Having a polished, up-to-date CV or resume is essential for doctors applying for roles in the UK’s NHS. Your years of relevant experience, qualifications, and clinical expertise must be conveyed in 2-4 sides of A4. If you’re an international doctor that needs to get your CV NHS-ready our guide to NHS CVs will give you the information you need to ensure your application lands an interview.
At Remedium, many of the overseas doctors we place in the NHS find CV writing advice incredibly valuable. Every country has its own different standards, norms, and expectations when it comes to a CV/resume. Having an incorrectly formatted or poorly written CV could be what’s holding you back from getting to the interview stage.
In the NHS it’s expected that even the most experienced doctors apply with a clear, easily readable CV that follows the general UK format. Whilst in some countries and private practices there are doctors who find roles by reputation or personal connections, in the NHS (and to a lesser extent, the UK in general) this is frowned upon. Equality of opportunity is highly important to the NHS. The only way to maximise the strength of your application and ensure you’re invited to interview is a clear, concise CV.
Representing your years (or even decades) of training and experience on a few sides of A4 can be a daunting challenge. If you’re putting together your CV for an NHS application and need some advice about applying to the NHS (and jobs in the UK in general) we’ve put together the following guide to getting your CV NHS-ready.
What are the differences between UK and International CVs?
Before getting into NHS specifics, here are some norms and expectations all UK employers have when reading a CV. None of the following is a legal or official requirement. However, as with any other country, UK employers have expectations around standard, content, and format that can be offputting if not met. Many applicants are unsuccessful because of a poorly formatted or badly written CV.
If you’re applying to your NHS role from overseas and haven’t written a CV for UK employment before, here are some general rules you should be aware of:
- A CV, not a resume.
A common error many international applicants make is labelling their CV a resume. Whilst resume is accurate and you will be understood, it is also an American (not British) term. CV is short for Curriculum Vitae. Making sure your CV is titled and saved as ‘CV of Dr Jane Smith’ instead of ‘Dr Jane Smith’s resume’ is a small fix, but one that shows you’re genuinely interested in the UK and NHS.
- No photographs.
In many countries it’s customary, sometimes required, to include a photograph on your CV. In the UK this is considered a huge faux pas. Diversity and inclusion are priorities for UK employers, especially the NHS. In the UK, employers don’t like to see photographs on CV’s as this means they are unprotected against allegations of discrimination. Culturally the UK is meritocratic. It’s expected that successful applicants are chosen exclusively on the value of their skills and experience. The common view is that including photographs directly contradicts these values.
- No family information.
In some countries, it’s customary to include details of your marital status, any dependents you may have, or some description of your upbringing or family background. In the UK none of this information should be on your CV. Under UK law it’s actually illegal for potential employers to ask questions regarding your marital or family status. What’s more, including reference to the success, career, or success of family members (as common in some regions) is seen to be contradictory to the meritocratic values UK employers uphold. Only include information in your CV which is directly about your own professional history.
- Do not include your age or date of birth.
Age discrimination is an area UK employers are particularly conscious of. In the UK age is considered non-important to job applications, to the point that a company or organisation can be taken to court if it’s found they rejected a candidate because of age alone. Whilst it’s clear that you’re going to be of a certain age if applying for a role that requires perhaps decades of clinical expertise you still should never include your age on your CV.
- No social media handles.
As a doctor, it’s unlikely that social media will be included as part of your daily duties. In the UK the only time you should include social media handles in your application is when they are directly relevant to your professional work. The only possible exception is perhaps LinkedIn or other career-centric platforms (even then, it’s only advised if it’s as a supplement to your CV to explain that further details are available there if that’s the case).
- You don’t need every grade for every exam.
Even as a newly qualified Junior Doctor or International Medical Graduate (IMG), you’re going to have several years worth of qualifications and certification which is highly specialised and relevant to the role you’re applying for. It’s understood that in order to reach this position you will have a suitable amount of general education. As such, you don’t need to include every grade or final mark for your school subjects. You should include the institution graduated from, year of graduation, and the number of qualifications achieved. To give you an example, for a UK doctor this would look something like ‘St Lukes Secondary School, 2021,10 GCSE’s grade A* to C’. It’s accepted and understood in the UK that further details can be provided by candidates if requested.
