CV writing and job application tips for UK employment
Congratulations - you have sat through the lectures, worked through your rotations and now comes the tricky part of getting your first job as a physician Associate. The CV is normally your first point of contact with a potential employer. You may be competing with many other applicants for a role its therefore particularly important that your CV looks its best, that you are dodging the common mistakes and give yourself the best chance to win that interview.
A common theme that runs throughout a CV and application process is ‘relevance’. If you take nothing else away from this document, you should take this – keep your application relevant to the job you are applying.
Medicine is a detail-oriented profession. You may only have a few minutes to complete a history, perform an exam and implement a treatment plan. You may do this dozens of times a day with the expectation of delivering error free care.
On the other hand, you have months to prepare your CV. Consequently, it must reflect an attention to detail that meets or exceeds the care you deliver. It must not contain any errors. Improper grammar, formatting and spelling errors are inexcusable, plain and simple. Ask a friend, colleague or family member to check it or send it to us at Your Path for a professional opinion.
Your content must be relevant and concise. Employers may assume that any distractions or errors in a two-page document will translate into your clinical practice.
Your CV is a written representation of your clinical knowledge and skills. But it is also an introduction to your communication skills and most importantly it’s your sales pitch for that job. Most relationships succeed or fail based on communication. This is especially true for relationships between providers and patients. Great communicators are often perceived as great clinicians. The best ones know their audience and tailor their message accordingly. A visually appealing, informative, yet concise CV may be your only communication tool before an interview. Make it count.
Your profession is unique, and your CV should reflect that. There are many elements that should be included in a PAs CV but are sometimes overlooked. There are also many items that should be left out. In the end, your CV should easily convey why your skill set makes you the best fit for the position. You should not dilute it with irrelevant and potentially misleading content.
Employers may receive many CVs in application to a job. Your CV and application will go through 3 stages before being offered an interview or declined – first sift, long listing and short listing. Your CV will get about 10 seconds of reading in the ‘first sift’ to ensure that you have met the basic criteria I.e. qualified as a Physician Associate, are registered or eligible for registration, and if required, have some experience or skills in the role to which you are applying. Make sure that this information is the easiest to find to avoid being declined before you have even started.
Most job adverts will have an accompanying person specification and job description. Use these as your guide to individually craft your CV and application for each job. Your application will be measured against these by the employer.
Firstly, check that your application demonstrates and meets all the ‘essential’ criteria. For example, the person specification will state as ‘essential’ that you need a MSc or PG Dip in Physician Associate studies - make sure your CV and application state that you have this. Repeat this for all the essential criteria. Be aware that you may need to shoehorn some of the more ambiguous essential criteria measure at application stage into a personal statement or letter of application rather than simply listing on your CV. Some of the ‘essential’ criteria may be listed on the person specification as measured at interview. You won't need to reference these at written application stage necessarily but make a note to prepare to demonstrate these at interview and prepare in advance.
Over the years, we have seen thousands of clinical CVs working with hundreds of employers. Here are some content related suggestions:
- Your full name immediately followed by your PA title (Jane Doe PA-R) – This is also your CV heading.
- Your contact details including current phone number, email & home address
- Name of PA school and graduation date
- Other relevant higher qualifications, honours and education
- Professional licence (PAMVR) including registration numbers.
- Relevant professional membership (FPA, AAPA, RCP, RCGP, RCN etc)
- Clinical employment history starting with the most recent working backwards. This should include employer name, department/speciality, dates from and to, and a few sentences on what you did in your role.
- If newly qualified, add your clinical rotations during PA school instead of employment
- Relevant (non-PA) healthcare employment
- Relevant research, audits and published content
- The saved name of the electronic document should be your first/last name followed by your PA designation. (It’s a recruiter’s bug bear having to relabel hundreds of
- Objective/summary statement – sometimes known as a positioning statement. Only include this if you can demonstrate unique qualification or a skill set that complement
a specific job. And keep it relevant to the job. Don’t talk about your love of surgery when applying to GP. A sure-fire way to get a rejection.
- Clinical rotations during PA school - Although only recent graduates or PAs who are transitioning to another specialty and when your only relevant experience was during
school need to add this.
- GPA - US Candidates only. Only include if it is a 4.0. Otherwise, you will give those with a higher GPA an advantage. Most employers are much more concerned with
your work history and references.
- Skill set. Only include specific skills/procedures if relevant to the role to which you are applying.
- Outside interests, activities and hobbies – but only if you can make them interesting to others. Socialising with friends and going to the cinema do not meet this
criterion! If you enjoy reading books, what type of books or a favoured author gives a little more insight. Don’t just write a list, add a little personality in this section. It
doesn’t need to be more than a sentence or two.
- Professional / Clinical references. You will have to provide them at some point in the application process. A good clinical referee is always a bonus on a CV.
Information that should not be included:
- High school/secondary school information and GCSE & A-Level results. It highlights your inexperience, and if you have just completed a BSc, a Masters or PG Dip then
it’s a given that you have these anyway.
- Generic objective or summary statements. “Looking to join a progressive practice where I can positively impact my patients through evidence-based medicine and
compassionate care” is a meaningless statement. Furthermore, it dilutes your message and places you squarely in the average category before the reader even
finishes your CV. Write something bold, something specific or something truly unique. Otherwise, leave this section out.
- Non-healthcare, non-professional employment including babysitting, lifeguarding, food service, and most retail and sales positions. By including these
types of employment, you dilute your message at best. At worst you may inadvertently highlight your lack of relevant experience.
- Most volunteer activities - unless you can demonstrate a substantial commitment to an activity over time, leave that activity out.
