Crafting Your CV: A Pharmacy Residency Program's Perspective

Regardless of whether you decide to pursue postgraduate training, you will be required to submit a CV at some point during your pharmacy career.

Regardless of whether you decide to pursue postgraduate training, you will be required to submit curriculum vitae (CV) at some point during your pharmacy career.

Free CV templates are available online and in software packages, but what’s missing from a lot of these templates is advice on what to fill in those little boxes.

Serving on a residency advisory committee, I see hundreds of residency application annually, and certain CVs stand out from the rest. I practice in an urban teaching hospital, so the advice and comments I give will mostly pertain to the traditional institutional clinical residency.

All applications for PGY-1 programs accredited by the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) are processed through the Pharmacy Online Residency Centralized Application Service (PhORCAS) system. PhORCAS is an electronic-based tool that conforms and limits what applicants can send to programs.

You should have gone through several revisions of your CV before you have the final product ready for submission. This is not something you should slap together the night before application deadlines.

The 2 most important components are the applicant’s CV and letter of intent. This article will focus on how you can wow the programs with your “life story.”

There are a few standard items your CV should contain: education, licensure, employment, training, projects/presentations, honors/awards, and miscellaneous items.

Education

This should be one of the first items on your CV, but only include college/university level education (read: no high school).

If you earned a previous bachelor’s, include that. If you are working on concomitant degrees, include that.

Information provided should include school name and location (city/state/country, if outside the United States), dates attended (or anticipated matriculation), degree(s) attained, and potentially any graduation with honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, suma cum laude).

Why this is important

ASHP-accredited programs are limited to students graduating from pharmacy schools accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Cut to the chase and list this information first.

Licensure

Any medical-related professional licensure should go here. Include your pharmacy/technician intern license for all states you are licensed to practice in.

Include any certification you may have, such as basic/advance cardiac life support or immunization. Just make sure it pertains to medicine/pharmacy or the residency program (eg, anything related to research).

Why this is important

Most residency programs will require you to become a licensed pharmacist in that state within 2 to 3 months of starting. Additionally, you may be required to respond to code scenarios or be involved in research projects. If you already possess some of this licensure, then you may have an advantage over other applicants.

Employment

Include all relevant work experience here, listing the most recent first. Try to limit this section to pharmacy/medical-related work only, but if you’ve never held a job in this field before, consider including other jobs to show how you have filled your time.

Typically, you want to include the organization name and location (city/state/country, if outside the United States), dates employed, and a supervisor name. Incorporate a few bullet points about what your responsibilities were, using an action word as the first word, such as Maintained ongoing inventory at par levels” or “Counseled patients on OTC medication choices.”

Why this is important

Programs want to see well-rounded candidates, not just bookworms. We want to see that you can juggle a demanding class schedule, maintain adequate grades, and still have time to work several hours a week, gaining valuable experience related to your chosen field.

Personally, I don’t have a preference if the job is in retail or hospital, but other programs may prefer hospital. If you don’t have any pharmacy-related work experience, then be prepared to discuss how some of the skills you have acquired at other jobs can translate to health care.

Training/Professional Experience

Include your advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPE), introductory pharmacy practice experiences (IPPE), and any other rotations you have had here, listing the most recent first and the rest in reverse chronological order. Some candidates also like to include their upcoming rotations to show what additional training they will have completed prior to starting as a resident.

Other information to include here is organization name and location (city/state), preceptor name, dates attended, and a few bulleted responsibilities.

Why this is important

Programs want to see a wide variety of rotations, preferably in similar environments as the residency. If someone has extensive outpatient and ambulatory rotations but minimal inpatient rotations, that may raise a red flag.

Does the candidate know what to expect in an institution? Can the candidate handle challenging patients, such as in the ICU or with multiple comorbid conditions?

Additionally, I like to review the preceptors you were on rotation with. Pharmacy is a small world, so many of us know each other.

I will judge the intensity of the rotation and may favor a candidate who has completed several challenging inpatient rotations with colleagues I know have high expectations of their students.

