent information that will set you apart as a candidate.

Conversely, do not add what could be construed as irrelevant content just to make your CV longer. The length of your CV is not indicative of your quality as a candidate. Simply adding content to increase length will dilute the meaningful substance of your CV and make it more difficult for potential employers to navigate.

Employers need to be able to navigate through your CV quickly to find the information they are looking for. Beyond the content itself, you can also help accomplish this through proper formatting, consistent spacing and listing activities in reverse chronological order. Employers are most interested in what you are doing now and shouldn’t have to dig too far to find that information.

Again, a strong CV will not win you the job necessarily, but one that is disorganized and difficult to navigate can certainly eliminate you from consideration earlier in the process.

Sell yourself in your cover letter

It is to your advantage to submit a cover letter along with your CV. Your CV may show how you’re qualified, but your cover letter will show why you’re a great fit.

If there is a job posting or advertisement for the opening, take the specific qualifications, skills or attributes being sought and elaborate further in the letter on how you are a match. In addition, indicate any pre-existing relationships you have in the organization or area to show that your commitment to the opportunity will be long-lasting.

Line up references and letters of recommendation

Request letters of recommendation or contact information for your references before or at the onset of your search. Be sure to notify your references if you believe a potential employer will be reaching out to them.

By devoting the necessary time and attention to ensure your application materials reflect your strength as a candidate, your chances of moving forward in the process are only increased. You have worked hard to get this far in your career and do not want to miss out on your dream job for reasons within your control.

Jeff Hinds, MHA, is president of Premier Physician Agency, LLC, a national consulting firm specializing in physician job search and contracts.



How to make the most of your CV gaps

A gap in your work history doesn’t have to work against you. These expert tips will help you make the most of your career timeline.

By Anish Majumdar | Job Doctor | Summer 2016


I recently worked with an emergency medicine physician who was wrapping up her residency and hunting for a new opportunity. Her program was among the top 10 percent in the country. Her teaching experience and volunteering background were first-rate. There was just one problem: Her four-year residency had taken five years to complete.

During a phone consultation to discuss her career, I brought it up, half-thinking it might have been just a typo on her CV. No typo.

After a lengthy pause, she explained that a close family member had unexpectedly died during her first year of residency. In the aftermath, it was impossible simply to continue on with training, so she’d opted for a one-year leave of absence. Love of medicine had brought her back.

Do you think an employer is more likely to hire someone who owns this part of her journey or tries to ignore the issue? The truth is, ignoring it never works.

Recruiters and hiring agents aren’t robots—they’re people like you and me. They get that life happens. They’re also trained to spot inconsistencies on someone’s CV and will, if they’re not addressed, assume the worst. “Five years to complete a four-year residency? Probably due to poor performance. Pass.”

This is why it’s critical to control the message you’re putting out there, especially when it comes to vulnerabilities. Abide by the following tips.

Create a “Career Note” within your CV

Inserting a brief one to two line “Career Note” directly within the “Work History” section of your CV is one of the most effective ways to address a gap. By placing it in a reader’s line of sight, you enable him to pick up on the relevant details without getting distracted from the rest of the document.

Work Gap Example #1: Taking time off to deal with a personal loss.

Career Note: Undertook a one-year leave of absence to cope with a loss in the family. Strengthened personal relationships, managed household affairs, and volunteered for monthly community health clinics (April 2014 – April 2015).

Note the last part about health clinics. If you took on anything remotely career-related during your work gap, be sure to mention it. This sends a clear message to hiring agents that you remained “in the mix” and continually developing during this period.

Work Gap Example #2: Taking time off to pursue training in another field.

Career Note: Pursued Master of Health Care Administration Degree at University of XYZ between 2014 and 2016, with a goal of incorporating knowledge into a hospital leadership position.

