We all know that resumes are a necessary evil of the job hunt process — no matter whether you’re a seasoned pro or a new grad — and that’s particularly true if you work in a healthcare field like optometry. Your resume gives potential employers a first impression of you as a professional and provides valuable insight into your education, experience, and skill set. It’s your opportunity to highlight the unique abilities you bring to the table, as well as your general philosophy of care. Ultimately, your resume gives employers a better idea as to your potential to fit in with their workplace culture and approach to optometry.
No pressure, right?
Though writing your resume can certainly feel daunting, it doesn’t need to take years off your life. What it comes down to is knowing: (1) what information showcases your skills and experience as an optometrist, and (2) how to format that information so it catches readers’ eyes right away.
This article walks you through the process of writing a resume from scratch, starting with how to format and organize the content of your resume and then going into the kinds of information you should include in each section. If you already have a resume, you can either skim through each section to get a refresher or you can simply focus on the sections that you know you need to work on.
Let’s dig in!
How to Format Your Optometrist Resume
Before you draft your resume, select a format and create a brief outline. Experts at Glassdoor reference three main formatting options:
- Functional: This format emphasizes relevant experience within the field of optometry, especially in clinical settings. Begin with a professional summary, followed by a list of clinical skills. Next, add a work experience section that lists jobs in the order of relevance to the position for which you’re applying.
- Chronological: Focusing on recent history, this format highlights education, training, and work experience in reverse chronological order — beginning with the most recent job and working backward toward the first (optometry-related) role you had. (This particular approach may sound familiar to you: that’s because it’s become the standard format for resumes in many industries and disciplines - optometry included.) The scope of the listed positions can be a bit more diverse than those mentioned in the functional resume. For example, while a functional resume might include only clinical jobs, positions like optical sales might be listed in a chronological resume. This format can also help highlight a few crucial elements of your work history to employers:
- How much time you spent at each position (which can also indicate to employers whether you tend to stay in one place for a while or if you tend to hop from job to job);
- What your responsibilities were in each role; and,
- What you accomplished while you were in each position.
- Combination: As its name implies, this resume format blends aspects of the functional and chronological approaches. Typically, it resembles a chronological resume in the education and work history sections, where degrees or jobs might be listed even if they technically fall outside the optometry profession. Meanwhile, the professional summary and skills sections more closely resemble those found in a functional resume by focusing exclusively on optometry.
When selecting a resume format, remember: potential employers look through numerous resumes before moving on to the interview process. They don’t have the time to read through massive paragraphs of text to find out why you’re a good fit for their particular role; they need to be able to easily find the answers to their questions, or else they’ll lose interest and move on to the next resume in the stack.
But don’t just take our word for it. At Vision Expo East 2018, Covalent Careers and NewGradOptometry held a live Q&A interview during which panelists Cameron Faylor, recruiting manager for Light Wave Dental, Matt Geller, OD, CEO of CovalentCreative, and Patricia Fulmer, OD, FAAO, owner of Legacy Vision Center in Huntsville, AL, spoke in-depth about this very topic. Faylor acknowledges that recruiters typically spend just 10 seconds scanning each resume. "I don't read [resumes] word for word,” he explains. “I'm going through, looking for...keywords that say [for example], 'I have experience with glaucoma.'"
It’s worth noting that Faylor isn’t the only one who does this; most recruiters and hiring managers across all industries take a similar approach. In fact, HR teams have started using software called “applicant tracking system” (ATS) to automate this process for them. For this reason, it’s important to be especially thoughtful not only about the kind of information you include on your resume, but also about how you organize and format that information. Bullet points are an easy way to make sure the information you’re presenting in your resume is scannable and digestible — this is particularly important for sections where you need to go into more detail about certain aspects of your background, such as your professional experience.
Fulmer elaborates: “If it doesn’t look clean, don’t send it.” As a small business owner and employer, she acknowledges that a messy, poorly organized resume that lacks attention to detail indicates to her that a job candidate is “probably not going to bring that attention to detail to the practice, either.”
What Are the Different Sections of an Optometrist Resume?
Now that you have a general idea of how you’re going to format your resume, it’s time to start writing. This may seem like a daunting task, but don’t worry — it’s a lot easier than it sounds.
