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Cover Letter, Resume and Curriculum Vitae

by Patrick C. Alguire, MD, FACP
Director, Education and Career Development, ACP

For initial contacts with a practice representative, a cover letter accompanied by either a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is recommended. Since the cover letter will be your first contact with the practice, keep it focused, accurate, and interesting. Research the job opportunity and tailor the contents of the letter to the job. Do not use a form letter, because it will convey ambivalence rather than interest. In the cover letter, tell your potential employer what you find interesting in the position and what you can offer. While emphasizing your best qualities, keep the letter to one page maximum-no exceptions.

A resume, as compared to a CV, is a shorter document, usually no more than a few pages. A resume will present your education and accomplishments strongly, but briefly, and can be reviewed by the employer quickly.

A CV is a more exhaustive document, intended to list all academic and professional accomplishments in detail. A CV may be several pages long, but more often is the same length as a resume at the beginning of a career.

When preparing the cover letter, resume or CV, use the follow checklist to ensure that your documents create the appropriate professional impression:

  • Print the cover letter, resume and CV on matching quality bond paper with matching envelope.
  • Print with a laser quality printer or have professionally type set.
  • Adapt the cover letter to match the employment opportunity.
  • Proofread and double proofread all documents, then have a friend proofread. Spelling or grammatical errors will create a poor first impression.
  • Sign the cover letter legibly, with blue or black ink.
  • Affix the proper postage. Have the package weighed if necessary.
  • Do not submit reference names or reference letters at this point in the process. They will be requested when needed.
  • Make sure there are no gaps of time in the education or training sequence. If gaps are present, they must be accounted for in the document.

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