Answering why you pursued this training is a great way to get a reader to understand your thinking. I would also recommend placing the “Education” section near the start of the CV to showcase this training. If it’s currently in progress, it’s fine to list it as follows:

Master of Health Care Administration – University of XYZ (Expected Graduation December 2016)

Share your story within the cover letter

Great cover letters offer a glimpse of the person behind the qualifications: what inspires, challenges and differentiates them. In other words, it’s a prime opportunity to spin your work gap into a positive differentiator instead of a negative. The trick is to frame it in a way that adds value to your candidacy.

Use the CARB formula when broaching a gap within the cover letter: challenge, action, results and benefits. Here’s what I wrote for my five-year residency client (altered to maintain confidentiality):

“During my second year of residency, I faced a moment that shook me to my core and made me question my commitment to medicine. My mother, on a visit from New Zealand, suddenly passed away. I found myself without an anchor, adrift, and took a one-year leave of absence to recover and keep our family whole. What I discovered was a greater sense of purpose, an unshakeable belief that circumstances would not alter the course of my journey as a doctor. Upon finishing my residency, I will have completed more than 1,000 clinical hours, executed a significant body of research and gained specialized training in medical education and simulation. I am a stronger, more focused physician because of what I’ve gone through, not in spite of it.”

Proactively address it during the interview

Congrats, you’ve made it past the screening process and have received an invitation to the big game. Don’t blow it by being unprepared to address obvious holes in your career!

Try to weave the explanation in naturally during conversation, before you’re asked about it. Here’s how you can broach being laid off at your previous appointment:

“While leaving my last job was challenging on many fronts, both professionally and in terms of the impact to my family, I wouldn’t change a thing. My last position taught me that in order to be an effective physician, you need to be part of an organization that shares your values and is committed to empowering staff to create a truly world-class institution. Sometimes a hard experience can clarify your beliefs, and that’s what happened here.”

Above all, remember this: The seriousness of an employment gap—and how much of a career liability it will be—rests largely on how you feel about it. Come to terms with it personally, and these tips will help take care of the rest.

Anish Majumdar is a career strategist, certified résumé writer and founder of



Why cover letters matter for physician job-seekers

Share your personality—and why you’re a good fit for the position—in your cover letter.

By Anish Majumdar | Job Doctor | Spring 2016


Hate small talk? Is chatting about yourself as appealing as getting a root canal? You’re not alone. Many of the physicians I work with have real trouble expressing themselves if the conversation doesn’t relate to their specialty. Unsurprisingly, they are also often the ones who will question the necessity of a cover letter during the search process: “No one reads them!” “It’s just fluff!” “Why can’t I just send the CV and call it a day?”

Here’s why: When asked what the most important factor was in distinguishing a high-quality physician, 59 percent of Americans said “physician-patient relationships” and “personality.” Only 11 percent said “ability to accurately diagnose and fix a problem.” (The study was done by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.)

Your ability to engage on a human level matters to both patients and recruiters. And it’s an element that health care institutions are placing an increasingly heavy emphasis on during the hiring process. This is where a cover letter can help: by offering a glimpse of the person behind the credentials, and encouraging a connection.

The exploratory letter

Having gone through the med school and residency application process, you’re probably familiar with the rigid structure of CVs. Throw all of that out the window for your cover letter! Consider it a blank canvas on which to create a fantastic first impression. This goes double for those situations when you’re not applying for a specific position, but rather initiating a dialogue.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin to write:

  • What appeals to me about this institution?
  • Why, specifically, do I want to work there, and what will help me to succeed?
  • With whom am I connected at this institution? An easy way to answer this question is to go to LinkedIn, search for the institution name in the search bar, and check out the “How You’re Connected” section on the top-right corner of the page.
  • Why am I a good fit with the culture of this institution?
  • Why do I practice medicine? How does my personal history relate to the work that I do?

Now that you’ve got some great information for the letter, let’s take a look at a general structure you can customize:

Dear Dr. Doe [use a first name if “Dr.” is not applicable]:

I am currently completing my [insert level of training and experience] and believe that [institution name]’s forward thinking in [areas you’ve identified through research] would make for an excellent fit. I received my [degree] from [institution name] and am highly experienced in [insert a few key procedural details or specific areas of interest].

