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4 red flags on physician CVs


Red flags to look for when reviewing physician CVs Posted by
Red flags to look for when reviewing physician CVs

Beyond noting a red flag for candidate job-hopping, gaps, changing of training programs… what are some other things that set off my alarms, purely on the basis of patterns?
PracticeLink asked me to dig a little deeper and share a few other red flags I’ve learned from my experience recruiting physicians.
Red Flag 1: Weird fonts, bizarre layouts and other errors
Sigh. I honestly fought this one for years because I wanted to give every owner of a weird-looking CV a second chance. Maybe, I thought, awkward syntax indicated English was a second language. Maybe her pyramid sales executive husband wrote this. Maybe the physician had a very underprivileged education and just doesn’t realize how awful this CV looks. Or maybe he has a learning disability or executive functioning skills deficit that prevents him from seeing the lack of logical order in his presentation.
Over time, though, I’ve observed that physicians who have sent me CVs with seriously flawed presentations don’t turn out to be diamonds in the rough. Instead of references exhorting us to overlook written communication because of amazing interpersonal skills and eye-watering speed at task completion, we see "C" grades in multiple categories on the reference forms.
My personal hunch is that many of my most fabulous hires would be unable to generate a well-laid-out CV all by themselves. But rock star candidates are aware enough to get help. I might still see a dropped pronoun or error in texts and emails about travel logistics, but unlike the underperformers, the CV, cover letter, and formal emails from my rock stars have all been good.

Red flags to look for when reviewing physician CVs
Red Flag 2: "Functional" CV format

I fought this instinct, too, at first. The concept of leading a CV with skill sets (instead of chronologically listed experience) first emerged in the 1980s, and physician recruiters see a few of them every year. At first, I gave these candidates the benefit of the doubt. After all, there’s some logic behind the format. What a mid-career physician is doing today and what he is certified to do is more important than his residency 15 years ago. And, I told myself, it was helpful to see front and center what the physician wants to do in his next job laid out in that summary paragraph. Those eloquent sentences (often written by professional resume writers) do well at painting a picture, right?
But soon you realize that there’s usually a reason when a candidate obscures chronological progression. You may find out he hasn’t been in the OR for almost two years, or she’s been doing locums for eight years following what she tells you was "a political fallout entirely beyond her control."
In short, physicians with flawed history use the functional CV format to hide and downplay unflattering date progressions and gaps. They want you to focus on all the cool things they can do. They don’t want you to focus on the timeline.
The best functional CV I ever saw was a family physician who laid out some amazing additional certifications and experience with addiction and primary care for behavioral health system inpatients. He was also working with small groups in the correctional health system. The phone screen revealed that he was actually in the correctional system, about to finish an eight-year sentence!
Red Flag 3: The eternal student
We all get a little thrill when we open a CV for a candidate who has top-tier training, plus an embedded or mini-fellowship in something else we know the practice needs. But too many extra fellowships or additional degrees? Red flag.
One faculty member pointed out that fellows are making roughly a third of what practicing physicians in his specialty make, so there had better be a compelling reason for doing an extra fellowship. All too often, a little digging uncovers multiple unsuccessful tries at boards or a princess and the pea approach to job search that lands them back in one more fellowship because they "just couldn’t find the right one." Lifelong learning is great, but not if the only place you feel comfortable is in a student role.
Red Flag 4: AOL, single-page PDFs
I loved AOL. It was the coolest thing on the planet…in 1993. In 2020, an AOL email address is a blazing red flag for probable issues keeping up with technology. My 85-year old mother - and several candidates a year - tell me that it would just be "too much trouble to change" from using AOL.
Even if the AOL user is decades younger than my mom, clinging to an ancient platform is a red flag for me because of the feedback I get from practices about how these candidates interview: "Our patients would love him, but I just don’t know if the pace of our office is going to be a fit." Or, "Didn’t seem very confident about EMR."
If I have to help a candidate convert a document into Word or a PDF, or I must consolidate four individual PDFs into one document, it’s the same trouble-with-technology story. These are "tells" that a physician is just not quite as tech-savvy as most physicians today.
Therese Karsten ( is the division director for physician recruitment for the Continental Division of HCA Healthcare.


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