Why Life Sciences Stars Need A Great CV

Why Life Sciences Stars Need A Great CV

by Chris Atkinson in career
Traditional CVs are still the best way to showcase your experience and skills in a concise and compelling format. While modern professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn are opening up new ways to find jobs and promote yourself to employers, a CV remains the primary way that pharmaceutical or medical devices employers will gauge your suitability and decide if you will progress to the interview round.  

Today we’re going to look some of the common problems with life sciences CVs, and how they urgently need to be adapted to the modern recruitment landscape.  

1. Computers are probably reading your CVs, not people.  

In many cases, the first entity to read your CV won’t be a person at all. They’ll be a computer program, designed to scan your CV for critical competencies, skills, and attributes. Only once you’ve met the necessary job requirements will your CV be passed to a recruiter or hiring manager.  

Automation is an increasing practice in recruitment, so be extremely mindful of ensuring your CV uses the keywords, competencies, and desirable attributes mentioned in the job spec. It’s a brave new world! 

2. CVs go out of date. Fast.  

A common mistake candidates make is merely dusting off their old CV, adding the details of their most recent role, then submitting it to the hiring manager or recruiter. There are significant problems with this approach. 

When you only add the details of the new role, you are entirely missing the opportunity to reflect on how your responsibilities in old positions relate to the unique opportunity. As such, you should be rewriting or revisiting your entire CV in light of the role you’re looking for (remembering to focus on those keywords and competencies!)  

You should also be removing information that is no longer relevant as you move on in your career, such as school results, and condensing your earliest roles into just one or two lines. 

It’s also a great time to reacquaint yourself with past successes and prepare yourself to explain any inconsistencies in your CV, such as a spate of short-term jobs or an extended period of unemployment.  

The final problem with this ‘add a role and send option is that your Microsoft Works CV template from 2001 probably doesn’t make the right impression anymore—that is, if it works at all. Updating an old template can leave your CV rife with formatting bugs, leaving random page breaks to nowhere and fonts that no-one’s seen since 1999.  

3. Generalist CVs aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. 

When a hiring manager or recruiter does read your CV, they will instantly know if it’s tailored to the exact position on offer, or if you’re just blanket-sending the same CV to fit all vacancies. By submitting the same, generalist CV for multiple roles, you are loudly sending the message that you don’t care enough about the position to spend time crafting a tailored application. Interviews rarely come out of this approach.  

4. Saying you’re good at something isn’t enough.  

All employers want to see the evidence that you have the skills and experience to do the job. Just saying so isn’t enough.  
Life Sciences is an overwhelmingly data-driven field, so it’s even more important that your CV provides concrete details of the results you achieved in your past roles. This is another compelling reason why you should be rewriting your old CV from scratch, to make the results you’ve selected the perfect match for the job on offer.  

It can be tricky to remember the results you attained in roles from years ago. We, therefore, recommend you keep a running file of your tasks, responsibilities, and successes while in each job. 

5. Spelling and grammar still matter a great deal.  

A CV is the paper representation of you before you have a chance to speak for yourself. If your CV is littered with spelling and grammar mistakes, you risk making the impression that you don’t have  good attention to detail, let alone decent writing skills.  
Yes, the advertised role as a application specialist may not require that you can write grammatically perfect reports, but taking the time to run a spelling and grammar check over your CV, as well as getting a trusted person to look at it, is a simple thing you can do to ensure your CV won’t be discarded over something minor.  

Also, most jobs still require quite a lot of written communication via email and other platforms, so employers look for those who can communicate competently and professionally. Just run the spellcheck! 

6. Wishy-washy language won’t grab attention.  

CVs are an opportunity to show what you have achieved, so utilise strong action words such as ‘managed’ or ‘executed’.  

7. Your objectives don’t matter (to the hiring manager) 

The classic way of writing a CV was to have an ‘objectives’ section at the top of the CV, where you talked about your career goals and how the role fits in. Unfortunately, your career aspirations are not relevant to the busy hiring manager, who just wants to know how you’re a good fit for this job, right now!  

So scrap the outdated ‘Objective’ section, neatly replacing it with a ‘Summary’ section where you concisely and powerfully detail how your skills fit the role in question.  

8. It’s not all about skills. Attributes may be what get you the job. 


A Life Sciences CV can risk being a dry document, with no hint of the real person applying. They tend to be extremely heavy on skills and experience, but light on the information that shows what you’re like to work with, your emotional intelligence, and your ability to work in a team.  

Star Pharma and Medical Devices candidates can sometimes be introverted, while others may not be good at managing others. A hiring manager wants to be reassured that not only does your experience stack up but that you’ll be able to slot in nicely to the company and team culture. Additionally, if you’re going for a leadership role in life sciences, it’s absolutely vital to focus any managerial experience you’ve had, particularly when you can point to a positive result.  

To gain an interview, be very alert to any attributes or ‘desirable qualities’ mentioned in the job spec, for this is the kind of person they want to hire, and pepper your CV with these qualities.  

9. An overly-long CV can really deter the reader. 

Don’t make it feel like hard work. No more than 2 pages! 
Writing a life science CV that wins you an interview is not as hard as it seems. As long as you scour the job ad for the clues and write your CV accordingly and in line with current recruitment practices, you’ll be well on the path towards an interview! {description}
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