- You don’t have to include reference details.
Whilst you can include full details of your referees if you want to, it’s completely acceptable to state that references are available upon request. Omitting the full details does have some advantages as your referee’s contact details may change without your knowledge.
What should I include in my CV when I’m applying to the NHS?
The CV format expected by the NHS isn’t all that dissimilar to the general UK CV format. However, knowing what to include and the best way to present the information when applying for a position as an NHS doctor greatly increases your chance of receiving an interview invitation.
Below is a short guide to how to format your CV when applying for an NHS doctors vacancy. We’ve covered the sections you need to include, and provided a few details on what should be included in each of these. Most are self-explanatory, but knowing the most effective way to present the information they contain will greatly improve your overall CV quality.
Header and contact info
The top of your CV should contain your name and contact information, clearly spaced and easily readable. Contact information should cover your name, address, telephone numbers (mobile and landline if used), and email address.
Make sure your email address is professional. As a doctor, there are high expectations upon you when it comes to your level of professionalism and how seriously you take the responsibilities that come with your career. Seeing an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org has been seen as reason enough not to extend an interview offer on more than one occasion.
Your profile is where you’ll give a brief summary of your career so far, your career goals, and why you’re seeking a position as a doctor in the NHS.
This should be no longer than a few sentences. Being a doctor is a vocation, it’s a lifestyle choice as much as a career. Every doctor we speak with could write a book on why they chose this prestigious profession and what they hope to achieve by retirement age. A common mistake we see at Remedium is trying to include all of this on the first page of your CV. Your profile doesn’t need to include every twist and turn in your career journey. The full story is great for the interview stage, but when it comes to your CV keep things as concise as possible.
Qualifications, CPD, and training courses
Your qualifications and educational background are best presented in table format. This makes them clear, easy to read, and means that hiring managers don’t get frustrated trying to find the relevant qualifications in your possibly very extensive learning history.
Here are a few pointers we have for doctors putting together their educational history on their CV:
- Present your qualifications present-to-past, with the most recent at the top.
- Don’t include visible borders on your table. This will keep everything neat without overcrowding the page with lines.
- Put the names of your degree in bold. The kinds of qualifications are more important than where you received them to the NHS staffing or workforce manager reviewing your CV. By bolding your degree names and the types of qualifications they can find what they need to quickly, meaning they’re more likely to invite you to the next stages of your application.
- Keep your formal education and CPD/training courses to separate tables.
Medical and professional experience
The next section of your CV is going to be the largest. This is where you’ll include your medical/professional experience. Here is also where you’ll get to elaborate further and include the information and details missing from your front-page profile.
You should tailor your CV for every application. Highlight the experience most relevant to the vacancy. If the role has extensive requirements in terms of management, teaching, or research experience (as many higher-level positions do) you may want to separate your experience in these areas into a separate section. Many consultant-level doctors will have individual sections in their CV for medical/clinical experience, teaching experience, management experience etc.
List your roles in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent and working backwards. There are no rules about specific order details should be presented in, but most doctors follow this format:
- The role title of your post/position.
- The hospital, trust, or community practice you worked in.
- The start and end date of your employment. This doesn’t have to be to-the-day, including the month and year is sufficient. If the role was a temporary or locum position be sure to mention this, as it’s seen negatively in the UK for applicants to have moved between many permanent roles in a short space of time. If you had a valid reason to leave a permanent role/roles in a short time frame (such as caring for a family member or illness) then disclosing your reason for leaving is always an option if you’re comfortable doing this. You don’t have to give intimate details, as little as ‘Reason for leaving: caring for elderly relative‘ is more than enough.
- A bulleted list that covers role responsibilities, personal achievements, and challenges face. Avoid repetitive language such as ‘I would often‘, ‘Most days I would‘, ‘Another duty included‘ etc. You should also avoid referring to yourself in the 1st person (I/me). Phrases such as ‘responsible for primary paediatric patient care‘, ‘managed multidisciplinary team‘, and ‘coordinated ward ancillary staff‘ convey the information without turning every job description into an essay.