Resume formatting may vary somewhat based on which of the three approaches you choose, but the actual content should remain consistent. This means including the following key sections:
- Contact Information
- Professional Summary
- Professional Experience
- Licenses & Certifications
- Affiliations, Honors, & Awards
The order of these key sections will vary depending on how long you’ve worked in the field. For example, experienced optometrists should consider placing the professional experience section above their education — this will allow them to bubble up the most important and relevant information to the top of their resume so recruiters or employers don’t have to dig around to find it.
Recent graduates, however, should highlight their education first, as the details included in this section may be more helpful and informative to reviewers than a limited job history would be.
Now, we’ll walk you through how to write a concise yet compelling resume, section by section.
Section #1: Contact Information
In his 2020 article, “The Resume Writing Guide for Optometrists,” Cory Hakanen, OD, MBA, product manager for Twenty/Twenty Therapeutics, advises that resumes lead with contact information. This helps prospective employers get in touch if they have any questions or want to schedule a formal interview.
At a minimum, provide your full name (including credentials, such as OD), address (including city, state, and zip code), email address, and phone number. If you have more than one phone number, include the one that you will reliably answer during normal business hours.
Email addresses provided within this section should be professional rather than personal. Casual or silly addresses (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) are best left for interacting with friends and family members. To be safe, opt for an email address that includes your first and last name (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) or your first initial and your last name (e.g., email@example.com).
Fulmer elaborates on this in her Youtube interview: “It's a good idea to create an email that you can have for an extended period of time...because you know it's not going to be deactivated in five years."
A contact information section might be formatted as follows:
Jane Doe, OD
123 1st Ave
New York, NY 11201
Section #2: Professional Summary
As its name suggests, this section summarizes your professional background. If you’re a new graduate, center your summary around school-based clinical experience and provide a snapshot of your top career objectives.
When writing a professional summary, focus on why you’re a good fit for the position. Explain why, exactly, your skills, optometry background, and approach to patient care fit the needs of the clinical office, medical facility, or job opportunity.
For example, "Jane Doe, OD, has 25 years of clinical experience as an optometrist. She specializes in pediatric optometry and tailors her practice to accommodate young patients’ smaller size and shorter attention span.”
Though it may be tempting to start off your professional summary with “I am,” it’s best practice to write this section — as well as the rest of your resume — in the third person - so, for example, you’d want to write something like “Jane Doe is.” (Don’t ask us why: we didn’t make the rules!) So, avoid using phrases like "I have 25 years of experience" or "my background includes work with children." Also, remember that this is a summary, not a biography, so keep it short and sweet: your professional summary should be two or three sentences maximum.
Section #3: Professional Experience
Depending on your professional background, this part of your resume could be the most extensive. This area should include a high-level list of the professional and/or clinical experience you’ve acquired during your career, starting with your current position and working your way through your employment history in reverse chronological order.
Listing Positions: The Basics
For each position, provide the name of the organization where you worked, the title you held, and the start and end dates of that job. For the dates, simply provide the month and year you started in that position, as well as the month and year you left. For clarity’s sake, make sure to separate the start and end dates by hyphens (e.g., “March 2019 - August 2021”). If you’re currently employed in a particular position, replace the end date with "Present" to reflect that you’re still there (e.g., “March 2019 - Present”).
For example, a position listed in this section might look like this:
Optometric Technician, ABC Eyecare
March 2019 - August 2021
Job Responsibilities & Other Details
Once you have the skeleton of your work history nailed down, it’s time to fill in the details and highlight the specific responsibilities you held for each job, as well as any special projects you handled.
For example, as a sales associate in an optical shop, you may have taken on extra responsibilities, such as organizing charitable events (e.g., used glasses drives). Make sure to format the content of each role using bullet points rather than writing in full paragraphs. This will allow hiring managers to scan the information more easily to pick out the duties and accomplishments they want to see.
Experienced professionals in optometry may not need to provide every detail about internships or training during college. New graduates, however, should mention any clinical work, volunteer work, or internships that relate to optometry.
Continuing with the previous example, you might add bullet points to flesh out the position with responsibilities:
Optometric Technician, ABC Eyecare
March 2019 - August 2021
- Educated patients about and prepared them for vision exams.
- Gathered patients’ medical history.
- Tested for field of vision and depth perception.
- Helped patients select glasses frames.
- Discussed vision benefits and other insurance concerns with patients.