Key qualifications:

Working with [insert patient population] to improve their lives and foster meaningful change is at the heart of what I do. During my [previous position or appointment] I faced a unique set of challenges in [what successes are you most proud of?]. I’d like to bring this experience to your institution, and know that I can be an asset to furthering the goals of the [specialty] department.

In researching [institution name], I realized that we share a connection with [person you’re connected to]. I had a chance to [mention any history you have with this person] and am confident that he can provide more insight into who I am.

Growing up in [mention hometown] I had an experience that opened my eyes to the immense potential we have as healers to effect positive change. [Mention aspects of your personal story that made you want to become a physician here, and why it continues to inspire you today.] I wish to continue to learn alongside leaders in the field, and serve as a mentor to the next generation of physicians.

Beyond the excellent reputation enjoyed by [institution name], I [mention lifestyle reason that appeals to you based on research]. A copy of my current CV is enclosed. I look forward to hearing from you to further discuss. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely, [Your name]

The position-specific letter

Cover letters for a specific position need to explicitly communicate fit. With that in mind, it’s important to evaluate the job posting to identify the top one to two qualifications that are essential for success.

For example, a high-level academic position could hinge on demonstrating excellence in medical education and organizational development.

Here’s a general structure you can use:


Dear Dr. Doe [use a first name if “Dr.” is not applicable]:

How can we [directly address the long-term priorities of the institution based on research] and succeed within a rapidly changing health care environment? Answering these questions have been at the heart of my career to date, and is the primary reason behind my desire to join your institution. I am [mention your most impressive credentials].

A leader in [Insert number-one qualification necessary for success]

My areas of interest in [mention key aspects of your experience] have been shaped through a range of academic and clinical appointments. At [mention specific position], my duties included [describe aspects of the job that tie into number-one qualification]. Prior to this, I [mention other work and training that helps to establish credibility for number-one qualification].

Broad experience in [Insert number-two qualification necessary for success]

[Use the same approach as previous paragraph. If you lack experience in this area, use this space to talk about your strong interest, and how exactly you’re planning to bolster your capabilities.]

My roots in medicine began [mention personal history], and my progressive experience over the past few years have done much to illuminate the way forward. In the following years, I see myself as [describe your biggest dream for the future, and how this position is integral to it].

My CV is attached. Thanks for your consideration, and I look forward to continuing this discussion in person.

Sincerely, [Your name]

Anish Majumdar is a career strategist, certified résumé writer and founder of He specializes in helping physicians land dream positions in less time.



CV vs. Resume: Do you know the difference?

It’s up to you to connect the dots for employers and show how you’re a fit for the opportunity.

By Anish Majumdar, CPRW | Job Doctor | Winter 2016


The question I’m most frequently asked by physicians who are about to embark on a job search is, “Do I need a CV or a resume?” It’s usually followed up a moment later by, “What’s the difference, anyway?”

The confusion is understandable. After all, if you’re hunting for a position in Europe or other parts of the world, resumes and CVs alike are all referred to as CVs. Even here in the United States, where significant differences have emerged between the two documents, it is by no means uncommon to hear the two terms used interchangeably. Let’s talk about the major differences between CVs and resumes, and how to develop either in a manner that gets noticed by employers.

Layout: Comprehensive vs. Strategic

Lay a curriculum vitae and a resume side-by-side and the first big difference becomes apparent: length.

While most resumes stop around the two-page mark, a CV can easily stretch to three, four, even five pages. Ever wonder why? Inspecting the layout of each document reveals some important clues. Here are the general headings for each:


  • Opening section
  • Education
  • Licensure & certifications
  • Postdoctoral training
  • Professional experience
  • Teaching experience
  • Research experience
  • Publications & presentations
  • Community involvement
  • Professional affiliations


  • Opening section
  • Professional experience (with teaching and research experience usually integrated)
  • Education
  • Community involvement
  • Professional affiliations
  • Special interests (optional)

CVs are sticklers for detail and leave very little wiggle room for interpretation. It’s what you’ll need to pursue clinical and academic positions, and because of the life-and-death stakes, it’s how you’ll communicate that you have the specific knowledge base and experience required for success. Use the following question to guide your CV writing efforts: Have I made it crystal clear that I can handle every one of the major responsibilities required by this position?

