Every professional knows that a cover letter goes hand-in-hand with a CV.
But, while cover letters tend to be standard across most industries, physician cover letters are a bit different.
If you’ve spent time perfecting your CV so you can apply for a new position, now it’s time to get to work on that cover letter.
From the content to the formatting, here’s everything that physicians need to know about cover letters.
Why a Cover Letter is Important
We all understand the importance of having a strong CV. A cover letter is equally as important.
Your CV is a recap of your education and experience. It’s straightforward, to the point, and there’s little room for deviation from the standard format.
The cover letter, however, allows for a bit more flexibility and is your one chance to inject a bit of personality and really sell yourself to the employer. Your cover letter alone can make you stand out from all the other candidates vying for the same position, (even the ones that have better CVs).
In your cover letter, you can showcase skills that aren’t on your resume.
Your leadership abilities, strong communication skills, and team-player attitude are difficult to convey through bullet points on a CV. But in the paragraph format of a cover letter, they’re much easier to get across.
Create a Unique Cover Letter for Every Position
Every position you apply for deserves its own cover letter. Create a standard template that includes the formatting and your contact information, but tailor every cover letter specifically to the individual job.
Because every job is slightly different.
Though the duties may be the same, where you’ll be working and the sort of patients you’ll be seeing can vary greatly. By creating different cover letters for each job, you can tailor your language and phrasing in a way that resonates with that specific employer.
How Long Should a Physician Cover Letter Be?
In general, a cover letter should be between three and five short paragraphs. Three paragraphs is the standard, but you can add a fourth or fifth paragraph if there are specific things you want to include that are relevant to the position.
Ideally, your cover letter should be less than one page. Unlike a CV, it is not okay to stretch your cover letter to two pages.
Remember, the purpose of a cover letter is to shed a bit more insight into who you are and why you’re the ideal candidate for the position. It is not to describe yourself in detail, recap, or rehash anything that is already written in your CV.
What Should a Physician Cover Letter Include?
There are seven key things to keep in mind when formatting and writing your cover letter.
Here are the main points to consider when crafting yours:
1. Include Your Personal Information
Your cover letter should contain all of your personal data, including:
- Your name
- The abbreviation of your medical degree
- Current title
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Email address
Make sure this information matches the information listed at the top of your resume exactly.
2. Address Your Letter to the Proper Person
Writing “To Whom It May Concern” just won’t cut it. Every cover letter should be addressed directly to the person who will be reading it.
Take the time to research the name of the hiring manager who will be screening candidates (this is usually the department chair).
If you can’t find the person’s name through online research, take a moment to call the employer and ask who it is. A little thing like this goes a long way in showing that you pay attention to detail.
3. Create a Strong Opening Paragraph
The whole purpose of a cover letter is to grab the attention of the employer and make yourself stand out from all of the other physicians applying for the same position. Your first paragraph will set the tone for the entire letter, so it needs to make the reader want to continue reading.
In the opening paragraph, be sure to mention the specific position you’re applying for. If there is a job code or reference number associated with the job listing, include it. If not, simply reiterate the job title as posted in the job description.
You should also mention if the job you’re applying for is full-time, part-time, or a temporary locum tenens position.
In summary, the opening paragraph should clearly state your goals and show that you have a genuine interest in the position.
4. Discuss the Geographic Location of the Position
The one thing that makes physician cover letters so different from other industries is that it’s important to make a connection to the geographical location.
Employers want to hire physicians that want to work in their specific town, city, or state. And that’s because they want physicians to stay for the duration of the contract term and beyond.
If you’re applying for a position in the Midwest, the employer wants to know that Midwestern life is what you’re looking for. They want physicians who are excited about their location and the community they serve.
If you have a personal connection to the town where the position is located, mention it. Maybe it’s the town you grew up in. Maybe you went to school in a nearby city. Maybe it’s a city you visited once and fell in love with. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to show that you have a connection to the geographic area.
It’s also important to do your research and learn a bit about the patients the employer serves.
Let the employer know that you love the hardworking people of Tennessee, the family-oriented communities in Kentucky, or the grit and wit of New Yorkers. The more the employer thinks you are excited to work for them (and serve their community), the better your chances are of getting an interview.
5. Briefly Mention Some of Your Skills
You do not need to recap all of your practical skills — those should already be included in your CV. But you should use your cover letter as a way to draw attention to specific aspects of the position, especially ones that you are exceptionally qualified to do.
