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How to quickly dissect a CV and identify potential red flags
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By Miranda Grace, FASPR, Physician Recruiter, Geisinger Health System, Lewistown, PA

Miranda Grace
Even in today’s environment where physician recruitment is made difficult by a shortage of providers and limited resources available to recruit them, it is still just as vital to ensure that the candidates we’re considering for positions are the most qualified for the job. To determine this, we must complete a rigorous screening process which includes examining the candidate’s curriculum vitae (CV) closely to identify red flags. Below, are 10 items to look for when reviewing a CV.

1. Education
One of the obvious qualifications for any physician position is appropriate medical education. Determine if the candidate completed medical school at an accredited college or university. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) is the institution that accredits M.D. programs in the United States and Canada. To view their current list of accredited programs, visit The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) accredits the programs that lead to a D.O. in the United States. To examine their current list of accredited programs, visit

If the candidate is a foreign medical graduate (FMG), determine if they hold a certificate from the Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which is required for all FMGs to enter residency or fellowship in the United States. An ECFMG certificate is also required before a FMG is able to complete the last step of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE).

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) assesses the clinical and practical knowledge required for physicians to effectively diagnose and treat patients. Successful completion of the exam’s three steps is a prerequisite for medical licensure in the United States. Each step must be completed in sequence and only a certain number of attempts (6) are permitted to take each step. Typically, students take step 1 at the end of their second year of medical school, step 2 during their fourth year, and step 3 during the first or second year of their internship or residency. If this information is not listed on the candidate’s CV, be sure to inquire about when each step was completed and if any exams were taken multiple times.

3. Internship/Residency/Fellowship
There are several key items to consider when reviewing a candidate’s internship, residency or fellowship training. First, it is essential to confirm the physician completed both internship and residency in the United States; this should be listed clearly on the CV. Second, make sure the candidate completed the number of years of residency/fellowship training required for that particular specialty. Some red flags to watch for include multiple residency programs started but not completed, and/or gaps in the years of training.

4. Board certification
Many organizations now require all medical staff to obtain board certification in their respective field. If board certification is not mentioned on a candidate’s CV, you may verify this information through the Board Certified Docs website (for a small fee), an official primary source verification of the American Board of Medical Specialties: If a candidate is not board certified, it is a good practice to ask about plans for becoming board certified.

5. Visa status
Visa status is often a determining factor in who you can and cannot consider for employment. For many organizations, visa sponsorship is not an option. If your organization is able to sponsor visa candidates, it is helpful to know early on if the candidate requires sponsorship so you may contact your legal team to assist in the recruitment process. Review the CV carefully for evidence of visa status to determine if the candidate is a U.S. citizen, holds a green card or requires sponsorship. If this information is not listed on the CV, you may inquire if the candidate is legally authorized to work in the United States.

6. Licensure
If the candidate you’re considering is out of training, medical licensure information should be listed on the CV. Verify each state in which the candidate has licensure through the state medical board’s website. Watch for red flags when reviewing a candidate’s medical licensure, which may include absence of a medical licensure in the state in which the candidate resides, gaps in medical licensure, disciplinary actions on the candidate’s license and/or expired licensure.

7. Employment history
Just as you would with any other resume or CV, watch for multiple changes or shifts in employment (outside of a locum tenens capacity) - particularly within in a short period of time. Feel free to ask the candidate about employment history and the reason behind frequent moves. Ultimately, you want to ensure the physician you hire is going to stay.
Similarly, check for unexplained, uncommon gaps in employment. Feel free to ask the candidate about the gaps and keep an open mind as there are often legitimate reasons for breaks in employment history. Make note if the candidate is not practicing in the specialty in which s/he trained or if there is a notable decrease in responsibility; both are potential red flags.

8. Formatting, grammar and spelling
Watch for grammatical errors and misspellings on both the CV and cover letter. It is likely you’ll want your new team member to have strong communication skills, both written and verbal. In the same way, all correspondence you send out should be grammatically sound as well.

9. Inconsistency
When speaking with candidates, make sure their stories line up with the details on their CVs. If inconsistencies exist, be sure to inquire further and document the details of your discussion.

10. References
In most cases, references are either provided right on the CV or upon request. If nothing is mentioned about references either on the CV or in conversation, ask the candidate to provide references. If a candidate is unable or unwilling to do so, proceed with staid caution.

You will find most candidate CVs are in good order and provide all the information you need to determine if the candidate should be moved to the next step in your recruitment process or not. You will certainly come across a CV or two that do present red flags. Remember – just because you see a red flag you should not immediately dismiss a candidate. These will just require a bit more diligence to determine if the red flag is something significant. Investigate anything you think is suspicious to ensure you are forwarding only the best candidates to hiring managers, search directors and physician leaders.

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