I recently worked with a client who was interested in getting hired at Kaiser Permanente as an acupuncturist. Upon reviewing her questions and concerns, I realized that what she needed most urgently was to refine her resumé and cover letter. After our initial coaching session, she wrote the following to me in an e-mail message:



I’m truly grateful for your thoughtful guidance and unique insight for acupuncturist’s passionate about obtaining a position in a hospital setting.  Your recommendations to improve my resumé and cover letter were spot on!  You’re awareness of the mistakes acupuncturist’s tend to make exceeded my expectations.  I appreciate your time and outstanding preparations before meeting. I’m sure I will make use of your invaluable assistance again when I’m invited for an interview in the near future.

I have to admit that it was extremely gratifying to read those words. I wondered if others could also benefit from my perspectives. Here I will summarize some key tips I gave her for improving her resumé and cover letter.

1. Customize your resumé and cover letter for each position you apply for. The “Objectives” section of your resumé should reiterate (if not exactly copy) the job description from the job posting. If a recruiter looks at your resume and doesn’t see an immediate match to the job description, the resumé may never get to the hiring manager.

2. Refer to the company at which you are seeking employment by their full name. So instead of just saying Kaiser or Stanford, spell out the whole company name every time you make reference to it. It is better in general to avoid other abbreviations such as L.Ac. or OM when writing formally for your resumé and cover letter.

3. You don’t have to put everything in your work history on your resumé. Consider crafting your resumé as if you are telling a story – the story your employer wants to hear. Highlight and expand upon the key positions you have held in the past which commend you for a position at a hospital. Exclude ones that do not help to paint that picture.

4. Avoid referencing your desire to make sweeping changes in the “system” or push the agenda of Chinese/Oriental medicine too much. Hospitals are not typically hiring licensed acupuncturists for their skill is writing herbal formulas and doing medical qigong. They are hired to deliver acupuncture in a setting which greatly values evidence-based medicine. Try to avoid “rocking the boat” at least until you are onboard (but even then it is not recommended – look for more on this topic in a future blog post).

5. Edit, edit again, then edit it some more. Make each word pithy and pertinent. Then, say nothing else unless it is absolutely necessary. Less is more is this regard. Have some trusted colleagues with strong language skills proof your resumé and cover letter. Don’t be afraid to re-write if you don’t like it or if it needs a major overhaul. Then let your resumé and cover letter sit for a while, perhaps 1-2 weeks and return to it with fresh eyes. Read it out loud and see how it rolls off the tongue. If you can’t stand hearing it read aloud then you may want to consider a complete re-write.

6. Avoid thinking and focusing too much on skills that you have. Instead try to think in terms of the value that you bring to the hospital organization, patients, administrators, MDs, etc. What do patients care about? Mostly they care about feeling better and feeling as if they have been served well. If you clearly state to hospital administrators that you can do this it will be well received. Detailing every acupuncture technique you have learned and every master under whom you have studied is much less important to a hiring manager than whether or not you can provide value to the hospital and to the patients.

7. Write in a way that gives the reader the sense that you have good bedside manner. The cover letter in particular is your opportunity to exude calm. Service is a very big deal in the hospital setting and you want to let the readers of your letter know that you are dedicated to providing good service to patients, superiors, etc.

8. Include the idea of diversity. You will come in contact and work with people from diverse cultures. Providing “culturally competent” care is going to be critical to your success as an acupuncturist in the hospital setting. Tell your audience how you will accomplish this in as succinct a way as possible.

9.  Include your plan to avoid burnout in your sought-after position. Burnout is a real risk for hospital employed acupuncturists. Highlight the fact that you have a daily self-care regimen. Tell your readers that you are capable of avoiding burnout and what specifically you will do to counter it. Do you meditate? Eat well? Get enough rest? Get some cardiovascular exercise regularly? Do Taijiquan? Yoga? All of these can help to build the case that you are burnout-proof.

10. Be genuine, write clearly and avoid the use of clichés. Nothing turns off a reader more than reading a written piece that is insincere. Be yourself and if you feel as if you need to fool someone to get into a position, you may wish to reconsider your approach. Use clear and unambiguous language. Using words like “team-player,” “self-starter,” and “strong communication, customer service and organizational skills,” will do nothing but harm your attempt to get hired. Instead, spend some time doing a Google search for “clichés to avoid on resumés.” You’ll be amazed at the number of meaningless phrases that people think they should be using to present themselves to potential employers.

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