Protect Your CV Like you Protect Your Identity

Too often, physicians are asked to provide their CVs without knowing how their information will be handled. This article reviews several tactics to keep your CV from being misused.

By Sandra Nnebe and FlexMedStaff

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The curriculum vitae (CV) is an integral part of applying for any new opportunity, especially when applying for clinical work. As a physician, having a great CV is essential to scoring a new opportunity. A CV is a document with all your critical information for a future employer quickly glance over your background, education, and experience. The CV is unique to you and no one else. It’s basically your phenotype on paper. Your CV should be handled carefully and not routinely provided upon every request.  

Would you hand out your social security card to every individual that asked for it? Hell no!

Like a social security card, you should consider the impact of willy-nilly handing out your CV. You never know when those with your CV will use it for their own agendas or against your best wishes.

Just like how people can take advantage of having your social security number, individuals can use your CV to misrepresent your interest and objectives. As a physician, the following scenarios illustrate how people can misuse your CV without your permission.

  • Staffing agencies (i.e., locums recruiters) can claim ownership over you and enforce a non-compete if they present your CV, without your permission, to a medical facility.
  • External recruiters can present your CV, without your permission, to a medical facility for a full-time position forcing the facility to pay a ransom…I mean a finders fee.
  • A law firm, without your permission, can use your CV in their legal cases to appear as if you have been retained to represent their firm in a dispute.
  • A utilization review company, without your permission, can use your CV so that it appears you are a member of their physician panel for reviewing insurance cases.  

If these scrupulous people gain possession of your CV, they can use it for their own personal gains without worrying about how it might affect you. We discuss ways to protect your CV when sharing it with others. Please recognize that these ways are not foolproof, and anyone with dubious motives may be able to use your information to their benefit.    

Create an “Abbreviated CV”

Knowing that many agencies and third-party staffing agencies solicit prospective candidates’ CVs with the same aggression that credit card companies seek your financial information, it is imperative to be judicious about how much information you divulge at initial interest. Think of an abbreviated CV as an introduction without a complete life summary. An abbreviated CV can include the most relevant educational and work experience for advertised jobs. It should consist of your city and state without providing your street address. No personal identification should be included. Your education can be listed without dates, and your work history can be minimized to avoid sharing all your past. Any related awards, publications, and presentations may be briefly mentioned. Trimming your actual CV allows you to avoid sharing all details about yourself but gives just enough information for any recruiter to move your file forward. A more detailed CV can be shared with a hospital or employer better positioned to weigh the depth of education and experience in your expanded CV. In the footnote, you can inform readers that this is an “abbreviated CV,” and a full-length CV is available upon request. Without this disclaimer, third parties will be prompted to seek more information from you, which is not bad if you want to avoid labeling the document as an “abbreviated CV.” Having an abbreviate CV might keep the middleman, like an external recruiter or an untrusted person, from having access to all information about you and for your CV to be misused by a middleman.

Insert a Watermark

Create your CV in Microsoft Word, then insert a watermark in the background of your document. This way, those that read your CV will know your working relationship with the 3rd party that sent them your CV. For the Watermark, you can insert words or phrases like “Non-retained,” “Unofficial,” “Draft-only,” or “confidential.” You can also insert a unique watermark each time you hand over your CV, such as “Retained for Case X” or “Presenting for X hospital.” You can also personalize the Watermark by placing a unique image to minimize the risk of your CV being copied. Follow the directions below or review the website HERE on inserting a Watermark.

Directions to insert Watermark:

  1. Open Microsoft Word Document
  2. Click on the “Design” tab at the top.
  3. Click on “Watermark,” which is usually on the rights side of the screen.
  4. Click on either a pre-configured watermark or build a custom watermark (text or image).

Examples of Watermark:

Lock your Word Document

If you would like to forward your CV as a Word document to a 3rd party or individual, consider locking it so that it cannot be readily edited. You should consider doing this to protect your document if you don’t plan to convert it to a PDF. Follow the directions below or review the website HERE to lock your Word document.

Directions to lock the Word document:

  1. Click the “Review” tab at the top
  2. Click on the image “Protect.”
  3. Select “Restrict Editing.”
  4. Under “Editing Restrictions,” click on the box where it says, “Allow only this type of editing in the document. The drop-down menu should say “No changes – Read Only.”
  5. Click on the button at the bottom that says “yes, Start Enforcing Protection.”
  6. Type in a password and confirm that password.
  7. Your document is locked from editing.

Convert your CV into a PDF

One option to lessen the risk of your CV being edited is to convert your CV into a PDF. Although this can’t fully protect your CV, the PDF with a watermark can help minimize the risk of your CV being misused. Follow the directions below or review the website HERE to convert your CV from a Word document to a PDF.

Directions on how to convert your Word Document to a PDF (Microsoft Windows):

  1. Click the “File” tab at the top
  2. Select “Print.”
  3. Where it says “Printer,” select “Microsoft Print to PDF” on the drop-down menu.
  4. Then hit “Print” and save the document.
  5. The document has now been saved as a PDF.

Final Thoughts:

You wouldn’t hand out your social security card to just anybody. Be careful to whom you give your CV. Once someone has possession of your CV, they can easily misrepresent your interest. With possession of your CV, others can claim ownership over your clinical services and opinions with or without your knowledge. Remember that untrustworthy people can take any information you provide or they find on the internet to misrepresent you. Access to your CV gives them the power to use it in a manner it was not provided for. Be careful with whom you share your CV and how much personal information you provide in the CV, and consider the ways mentioned above to help protect your CV.  

***Dr. Sandra Nnebe is a freelance medical writer who practices hospital medicine part-time while enjoying traveling around the continents of Africa and Europe. Her passions include dancing, painting, and swimming. Please contact Dr. Nnebe at her LinkedIn account HERE.

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