This section of your CV is equally as important as your employment history. Some doctors choose to include the skills section prior to the breakdown of the individual posts they’ve held, although either order is fine.
In this section, you should include a neatly organised table (similar to your qualifications section) that outlines your clinical competencies. A key tip here is to make sure the most relevant to the role are at the top of the list. Every role you apply for in the NHS will have clearly explained the role duties and required skills. These are what you should target with the skills section on your CV.
This should always be the final section of your CV, as it is the least relevant to your suitability for a role. This section should be brief and give an explanation of your hobbies, interests, and anything else that you enjoy spending time on outside of your life as a doctor. Whilst these aren’t make-or-break for your application, if your interviewer has similar interests it can act as a springboard for conversation during the interview and allow you to leave a good first impression.
A few further NHS CV writing tips for IMGs and international doctors
The above information covers how to craft a CV suitable for NHS applications. Before we leave you to get started on creating the perfect CV, here are a few final tips and pointers doctors placed via Remedium have found helpful:
- Keep your CV succinct.
Whilst this can be difficult if you have decades of experience as a doctor, you should always aim for 2-4 sides. If your CV length goes beyond this (especially if you are a newly qualified or relatively junior doctor) you should look for information that’s irrelevant to the role you’re seeking and remove it.
- Write using your own words.
There’s a lot of templates out there that claim to be a copy-paste solution to creating an interview winning CV. They’re not. NHS hiring managers can spot a CV that contains content copied from an internet page, as they read through dozens daily. Always write using your own words.
- Don’t waste words comparing your countries healthcare system to the NHS.
Not only is dedicating paragraphs to a comparison of your own countries healthcare system to the UK’s a waste of CV space, but it also comes across as highly unprofessional. Unfortunately, it’s also something we see on many CVs from international doctors. The NHS is fully aware of its status as a world-leading public health service. It is not an organisation that responds positively to flattery regarding this, at least not from job applicants. NHS hiring managers are reading your CV to ascertain your suitability as an NHS doctor, not for an analysis of how the UK healthcare system is superior to that of your home country.
- Avoid talking about personal struggles and difficulties.
This is another common pitfall we see IMG’s fall into prior to receiving some friendly CV writing advice from one of the Remedium team. You shouldn’t mention personal struggles and tribulations as justification for your role suitability or to try and increase your chances of success. In the UK this is looked upon as extremely unprofessional, bordering on emotional blackmail. Yes, this is a strong term, but it’s not inaccurate. We can’t stress enough just how much trying to leverage any difficulties of circumstance actually damages your chances of an interview offer. We have read through many CVs from international medical doctors which read as though they are almost begging for a role. These CVs are never successful. Whilst we are in no way suggesting that your personal struggles and your emotional response to them aren’t entirely valid, your CV is 100% not an appropriate place for them.
Remedium: helping overseas doctors and IMGs create perfect CVs since 2013
At Remedium we’ve been helping international medical doctors get their CVs NHS-ready for nearly 10 years. We have a direct relationship with over 80 NHS trusts. We know from successfully placing doctors with them exactly what each is looking for from an applicants CV.
Writing a CV can be a challenge no matter your intelligence or level of experience. Knowing how to represent yourself without under or overselling your achievements can feel daunting. That’s why the Remedium team here, to advise IMGs and UK doctors on how to get a job in the NHS. Once you’ve landed that interview you can also read our guide to NHS doctor interviews: What to expect and how to pass them.
Why not register with us today? One of the team will be in touch to discuss your CV, improvements you could make to it, and which of our dozens of current vacancies best suit your skills and experience. The Remedium team will be with you at every stage of your journey into the NHS. Doctors placed through Remedium always speak highly of our commitment to candidate care, as we keep the health and wellbeing of our doctors central to everything we do.
Get in touch with the team today and contact us. We look forward to helping you climb to the next rung of your career ladder and joining the ranks of the worlds foremost public healthcare provider, the UK’s NHS.