If you get stuck and need additional inspiration, study the job’s description to see what kinds of experiences and skills it lists. This can give you a good idea of the backgrounds being sought, as well as the keywords you may want to use in your own resume.
By using the job description this way, you can brainstorm additional responsibilities and accomplishments you have had but forgotten about. For example: say that a particular position's job description claims that the ideal candidate has at least two years of experience working in a pediatric setting. Perhaps you landed your first job at a small practice right after graduating. There, you worked with patients of all ages — including young children. Though you didn’t work in a strictly pediatric setting, you did have the opportunity to work with that population. Without examining the job listing, you might not remember this information and therefore not include it, despite its clear relevance to the position to which you’re applying.
Section #4: Education
As you might’ve guessed, the education section of your resume offers a basic overview of your academic history. As with the professional experience section, this information should take the form of a list arranged in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent degree or designation you received and working your way backward.
For each entry, write the name of the degree and the college or university you attended. When writing the dates, you can either mention the year you graduated or provide all the years you attended the school.
University of Pikeville, College of Optometry
Master of Science, Optometry
September 2013 - May 2015
Section #5: License & Certifications
This section of your resume lists any licenses or certifications you’ve acquired, along with the years in which you obtained them. Again, list these in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent license or certification and working your way backward. If you’re licensed to practice in multiple states, you can list them all here as well.
- Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry | Issued February 2019
- Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry | Issued July 2018
- California State Board of Optometry | Issued April 2016
Section #6: Skills
As with the previous sections, the skills section consists of a short but comprehensive list of the most important and relevant professional skills you’ve acquired over the course of your career.
The content of this section lends itself nicely to bullet points, but you may find other, more creative ways to highlight this information. This information needs to be easily scannable and digestible, so make sure that whatever formatting option you choose allows readers to read and absorb the content quickly.
In his article, Hakanen recommends diving into specifics, such as the following key skills:
- Familiarity with electronic medical records (EMR) software. Mention the specific programs or platforms, such as ManagementPlus or MaximEyes.
- Mastery of practice management software. Examples might include programs for managing insurance reimbursements, lab results, or clinic inventory.
- Experience with ophthalmic equipment, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) or a binocular indirect ophthalmoscope.
- Co-management relationships involving multiple providers.
And, as always, don’t forget to tailor this section based on the type of job for which you’re applying!
Section #7: Affiliations, Honors, & Awards
Typically, the final part of an optometrist resume is the affiliations, honors, and awards section. Here, you highlight any professional organizations or associations you’ve joined, as well as the years in which you were a member. If you received honors for your work (or academic achievements as a recent grad), you can mention that here too.
How you list these depends on whether you’ve opted for a chronological or functional resume. In a chronological resume, for example, awards and affiliations should be listed in reverse order, beginning with the most recent distinction. For example:
- American Optometric Association, Distinguished Service Award | September 2018
- Carel C. Koch Memorial Medal Award | May 2015
- Mid-Counties Optometric Society Young Optometrist of the Year | August 2012
A Note for Entry-Level Optometrists
How you approach your resume will differ based on your level of experience; this will impact not only the length of your resume, but also whether you include information about internships, clinical programs, or work in other fields.
While seasoned professionals are better off sticking to descriptions of optometry positions, entry-level employees may need to draw on other forms of experience. When determining what to include, consider the relevance of past positions, as well as what your background indicates about your ability to impress future employers.
For example, you might look to previous part-time positions, volunteer experiences, or clinicals. While none of these will create an immediate impression quite like a previous position as an optometrist, the following positions might attract attention:
- School-based vision screening volunteer
- Volunteer positions in other clinical settings, such as hospitals
- Optometric technician
- Optician sales associate
- Clerical staff or reception positions for an optometrist
Now, you might be wondering about whether your shadowing experiences have a place on your resume. Good news: they do! When asked this same question during their Q&A, Geller, Fulmer, and Faylor unanimously agreed that that kind of experience absolutely should be included on an entry-level resume.
“Just make sure it’s not ‘flash in the pan’ and that it’s something that you continually kept up with,” Geller clarifies.