A resume is what you’ll need for non-clinical positions, everything from hospital administration to technology/informatics (serving as chief medical information officer, for example), pharma/biotech R&D and management consulting.

Due to the significant career pivot necessary for jobs like this, emphasizing the right details is far more important than being comprehensive. Ask yourself the following question when crafting a resume: Have I elaborated upon those aspects of my experience and training that support a move to the targeted position?

Branding: Expert vs. Visionary

In a hiring environment that is growing ever more complex and data-driven, it is essential to do the heavy lifting when it comes to branding yourself. Never rely on someone else to connect the dots between what’s on the page and why you’re a great candidate. Take control of the message to get a significant leg up on the competition.

I usually begin CVs with an opening paragraph designed to establish credibility and professional stature. This is where you’ll want to include details such as being board certified and fellowship trained, the Level I Trauma Center you’re working at, and the strong EMR experience you’ve gained. Everything needs to be tied down to specifics. Show an unbroken timeline of your work history. Avoid fluff.

For the resume, think in terms of an “elevator pitch.” If you only had the time it takes for an elevator to go between floors to convince an employer to hire you, what would you say? Wouldn’t it behoove you to communicate your passion, and perhaps back it up with one or two career accomplishments that demonstrate transferable skills? Remember: It’s only considered bragging if done badly!

Keywords: Hard vs. Soft Skills

The use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), software designed to serve as the first pair of “eyes” when it comes to evaluating candidates for a job, is a hiring practice that is ubiquitous outside the health care industry. Up until recently, physicians could rest easy knowing that their CVs would be evaluated by an actual person, not rejected by an ATS system for insufficient keywords. Times have changed, and it may surprise you to know that physician Applicant Tracking Systems are being increasingly used to identify high-quality professionals. Here are the strategies I use to address ATS systems and get documents seen by those who matter.

CV keywords are all about hard (read: quantifiable) skills. Think about including a boldfaced section near the start of the document that calls out procedures and emerging/established areas of expertise. Here’s a keyword section I developed for a nephrologist who had recently completed his training and was on the hunt for a clinical-heavy role:

Procedures: Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), Central Line and Arterial Line Placement, Lumbar Punctures, Paracentesis, Conventional Hemodialysis, CVVH/CVVHD/SLED, Home Hemodialysis, Thoracentesis, Arthrocentesis, ICU Care and Ventilator Care

Resume keywords can focus more on soft (read: big picture) capabilities. The goal is to move beyond current skills and into the realm of potential. Here’s a keyword section I developed for a board-certified pediatrician in search of a program development/consulting role:

Core Competencies: Health Care Management, Program Development, Community Outreach, Health Care Information Technology, Quality Improvement, Patient-Centered Medical Home, Public Health, Critical Care, Health Care Reform

Expert tip: Searching on LinkedIn for professionals who currently have the job you’re after is a fantastic way to get keyword ideas. Insert the exact job title into the search bar, click on the first few member profiles that come up, and scroll down to the “Skills” section for a rundown of keyword ideas. Of course, be sure they’re based in your reality. Be prepared to defend the keywords included within your resume or CV in an interview.

Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and founder of He works one-on-one with physicians and health care leaders in developing optimized CVs and resumes, LinkedIn presences, and other tools for rapid job placement. He can be reached at



Specialize your CV for better results

Connect the dots to show recruiters how you’d be an asset to their organization.

By Anish Majumdar, CPRW | Fall 2015 | Job Doctor


Though it’s great to see yourself as a Renaissance man or woman in terms of career options, someone who can succeed in a wide range of roles and settings, for the purposes of a job search this approach can be counterproductive.

