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 resume. 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. Content must be relevant and concise. Most employers assume that any distractions or errors in a two page document will translate into your clinical practice.
Your resume is a written representation of your clinical knowledge and skills. But, it is also an introduction to your communication skills. 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 resume may be your only communication tool before an interview.
Your profession is unique and your resume should reflect that. There are many elements that should be included in a PA resume, but are sometimes overlooked. There are also many items that should be left out. In the end, your resume 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.
Over the years, we have critiqued thousands of PA resumes working with hundreds of employers. Here are some content related suggestions:
- Your name immediately followed by your PA title
- Complete contact information including current phone number and email address
- Name of PA school and graduation date
- Clinical employment history
- All state licenses, including number(s) and expiration date(s)
- Relevant professional society memberships
- Three professional references
- Name of electronic file should be your first and last name followed by your PA designation
- Objective/summary statement. Only include this if you can demonstrate truly unique qualifications that complement a specific job.
- Clinical rotations during PA school. Only recent graduates or PAs who are transitioning to another specialty and their only relevant experience was during school.
- GPA. 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.
- Unique skill set. Only include specific skills/procedures if relevant.
Information that should not be included:
- High school information
- 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 resume. Write something bold, something specific or something truly unique. Otherwise, leave this section out.
- Non-healthcare, non-professional employment including babysitting, lifeguarding, waitressing, and most low level 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.
I am looking for my first job. How can I “pad” by resume?
Recent graduates should include individual clinical rotations along with brief summaries of the most relevant ones. Additionally, previous clinical experience, research, honors and other projects that demonstrate a solid work ethic should be emphasized. 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 school?
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.”
How long should my resume be?
One or two pages, possibly three. No more. Use negative space to provide an easy reading experience. Avoid clutter and superfluous information.
My resume is 7 pages long. Is that OK?
No! Most clinical employers are looking for a summary of your qualifications, 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.
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.
I volunteered in a medical tent at a half marathon 4 years ago. Should I include that?
No! The volunteer section has one purpose: to highlight additional activities that you are passionate about. 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 will not contact you. Preempt any speculation about your license and work ethic by explaining these gaps 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 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 cover letter.
I left my last job after only 3 months. Is that going to be a problem?
Maybe. 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. If you worked a series of temporary positions, make sure that is evident in the employment section. Whatever the reason, don’t let employers assume you are the problem. Be proactive.
How many references should I include?
You should include three professional references. Don't make employers ask for them. Employers generally prefer references from physicians. New graduates may include a reference from a faculty member or practicing PA, as long as at least two other references are from physicians.
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. You should then explain your qualifications for this position and conclude with a request for an interview. You should also take this opportunity to explain any potential concerns including employment gaps, brief employment periods and any other items that could be perceived as negative. Remember, in the absence of supporting information, employers will assume the worst.
We 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.
Please contact your local recruiter
with any additional questions. He or she will be happy to review your resume and provide thoughtful feedback.