Let’s assume that you are looking for a job without using a recruiter. You’re searching the smart way – reaching employers with a resume and a cover letter to see if you can drum up some interest in what you have to offer. The cover letter can be a challenge, because while you might be trained well in the practice of medicine, nobody has ever trained you how to sell yourself.
Your cover letter
Your cover letter should not be longer than three paragraphs. It should be in basic business letter format, with the only exception being your name and address. If you have your name and address set up as a header on your resume, make the one on your cover letter match it exactly. Here is an example:
John Dorian, MD
369 Main Street, Apt 1003; Miami, FL 33144
(305) 555-1234 | (305)-555-2222
The date should be flush left with a space below it. Then you should have the address to which you’re writing, with the name of the person, their title, the organization or group name, their address, and then their city, state and zip, all on respective lines, followed by the salutation, like this:
March 16, 2007
Dr. Jan I. Tor
Medical Specialists of California
1234 Medicare Ln, Suite 200
Pasadena, CA 90014
Dear Dr. Tor,
Your first paragraph is an intro paragraph. You should only write two or three sentences. The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the better. Here’s an example:
I am a third-year Internal Medicine resident who is graduating this summer from Miami-Dade International Medical Institute. Since I have family in Los Angeles, I plan on moving there in July and am currently looking for an opportunity to practice in a hospitalist environment. As a result, I have enclosed my resume for your review and consideration.
See? This is just a simple paragraph saying who you are, what you’re looking for, and why the recipient should care.
The second paragraph is the trickier part. This is where you have to sell yourself. There are thousands of graduating residents in Internal Medicine every year, so what makes you special? Have you been involved in any unusual procedures? Did you get awarded anything for your efforts during residency? Is your hospital known for any certain type of technology or other aspect that might give you a benefit? Do you have an interesting background? Any of these things can help to make this second paragraph something that interests the employer enough to keep reading. For our hypothetical resident, here’s an example of what he might say:
I have consistently been a top performer throughout my medical training—I graduated at the top of my class from medical school, and I am currently among the top residents of my program, always scoring either first or second during my in-service exams and winning the honor of “Resident of the Year” for two consecutive years. I also have an extremely high patient satisfaction rate, and I have found that I am extremely capable at balancing the quality of my care with the quantity of patients I can see. In my current program, I am considered to be conscientious, knowledgeable, and a team player.
This paragraph brings out a few points that may interest an employer just enough to continue to the resume, which is where the real magic happens anyway. This is not the place to list all of your accomplishments – just give a summary of a couple of them that might set you apart from the other candidates.
The third paragraph is a quick conclusion. Just try to reiterate who are you and what you want. Don’t get bogged down in details:
If you are interested in an intelligent, well-trained Internist who will work hard and maintain the high level of quality that your hospital is known for, please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule an interview. I look forward to hearing from you.
Very simple, but it gets to the point. And the best part is that the whole letter only takes about 30 seconds to read. If it takes longer, there is a smaller chance of it being read at all.
Close it off with “Sincerely”, “Best regards”, or “Yours truly”, then leave a few spaces, and type your name. Underneath your name, type “Enclosure”. This means that the resume is enclosed:
John Dorian, MD
And you’re done! Just sign your name, put it with your resume (which you’ve already edited after reading our past articles, right?) and send it off.