- Basic skills. Employers expect that all PAs are proficient at performing H&Ps, suturing, splinting, basic wound care, venipuncture, interpreting labs and imaging
tests and formulating treatment plans. Don’t devalue your skills by including the most basic ones. Advanced skills such as first assisting, central lines, etc, should be
included if they are relevant.
- Personal information such as your age, marital status, number of children, religion.
Frequent mistakes to avoid
- Use silly, daft, cutesy, inappropriate or overly complicated email addresses – set yourself up with a professional email account.
- Use your university student email account. They expire after you leave.
- Use a photo of yourself embedded in the CV or separately attached. Professionally posed, artistically modelled or on a night out. Just don’t send them!
- Add salary details or stating what you expect to earn.
- Exaggerate or misrepresent yourself.
- Use multiple font types - Stick with a single font throughout.
- Use fancy fonts, colours, artwork, borders and decals – keep it simple.
- Use rambling paragraphs of irrelevant information. Ask yourself every time you submit your CV for a job ‘Is this piece of information or statement relevant to the job that I am applying to?’
- Use logos, emojis, pictures or other creative. Nice clean text only.
- Send CV’s in uncommon formats. Most employers, particularly in the NHS, have software limitations, which may not open your CV or may change the format of your CV. Where possible use MS Word.
- Use long CVs – your CV should be no more than 2-3 pages max.
- Use the third person in your CV.
- Send an email or letter of application for a job addressed to the person you sent the last application too. Nothing screams lack of attention to detail than sending a letter of application to Dr Patel addressed to ‘Dear Elaine’
- Do remove template instructions if you are using a CV template.
Frequently Asked Questions
I am looking for my first job. How can I pad my CV?
Recent graduates should include individual clinical rotations along with brief summaries of the relevant ones and extended summaries for the most relevant. Additionally, previous clinical experience, research, honours and other projects that demonstrate a solid work ethic should be emphasised. Beyond that, only include information that adds to your appeal for the position. Including additional “filler” just for the sake of making your resume longer is frequently counterproductive.
What employment history should I include before I started PA Programme?
All healthcare related work prior to PA school should be included in a separate section titled, “Additional Clinical Experience.” All other non-healthcare, professional experience should be included in a separate section titled, “Additional Experience” but thought should be given to leaving it off completely if it's completely irrelevant I.e. retail.
How long should my CV be?
Two to three pages only - No more. Use negative space, bullet points and short sentences to provide an easy reading experience. Avoid clutter and superfluous information.
My CV is 7 pages long. Is that OK?
No! Most clinical employers are looking for a summary of your qualifications and relevant experience, not your entire life story. An interview is the time and place for an in depth discussion of your unique experiences and qualifications. Stay on message – keep it relevant.
I am applying for a rural position. Any advice?
Rural employers look for evidence that you know what life is like in their environment. All too often, PAs accept a job in a rural setting, only to leave a few months later because they didn't do their homework. If possible, reference previous education or employment in rural settings. This will help send a message that you understand what rural means. This is one of the only situations where it may be appropriate to include high school information or nonclinical roles.
I volunteered in a medical tent at a half marathon 4 years ago. Should I include that?
No! Outside interests, activities and hobbies have one purpose: to highlight additional activities that you are passionate about or bring something to the role for which you are applying. In order to make a positive impact on the reader, these activities should convey a substantial commitment on your part. Including brief or one time activities distracts the reader from your overall message, at best. At worst, it shows a lack of commitment and an under appreciation for what that means. Leave the fluff out.
I have a large gap in my work history. How should I address that?
Be proactive. Unexplained employment gaps make employers hesitate. Hesitant employers may not contact you. Pre-empt any speculation about employment breaks and work ethic by explaining these gaps briefly on the CV or in a cover letter. Most employers understand that family members get sick and that children always come first. However, long gaps can dull your clinical skills. In this situation, consider taking additional CPD/CME courses or shadowing other clinicians to get your skills back up to speed. Be sure to include any steps you have taken to sharpen your clinical skills after these gaps in your CV or cover letter.
I left my last job after only 3 months. Is that going to be a problem?
If you worked a series of temporary positions, make sure that is evident in the employment section. Employers invest considerable time and resources hiring and training new PAs and they look for assurances that you will be there for the long haul. Employers look to your work history as a predictor of future performance. Unless your current situation is intolerable, it may serve you better in the long run to stay with your current employer until after you secure a new position. Whatever the reason, don’t let employers assume you are the problem. Be proactive.
How many references should I include?
You should include two or three professional references. Employers generally prefer references from Consultants or GP’s. New graduates may include a reference from a faculty member or practicing PA, as long as at least one other reference is from physician.
I don’t have a spotless record. What can I do?
Again, be proactive. An upfront explanation should demonstrate more about your character than a single blip on the radar.
Do I need a cover letter?
Yes. An effective cover letter should first introduce you as an applicant to a specific job – don’t use a generic cover letter. Explain your qualifications for the position and conclude with a request for an interview. Also take this opportunity to explain any potential concerns including employment gaps, brief employment periods or anything that could be perceived as negative. Remember, in the absence of supporting information, employers will assume the worst. Your Path do not require cover letters if you use our services. Our recruiters facilitate introductions that take the place of cover letters. We are your strongest advocate, but we do need the information to work with.
More help is at hand if you need it
Please contact Your Path with any additional questions.
We will be happy to review your CV and provide you with professional feedback without charge.
Your Path specialises in the recruitment and development of Physician Associates across the UK. International candidate CVs are welcomed.
Contact Your Path for more details on how we can help your career.
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