We asked 4 top dentists for their best advice for how to make the best dental school resume/ CV so you don’t have to.
Are you applying to dental school or residency and feeling overwhelmed? Are the essays, interviews, and application forms piling up and you don’t know where to start?
No fear, today we’re going to break down an important part of your dental school application. Your CV or curriculum vitae is a summary of your experience and skill and typically includes information about your education, job, research, community service, membership, leadership roles in organization, awards, publications, presentations. Didn’t catch all that? We’ll slow down.
Your CV is a type of resume that is a snapshot into your work and education experience. They are typically longer than resumes and are 2 to 3 pages. We’ll share a few general best practices, but the tricky part about CVs is that many advisors and doctors have different opinions regarding content and format. That’s why we spoke with 4 top dentists to hear their opinions on CV best practices so you don’t have to. Now you can read their experience, gain a general understanding of the concept, tailor the requirements for your application, and build your perfect CV. It’s all about you, anyways.
Let’s start with a few generally agreed upon rules. First, list content in order of importance. Make your CV easy for someone to read in a hurry with half their attention. Don’t make it possible for them to miss the best stuff. Use numbers or measurable metrics when you can. Whether it’s a research project or team work, prove your commitment, skill, or devotion with numbers. They’re hard to argue with. Finally, keep your CV technical and professional. You can show more of your incredible personality and talk about your unique hobbies in your interview. Use your CV to get you in the room, and prove to them why they should get to know you better.
Now, let’s introduce the dentists who have shared some of their top tips and advice for how to put together your perfect CV. Dr. Villalta is a Pediatric Dentist living in Los Angeles. She completed her residency and received her Undergraduate degree in Physiological Sciences and Masters in Public Health at UCLA.
Dr. Steven Lu is a General Dentist located in Northern California who received his DDS from the University of Michigan. He also is a pre-dental mentor and provides other pre-dental services on his website.
Dr. Landon Oka is a General Dentist from Pearl City, Hawaii. He received his Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Science from Oregon State University in 2015, and his DDS degree from Indiana University in 2019, and is currently working as an associate at a private practice in Mililani, HI. He loves helping out dental students so he says to feel free to message him with any questions!
Dr. Jordan Virden is a practicing pediatric dentist outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She completed both her DDS and Pediatric Dental Certificate at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. During her residency she served as a Chief Resident. She loves using social media to connect with parents, caregivers, fellow dentists and dental students as well as pre-dental students!
Dr. Lu: Education, Clinical Skills, Externship experiences, Leadership experiences, Advanced education/CE/conferences.
Dr. Villalta: It depends on the residency you are applying too. I am not sure who decided this was a thing, but I do recall my Pediatric Dental Director at UOP Dental School advised us to ensure our CV reflected the format that was specific to Pediatric Dentistry, vs. Ortho or OMFS. I found a lot of valuable information from UCSF’s Career & Professional Development Program.
Dr. Virden: Important sections to include would be:
Dr. Lu: Don’t forget to include their involvement in leadership and the hard dental skills they can bring to the practice.
Dr. Villalta: Making it easy for the reader to read - we read a lot of these when reading through applications for residency. Make the different sections easy to tell apart by using bolding, capitalizing, underlining, indenting, and/or making the font slightly bigger for the headings and keep the style consistent throughout your CV.
Dr. Oka: Do not forget to include anything that allowed you to gain valuable experience as a dental practitioner. This can include dental mission trips, volunteering at an outreach clinic, extra experience offered through school (ie extra summer electives) or even experiences that helped you learn the administrative side of dentistry as well. These are all things that show that you’re seeking to gain more knowledge and experience to prepare yourself for life after school.
Dr. Virden: One major thing I would keep in mind is putting applicable service experience and community engagements, this is really important to highlight yourself as a well rounded applicant. While you are getting ready to apply I would keep a running list of your service events so that you can put ones that most align with what you are applying to on the CV. For example, when I applied to pediatric dental residency, I put community service experiences such as health fairs, walking children to school on Monday's and Friday's and serving at Mission of Mercy Projects. I ended up having a few interviewers ask me about these events and it was a great opportunity to expand on this topic and share my passion for community service.
