Top tips from Adrian Dixon on brushing up your CV

By Dr. Christiane Nyhsen, contributing writer
March 12, 2014

VIENNA - Seeking advice on CVs and job interviews? Who better to ask than Dr. Adrian Dixon, long-serving Cambridge professor and dedicated teacher, researcher, and mentor, as well as former editor in chief of European Radiology. And guess what? Even he didn't get every job that he applied for in his early career. But you can see where enthusiasm, hard work, integrity, and staying true to yourself can lead you.

Note: The following interview was originally published in ECR Today on 8 March 2014.

ECR Today: Judging from your experience reviewing applications, what makes a good CV?

Dr. Adrian Dixon
Dr. Adrian Dixon is professor emeritus at Cambridge University's radiology department. He is also Master of Peterhouse, the university's oldest college. He served as editor in chief of European Radiology from 2007 to 2013. Image courtesy of the European Society of Radiology.

Dr. Adrian Dixon: Clarity. Brevity; no more than five sides of A4 at this stage of a career. In chronological order. Explain gaps. Under publications, put down only those published or accepted "in press."

ECRT: Could you describe some of the most common mistakes you have seen in CVs during your career?

Dixon: A long list of publications but all only submitted; put these under "work in progress." Unexplained gaps, a missing year in general practice, may be relevant and beneficial and better than a year in prison! Grades at school, college, or university are important.

ECRT: What kind of audit projects do you think will impress a potential employer?

Dixon: For a radiology post, audit projects on radiological topics are optimal. These can be simple, such as were the clinical details sufficient, was the question answered in the report, etc.

ECRT: How can trainees find opportunities abroad, and why is it important to have experience training in another country?

Dixon: It is getting increasingly difficult for medical students to do electives abroad, which is a pity as electives are often the way in which young doctors discover their career choice. During radiological training, it is always beneficial to see radiology practiced in different centers, and a spell at a center of excellence in another country is especially useful when doing subspecialty training. In this regard, the European School of Radiology (ESOR) Scholarship scheme has been a spectacular success for highflies. However, there are a lot of other scholarships (national, industry-funded, etc.) for short (one to three months) projects or experience abroad, some of which only receive a modest number of applications.

ECRT: Once shortlisted, what qualities do you think the interview panel is looking for in a candidate?

Dixon: Enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm. Flexibility. Integrity. Answer the question succinctly. Look the questioner in the eye, but also make sure that the rest of the panel feel included.

ECRT: Could you tell us about your worst interview experiences, and point out what trainees should avoid during interviews?

Dixon: My worst personal experience was being asked at house job (intern) stage: "What research project would you like to do?" To which I replied that I thought I might be a bit busy with routine clinical work. I did not get that job! But a day later, elsewhere, I was asked the same question; I gave the same answer as before and, fortunately, they said "Oh, thank goodness; we were worried that you were a clever Cambridge chap who would not want to do hard work." I got the job. Which shows that there may be no right or wrong answer. Honesty is the best policy.

But, reverting to interviews for radiology positions, it is always disappointing to see candidates attending interviews who have come inadequately prepared; the candidate needs to find out the areas of interest of their future colleagues and the type of work that is carried out at the hospital in question.

ECRT: What other career advice could you give trainees?

Dixon: Be optimistic. Find out about interesting cases happening in the department and watch them -- even if out of hours. You will never know as much about radiology as when you pass your final exams; it is easier to learn when you are young. So invest at that stage -- every expert professional needs to put in 10,000 flying hours. As Gary Player (the famous golfer) put it: "The more you practice the luckier you get."

Dr. Christiane Nyhsen is a consultant radiologist at Sunderland Royal Hospital in the U.K., a former chairperson of the European Society of Radiology (ESR) Radiology Trainees Forum, and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board.

Copyright © 2014 European Society of Radiology

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