He goes on to explain that when most entry-level candidates talk about their shadow experience, they say things like “I saw glaucoma patients” or “I helped out with NCT and pre-testing.” While that is undeniably valuable experience, Geller notes that today’s private practitioners are operating in a “world of business,” so it’s important that optometrists (and particularly entry-level optometrists) demonstrate that they have some experience with -- or, at the very least, interest in -- helping run a business. Rather than focusing purely on the optometry-specific skills you honed when you shadowed, here’s what Geller would include instead:
“I would say that I had coffee with the [doctor] and he taught me how to run a P&L [profit and loss] statement and what it meant to have an upside-down balance sheet and how to bring a practice to profitability. Those things are what I’d put on a resume; that will stand out big-time."
He closes with a final word of advice: “Even if...talking about profit and loss statements becomes the standard, move to something else people aren’t talking about. The whole point is that you have to stand out: don’t talk about what everyone else is talking about on your resume.”
At the end of the day, employers recognize that entry-level optometrists may not have a ton of professional experience to include on a resume. That’s okay! What they do expect, however, is that you provide a holistic view of your experience within your field. For this reason, Fulmer recommends that you “go ahead and [include] everything in school that you’ve done that’s relevant to optometry; relevant to being involved and to being a leader; [and relevant] to being whatever it is that you want to convey about yourself for that position. And then, as you grow, you can start to whittle that [list] down.”
Final Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out
Before you submit your resume, consider these simple suggestions:
Tip #1: Confirm that you’re qualified for the job in question.
This may seem odd, but it’s crucial that you (re)confirm that you are, in fact, qualified for the job. Pay attention to the stated qualification standards and make sure that your resume and experience fit the needs of the employer. Clinical and academic requirements, in particular, must be followed.
Tip #2: Tailor your resume based on the job description.
Don’t send a blanket resume en masse. Instead, adjust each resume based on the specific job for which you’re applying. Take some time to carefully read through the job description and identify the keywords they’re highlighting that overlap with your own experience and skillset, then find ways to weave those same keywords into your own resume.
Tip #3: Double-check your spelling and grammar.
The University of the Incarnate Word points out that many employers automatically eliminate candidates if they find any typos or misspelled words on a resume. This outcome is easily avoided: analyze your resume thoroughly to ensure that all spelling and grammar is correct prior to submitting the document to a hiring manager.
Tip #4: Pay attention to the length of your resume.
Avoid the temptation to delve into details about your background. With resumes, less is more, so opt for a succinct approach. If you’ve recently graduated or have fewer than 10 years of industry experience, one page should be more than sufficient. If you have more than a decade’s worth of experience as an optometrist, you can extend your resume to two pages — but cap it at that. Focus on concise statements and remove any outdated information or credentials.
Tip #5: Use strong action verbs.
Punch up your resume by avoiding passive language. Phrases like “I have had a lot of experience in clinical settings” fail to convey your strength as a job candidate (or catch a reader’s eye). In his article, Hakanen recommends strong action verbs. Examples include “educate,” “monitor,” or “achieve.” These will attract attention while also keeping your resume refreshingly concise.
Tip #6: Be consistent with formatting and punctuation.
Make sure that the font and font size of your resume is consistent throughout the document. The same goes for the use of bullets and any other stylistic choices you made. For example, if you made one headline bold and underlined, you should do that for all the other headlines as well. If you decide to put dates in italics, make sure all dates appear in italics across each section. This is particularly important with regard to ending punctuation (e.g., in your professional experience section): some people opt to end each line item with a period; others don’t. No matter where you land, make sure you’re staying consistent with it throughout the document. Seemingly minor differences will distract hiring managers and could demonstrate that you lack the attention to detail they’re looking for.
Tip #7: Get an outside opinion.
Having a second set of eyes review your resume can be invaluable, as you might miss significant mistakes even after reading and rereading your resume. It’d be ideal if you could have another optometrist look over your work, but if that’s not possible, just make sure that you select a reviewer who won’t be afraid to provide you with constructive feedback if some things need fixing.
Tip #8: Be true to yourself.
If you take pride in a particular skill or quality, don't be afraid to include it. Faylor explains, "Obviously, you want to tailor [your resume] to be a good candidate, but if there's something you're proud of, put it on there. It will show that you're a real person and not just a number on a machine."
A little extra effort can go a long way toward forming a positive first impression and, ultimately, landing your dream job as an optometrist. Pay close attention to the stated preferences of the employer in question — and determine whether the details in your resume fit the priorities you’ve observed in the job posting. From language to credentials and even layout, every detail matters. Don’t waste this opportunity to wow your future employer.
Image courtesy of iStock.com/MicroStockHub