If you speak other languages I think this is also a fantastic section to add to your resume. Dental schools have extremely diverse patient populations, being able to speak another language can help you communicate with your future patients.
Dr. Lu: Here’s an example of a description: "Build positive public connections with school body. Created media to engage student body and Ann Arbor community for inter-professional collaboration. "
Dr. Villalta: Make sure after the headings you add descriptive text of the positions and organizations you were involved with. Describe and highlight the range of your experiences and outcomes - like the detail in numbers of people you provided care to, your clinical experiences and/or tasks (how many people you screened, provided restorative Tx to, how many patients you triaged and referred for care, how many patients you provided education to).
Dr. Oka: The basic layout I used was:
What is the experience and the approximate date(s) of involvement, followed by where it was and the a brief description of what you did during this experience. Here is an example:
Student Outreach Clinic Volunteer and Board Member (Sept 2015-May 2019)
People’s Health and Dental Center; Indianapolis, IN
Dr. Virden: I condensed my CV to only major headlines below.
Dr. Lu: Yes of course, as long as you are aiming to portray something specific, like leadership skills.
Dr. Villalta: I think so, I included my Rugby Awards because I felt like it showed my consistency with the sport & my awards provided insight into my character.
Dr. Oka: From what I’ve seen, it’s always good to have non-dental activities on your CV. If you’re looking to get hired at a private practice they’re going to want to see that you are a well-rounded person, someone that patients can relate to and feel comfortable with.
When adding to your CV/resume, try to think about what you’re putting on there. Ask yourself:
How does this show that I will be a valuable asset for this office?
Does this really help to highlight who I am and what I am about?
Will this activity or award show the viewer that I can be trusted to be a representative of their practice?
Dr. Virden: Yes, I think it is important for applicants to show that they are multidimensional, this goes into making a well rounded application. Examples would include if you played a D1 sport or were involved in a club for all 4 years, or worked during college. It is important for the reviewers to see you not only as a dental student but a person as well with interests and leadership experiences outside of the dental sphere.
Dr. Lu: For mine, it was my Master's degree and advanced surgical experience I gained in dental school.
Dr. Villalta: When it is clean & easy to read & puts information in chronological order in order of importance which is specific to each specialty
Dr. Oka: Volunteer work and clinical experience tend to stand out a lot. Most places hiring a new grad want to see that 1) you are capable of compassion and treating patients with care and 2) you took opportunities to increase your clinical skills and expand your knowledge beyond just the things taught in dental school.
Dr. Virden: I think organizing your CV so that the most relevant information is on the front page helps a CV stand out the most. Having to dig through pages on a CV to find relevant points is hard to do if there are a lot of applications. I think having your major dental experiences/shadowing/volunteering/research etc. on the first 1-2 pages is extremely helpful. Being strategic about CV organization is so important and can help your CV stand out.
Dr. Lu: Super important to include action words in your CV because some people need only a few seconds to read through your CV.
Dr. Villalta: Important! Ensure your diction reflects your character and positive qualities. They are like the “search words” that directors look at in your CV, it helps identify the most relevant CVs, and it helps to show if you are a good “match”. Directors are skimming through A LOT of CVs, make sure to stand out in a good way! Make your good attributes & skills stand out!
Dr. Virden: Yes, I know in other industries resumes and CV's are scanned for keywords so I would try to include them as you can and it is appropriate. Examples of dental keywords would be: dentist, dental office, dental treatment, general dentist, dental students, etc.
Now that you know the general guidelines for a CV and have heard some preferences and advice from practicing dentists, you can use this information to put together your perfect CV. Hopefully now that you’ve got to know a few dentists who finished their application, got accepted, and made it out alive, you have a better sense of hope for what you can do as well. Follow Dr. Lu, Dr. Villalta, Dr. Virden, and Dr. Oka on Instagram to follow along with their careers and learn more from their experiences! With a little effort and few late nights in the library, you won’t be far behind.