Give a brief example of some of the ways you excelled in your current role or in a previous position. Be specific and include details of things you’ve done in the past that will be relevant to the new job you’re applying for.
You may be able to glean this information from the job posting, or you may need to do a bit more research. The more you know about the position, the more you can tailor your cover letter to include specific examples of some of your achievements. Ultimately, your cover letter should demonstrate that you will be effective if hired for this role.
6. Include a Thank You
Every cover letter should conclude with a thank you and a slight push toward next steps. Thank them for taking the time to read your cover letter and review your CV then include a polite request for an interview. Make it clear that you want the opportunity to discuss your experience and qualifications in greater detail.
7. Keep It Professional
A cover letter gives you an opportunity to show some personality, but you still need to keep it professional. Be friendly, be courteous, and be conversational without being too casual.
What Your Cover Letter Should NOT Include
Knowing what to include in your cover letter is as important as knowing what not to include.
Your cover letter should not be a recap of everything in your CV. Let your CV speak for itself and use your cover letter as a way to show some insight into who you are, without rehashing too many details about your education and experience.
Make sure your cover letter does not include any negative language or pessimistic outlooks on the job at hand or the industry in general. This is not the time to write a manifesto on all that you wish you could change about the healthcare industry.
If your cover letter or CV includes typos or grammatical errors, you probably won’t even be offered an interview. Make sure that your cover letter is error-free. Proofread it several times before submitting it or have a colleague or a professional writer look it over for you before sending it off.
Do not mention anything that might limit your opportunities. While you should be clear if you are interested in a full-time or a part-time position, now is not the time to say that you only want to work two days a week or that you do not want to have to be on-call.
Save those specifics for the interview or for the contract negotiation process (if your demands are reasonable). The point of your cover letter is to get an interview, not to eliminate yourself from the candidate pool before you have a chance to show them who you are and what you can offer.
When to Submit a Cover Letter
Cover letters should be submitted along with your CV. If you submit your documents electronically, make sure that you convert your cover letter to a PDF before emailing it or submitting it through an online job portal.
Physician Cover Letter Examples
Ready to write your cover letter? Here is an example that you can use as a guide to creating your own.
Dear Dr. Smith:
I am writing in response to the Radiology Oncology position posted on the American Society of Radiation Oncology Career Center, Job ID 1817, located in Sandusky, Ohio.
I am currently serving as Chief Resident (PGY5) in the radiation oncology residency at Baylor College of Medicine, under the chairmanship of John Smith, MD. I am excited about the potential opportunity to join your team at the conclusion of my residency in July. As highlighted in the enclosed application materials, including CV and letters of recommendation, I am recognized not only for my professionalism with colleagues, but most importantly, for my dedication to patients and the restoration of their good health.
As you will see, I chose to attend medical school outside of the United States to foster cultural growth and satisfy my appetite for travel. While abroad, I had the opportunity to participate in multiple clinical and professional development opportunities that differentiate me from other applicants. Given your international clientele and the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Rockford community, my international and multicultural experience will enhance the contributions I would bring to your practice.
Now in my final year of training, I have met the ACGME clinical requirements as we have very strong clinical experience with exposure to all types of cancers. We have most notably achieved great success with HDR brachytherapy for gynecologic cancers, and I have over 175 cases to date. As chief resident, I am an active member of ASTRO, TRS, and RSNA with both oral and poster presentations at several national meetings.
As you consider candidates for your radiation oncology position, I encourage you to consider my multicultural experiences overseas along with the exceptional training of the Baylor program. I would truly appreciate the opportunity to meet you in person to learn more about your position. Please contact me to discuss my qualifications and your position in greater detail.
First and Last Name, MD
[Chief Resident] Optional, if applicable
PGY[X]Name of Residency Program
Department of [Specialty]
Cell: (555) 555-5555
email: [email protected]
Here’s the bottom line:
A cover letter is just as important as your CV. It’s a way to separate yourself from other candidates applying for the position, showcase specific skills that are relevant to the job, and demonstrate that you have some connection or interest in the geographic location.
Looking for more information on physician job searches? The Physicians Thrive blog features a variety of informational articles, including how to work with a physician recruiter, the best places to live and work, and how to advance your career goals.
Be sure to protect your interests before negotiations start. The best time to start is now, but be absolutely sure to read our contract review resources or contact Physicians Thrive for contract review guidance before you sign an employment agreement.
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