Every professional needs a resume. These days, it’s just a simple fact of life. However, while there are many resources on general resume writing, there are relatively few for clinicians and even fewer specifically written for optometrists.
What do you write?
How should it be formatted?
What needs to be emphasized?
Whether you are looking for your first optometry job or are an experienced clinician, there are always new ways to hone your carefully crafted resume. But first, there's some basic ground to cover.
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- By definition, a resume is typically a 1-page document that summarizes your credentials: education, work history, accomplishments, and skills just to name a few.
- By contrast, a CV (or curriculum vitae) contains the same information, but is a chronicle of your entire experience, and may be several pages in length.
As a general rule of thumb, employers usually seek a document no longer than two pages. The more work it takes an employer to read your story, the less likely they’ll look at all!
For our purposes, we’ll use the general term “resume” and will consider it to be 1 to 2 pages.
There are a few sections every resume must contain, although the information within them can vary. They are:
- Contact Information: name, residential address, phone number, email address, website
- Education: schools attended, location, graduation year, degree obtained, concentration(s), (GPA if you do not have much work history)
- Work Experience: employer name, location, dates worked, title and description of duties
But wait, there’s more!
You will likely want to include information pertaining to other aspects of your professional career. What do you want to bring to the employer’s attention? What is worth promoting about yourself? As appropriate to your background and skill sets, you can utilize the following sections to round out your resume:
- Clinical experience: clinic name, location, dates, care provided (this section can be very important depending on the potential employer). Highlight specialty services that set you apart, such as Low Vision, Binocular Vision, Pediatrics, etc.! Externships and Residencies are more likely to carry weight than your early days of primary care, so pay homage where it is due when describing your clinical competencies.
- Leadership / Organizations / Positions Held: Optometric societies, clubs or groups, and leadership positions that demonstrate your initiative and relevant experience.
- Honors / Awards: What have you achieved that has been publicly recognized? This includes scholarships, grants, certificates, and other special honors.
- Personal Goals / Objectives: Many people include a summary of their career goals or the objective of the specific job application. This can include immediate or future goals.
- Key Skills
- Language: Language knowledge, and to what degree (fluent / business / clinical).
- Computer: EMR platforms, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, specialty clinical software…
- Presentations/Projects: Clinical endeavors that helped educate others. Show that you’re a subject matter expert!
- Equipment: Does your experience with ophthalmic equipment gives you a leg up? Can you run and evaluate an OCT, HVF, topographer, and more? If so, what brands/models? Don’t list basic equipment like phoropters and slit-lamps.
- Certifications: What are your professional qualifications? Aside from your O.D. license, do you have certifications in language/CPR/business/etc?
Easy on the eyes
Formatting is crucial to a resume’s success.
It should convey that the resume is clear, organized, and professional – a direct extension of YOU. A resume needs to be easy to understand, follow a logical progression, and have a clear layout. Although studies vary, it has been reported that employers on average review a resume for a mere 6 seconds (although I’d wager it is longer for a job in Clinical Optometry).
The point is this: if your resume is difficult to read, an employer is much more likely to move on to the next candidate than to decipher your hieroglyphics.
Here are some general rules when formatting a resume:
- Your contact information should be at the top of the first page.
- Contact Information is typically followed by Education and Work Experience.
- Subsequent sections should be added by order of importance, in a logical fashion.
- Use font size, bold, italics, underline, CAPS and spacing to draw the reader’s attention.
- Maintain the same format throughout the page; don’t alter it between sections unless necessary.
- Keep information within sections in chronological order, starting with the most recent at the top.
- Spend time on features such as lines, shading, and other visuals that give a pop of style.
- Watch your margins – although you may need more room to include everything, does your 0.3” margin create a visually displeasing word cluster that could deter the reader? When printed, does anything get cut off due to tiny margins?
- Keep sections on the same page. Never have a sentence start on one page and finish on the next.
- When printed, try to make the resume double-sided. When electronic, attach the resume as a PDF unless noted otherwise.
- Watch your diction.
- Use strong action verbs and avoid redundancy in your word choice.
- Maintain the same tenses (past or present) when describing the same experience, and don’t mix-and-match. For example, when describing your VA rotation, you cannot say “Provide care for the geriatric Native-American population. Treated disorders such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.” Either it happened in the past, or it is still happening; not both.
- Avoid mixed verb forms when listing activities. All activities in the same sentence have to agree on form. For example, it is proper to say “I served as a student clinician evaluating, diagnosing, and treating ocular disorders.” You cannot say “I served as a student clinician evaluating, diagnosing, and treated ocular disorders.”
Your target audience
Who are you trying to reach?
While you may be inclined to shrug this question off, think twice about this. Just because we are all applying for jobs in Optometry does not mean all settings are created equal. Your job may be in private practice, academia, government, corporate practice, industry, or a whole host of other venues. Because there is no definitive recipe for a resume, this step is important. Consider the source; put yourself in the employer’s shoes and ask what they would want to know.
It is possible that you may even have different versions of your resume for various target markets; one more clinically-based, one more business-oriented, and so forth.
Let’s say you see a job opening at your local Optometry school, and you want to apply. What do you think will be most important to them, and what should they know about you? In this case, I’d emphasize my clinical experience, presentations were given, any research I’ve performed, awarded honors, and similar. If I applied for a job in private practice, I’d weight my work and clinical experience, practice management abilities, specialty treatment skills (BV, anyone?), and EMR/equipment familiarity.
Finally, a resume may not be for a job at all. If you need a resume for a residency or even your FAAO, again, think about what is important to the reader.
The final word
Your resume is the representation of your professional self on paper. It takes time to craft, and a good resume can get you far.
Consider getting it proofread by friends, or better yet, your clinical mentor or a recruiter. Check out books from your local library or take a peek at CovalentCareers.com for examples of resumes, and synthesize your favorite ideas. Make the final product crisp, informational, and memorable.
Put in the time to develop a stellar resume, and go get that dream job!
- “Keeping an Eye on Recruiter Behavior: New Study Clarifies Recruiter Decision-Making.” The Ladders. Electronic.
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