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How to write an outstanding CV for a life sciences job

Posting date: 28/02/2022
Author: Inside ICON

Around 268,000 people are employed by the UK life sciences industry and as one of the fastest-growing sectors, this number is expected to continue rising. Life sciences is a flourishing job market, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore competition remains steep.

Writing a CV that sets you apart from the candidate competition is a key job-hunting strategy. Here’s how you can do it:

Properly format your CV

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a CV, especially in life sciences. If you've just finished school or University, choose a clear layout that will showcase your skills in the best way. In the absence of any previous work experience, include a skills section after your list of qualifications and aim to keep it just to one page. You could also use some space to talk about relevant personal interests and highlight how these make you a great cultural fit for the life sciences job you’re applying for.

Alternatively, if you’ve got a lot of achievements to share you need to spend some time thinking about how to present it all clearly without making the page look cluttered. It’s best to keep your CV to two pages and though it might be difficult to omit some relevant experience, keep a note of what has been removed and save it to speak about in the interview. Lots of hiring managers and recruiters now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which scans a CV, so avoid using any unnecessary designs, borders or fonts.

Open with a strong headline statement

The first few lines of your CV are the most valuable real estate. Hiring managers and recruiters only spend a short amount of time on each CV, so open with a strong headline that captures their attention. Think carefully about how your summary makes you come across both professionally and personally. There are many exciting science-based careers in clinical research, one being a clinical trial manager – here’s how their opening statement might read:

‘Results-driven clinical trial manager with 10 years experience. Skilled in management of clinical studies in adherence to ICH and GCP guidelines while leading cross-cultural teams. Areas of expertise include managing remote decentralised trials, liaising with medical device companies, collaborating with Business Development and regular oversight of DOS, MVR, FUL and AI.’

Use the STAR method

If you’re applying for a Senior CRA job and you claim to have a ‘Proven track record of leadership’, the hiring manager reading your CV has no evidence to back this up. To make sure your CV stands out from the rest, use the ‘Situation, Task, Activity, Result’ (STAR) method. For example, ‘When involved with the set-up and monitoring of a study, I ensured the team completed the study status reports on time by creating a worksheet which each person could update in real-time. This kept everyone accountable for their work and resulted in the fastest turnaround for the reports to date.’ If you can quantify your result, it can have an even greater impact as hiring managers are drawn to figures. This technique is also extremely useful for interviews.

Keywords

Look for keywords that the employer or recruiter uses in the job advertisement and incorporate these into your CV in a natural way. ATS systems will pick up on these keywords and may give you an advantage. For example, when applying for a Study Start Up job you might pick out SSU, pharmaceutical products, contractual documents, QC submissions, CDP and wearable technology as terms included in the roles you're most interested in. Using these keywords in your CV allows a recruiter to quickly identify you as a strong candidate.

Looking beyond the skills required for the job, think about what relevant experience employers will be looking for in every team member. In a 2019 skills demand survey, 63% of cell and gene therapy companies admitted that digital skills are a must-have for future candidates. To show that you’re digitally savvy, make sure you highlight your tech skills and promote any digital skills that are relevant to the job.

Triple-check for spelling and grammar mistakes

Whether you’re forging a career in clinical research or applying for more niche areas like medical writing and medical affairs, your CV must be totally free of mistakes. Any life sciences job requires someone who is detail-oriented and there’s no better way to showcase yourself as a meticulous employee than to present a document entirely free of error.

Once you’re at the stage of submitting your CV pause for 15 minutes and use this time to go through the file with a fine-tooth comb and even share it without someone you know who has a keen eye for typos and grammar mistakes. Alternatively, there are plenty of useful free online tools like Grammarly that will do the checking for you.

Find the life sciences career that’s right for you

Now you know how to write an outstanding life sciences CV, next up is brushing up on tips to make a lasting impression in a video interview. Our job hunting tips are designed to help you best showcase yourself, so you can find the life sciences career that’s right for you. ICON is committed to becoming the leading Clinical Research Organisation but for that, we need the best talent in the market.

Does that sound like you? Apply for a clinical research role at ICON and show us why you’re made for the job today.


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