Projects/Presentations

Thinking back to your P1 year, what major projects or presentations have you had to do? How relevant were they to the pharmacy profession? What big projects have you had to do on your rotations (patient cases, final presentations, topic discussions, journal clubs, services to teams)?

If you have been employed in the pharmacy/medical field, what work-related projects have you lead or heavily supported? Have you presented any student posters at local or national meetings? Published anything?

Be critical of this list. Which of the aforementioned projects and presentations are you proud of? Include those in reverse chronological order.

Typically, you want to include the presentation name, date, brief description, and possibly where/to whom it was presented.

Why this is important

Projects and presentations are a large component of residencies. On top of all your daily patient activities, you will be juggling several longitudinal projects.

Including a variety of presentations conveys several things:

  • You were busy on rotations. You didn’t just slack off, and you were able to manage your time well to complete several large projects.
  • You know the general structure of multiple presentations. The preceptors won’t have to spend much time instructing you on the format; rather, they will mostly have to help refine and grow your skills.
  • You show initiative. Preceptors know the general requirements of rotations. They have a good sense of how many presentations you should be doing. If they see extras on there such as lecturing at school, presenting posters at meetings, publications in journals, we see a drive in you. Nobody wants a resident that needs constant motivation. We want that to come from within so we can focus our precepting energies on providing you with additional career experiences, rather than motivating you to complete the bare minimum required for a residency certificate.

That said, programs can also tell when you are padding your CV. Therefore, you need to be selective.

Only put high-quality projects you are proud of. Anything on your CV is fair game to bring up during the interview process.

If you cannot speak clearly to what the project was, what your role was, and what the conclusions were, then it’s best to leave it off. Answering incorrectly, or stumbling through an explanation will only harm your chances of matching.

Honors and Awards/Leadership

What clubs and organizations have you been involved in? What leadership roles have you taken? Where have you volunteered? What awards or accolades have you received?

Use this space to list out the organizations you belong to—even better, if you held a board member position.

What events did you organize while in that position? Did you receive any awards or get acknowledged for holding any of these positions? Did you make the Dean’s list?

Include this information, with the dates, in this section.

Why this is important

Programs want to see involved, driven, enthusiastic candidates. Again, we don’t want to see someone resting on their laurels or just focusing on studying. We want to see well-rounded candidates.

A big goal of residency is preparing the next generation of pharmacy leaders. We want to see you already kick start this trend while in pharmacy school, on your own.

Simply being a member of an organization doesn’t cut it. We want to see “president,” “secretary,” or “treasurer” next to those organizations to know that you took your membership seriously and played an active role.

Miscellaneous/Additional Skills

Include anything else here that didn’t fit in any of the above categories. Do you speak, write, or understand multiple languages? Do you have working knowledge of several computer programs?

Anything professional that you can think of that would be beneficial to a residency program and would help you stand out from the other candidates can be listed here.

Why this is important

We want to see unique candidates. As much as you are looking to get out of a residency, we are looking to add to our current team of practitioners. Any diverse, desirable trait that we can add to our pool of employees is always a good thing.

Other Notes

Always spell check before sending your CV. Ask several trusted professors or mentors to review your CV—bonus points if they are part of a residency committee and know what programs are looking for.

Be wary of the length. As a graduating pharmacy student, your CV should not be longer than most preceptors.

For a frame of reference, I have been in practice for 7 years, and my CV is a full 6 pages. So, for a P4 student, it should be around 4 pages.

Be mindful of font size and white/negative space. With the exception of my name at the very top, I use size 10 font throughout, with very tight margins on the side. Rather than having a full blank line between sections, I use a 6-point space inserted after the paragraph.

Make sure there is a clear separation between dates and activities listed. I prefer to have all of my dates on the left-hand side, leave a “tab” of white space, and then have all the titles/activities/descriptions line up about an inch or 2 into the document.

Also, be aware that a lot of what I noted above is personal preference. Use this as a guide, and remember to stay true to what you believe is right.

Each program and each preceptor will place preference on different aspects of your CV. For me, the top 3 things I look for on an applicant’s CV are:

1. Research projects or presentations.

2. Teaching, tutoring, or lecturing experience.

3. Pharmacy work experience.

Good luck to all candidates!