At the stage of the hiring process where CVs are involved, it’s all about match-up: How precisely does your experience align with the position that needs to be filled?

By thinking like a specialist and communicating the right details in your CV, you will see an uptick in the amount and quality of responses received from employers. Answer the “Why me?” question

I recently worked with a board-certified cardiologist who was concerned about the lack of attention his CV was getting. I took a look and quickly ruled out qualifications as the culprit. Prestigious fellowships in interventional cardiology and advanced heart failure and transplantation, solid teaching experience, numerous awards, a huge publication list…it went on and on. In fact, the more I read the more I found myself asking the questions, “Where does he go from here? What are his priorities?” This is the main problem with a jack-of-all-trades CV: If you don’t explicitly communicate what you’re after, an employer will rarely connect the dots for you.

My solution was to develop two separate versions of the CV inline with the types of jobs he was targeting: the first toward interventional cardiology positions, the second toward advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology roles.

I recommend creating an opening statement at the start of the CV that establishes your suitability. Here are the first few lines of the interventional cardiologist-oriented CV:

Board-certified interventional cardiologist with a track record of excellence in advanced heart failure and transplantation, cardiovascular disease management and interventional training. Adept in the management of mechanical circulatory support devices, including IABP and Impella LVAD. Able to guide interdisciplinary teams in enhancing quality of care standards.

And now here are the first few lines of the advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist-oriented CV:

Board-certified cardiologist specializing in the management of advanced heart failure (inpatient, outpatient, consultative), mechanical circulatory support devices (LVAD, TAH, ECMO) and cardiac transplantation. Skilled in the management of critically ill patients after cardiothoracic surgery, cardiogenic shock and inotrope dependent end stage heart failure. Distinguished clinical research background.

Both statements are describing the same person. But because we’re thinking now about what aspects of his background are most relevant to the job being targeted, the initial impression is stronger. Stronger is good!

Be strategic about what you highlight

Using the opening statement as the theme for the rest of the CV, elaborate upon those aspects that support your standing as a specialist. For my cardiologist client, that meant making the following changes and additions:

Integration of an “Interventional & endovascular skills” section divided into three categories: coronary, peripheral and structural. A section like this that highlights procedures is a great way to back up the assertions of an opening paragraph with concrete details.

Inclusion of both current and in-progress licenses and certificationsTo add an upcoming certification, list it along with a note on when it will be completed. Here’s an example: ABVM Endovascular Certification (anticipated 2016)

Highlighting useful information within work history and postdoctoral training. In my client’s case, we emphasized details such as how a recently completed fellowship in interventional cardiology had a focus on cardiac catheterization, as well as coronary and endovascular interventions. At other points we drew attention to his extensive experience with lab-based clinical services, as well as some of the distinguished faculty he has learned from. Avoid mentioning responsibilities that are taken for granted at your level, such as patient history taking.

Use closing sections to your advantage

How often have you seen CVs that end with a laundry list of publication and presentation credits but offer little in the way of additional insight?

The first thing I do when presented with a CV is scan the opening and evaluate education and work history. The second thing I do is skip to the bottom for a glimpse of the person beyond the credentials. This is a prime opportunity to highlight relevant soft skills. For example, if you want to communicate your ability to work well with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and have performed humanitarian work in another country, including this information is a great way to do just that. I would recommend inserting additional sections with information in any (or all) of the following areas:

  • Committees
  • Professional Development (courses, training, etc.)
  • Volunteer Experience
  • Community Involvement
  • Professional Affiliations

Coming across as a specialist within your CV can give you an edge during the job search. State your fit for the job, back it up with concrete qualifications and highlights, and remember to stay on-message from the moment you send out that CV to when you accept that great new position.

Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Founder of He is passionate about helping physicians increase their marketability and achieve excellent job search results through new CVs, cover letters, online profiles and other tools.




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