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How to Build a Strong CV

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It’s hard to put your entire life’s accomplishments and activities on one piece of paper. At first, building your curriculum vita (CV) may seem like a daunting task, but the earlier you complete the initial steps, the easier it will be. During dental school my resume would be continuously updated as I made it through another year. A resume and CV are different in that a resume is used when applying for a job and gives a brief summary of your work history. A CV is used when applying for a residency or fellowship. A CV provides a summary of your education, honors, awards, work, research, publications, presentations, teaching experience, and personal information.

Throughout my process of making a CV, I have gathered essential key points for how to build a strong one. First and foremost, an honest and accurate CV is so important. You will get asked on interviews about things on your CV, so it is important that you have a personal, memorable, and honest story about certain experiences. The first section on your CV should be education, where you list your undergraduate and dental school GPA/class rank. Following that section, the most impressive or relevant section should be listed next. If you are applying for a specific dental specialty, make the title of that specialty you next section. In this section, list any experiences pertaining to that specialty. It is also important to have a section for professional memberships (where you can list a membership to AGD, ASDA, or any other special membership). I also had a section for honors/awards where I listed honors, community awards, and merit-based scholarships. 

I also had a section on my CV for leadership. It is important to demonstrate that you can be a leader and work on a team. Make sure you include activities to highlight your communication skills, organizational skills, and team skills. Employment and volunteer experiences should also be included on your CV. Included experiences can be both medically and non-medically related. These experiences should demonstrate versatility and responsibility as well as social responsibility and continuity. A skills and interest section can also be included on your CV to include licenses and certifications, languages you speak fluently, and extracurricular activities.

One of the most controversial issues I encountered when writing my CV for post-graduate programs was whether to include accomplishments from my undergraduate experience. Most programs ask that your CV be limited to one or two pages. Taking that into consideration, I only included experiences in my undergraduate career that were relevant and important to dental school. I think mission trips taken before dental school should definitely be included, even if you were just there to observe, because they show your dedication and interest in the field.

If you write the backbone of your CV before you really need it, the process for applying will be much easier. Make sure to keep it updated with the most accurate information. Draft, have someone edit it, then edit it again. This practice will make perfect!