Job Application Process
Developing your CV
Candidate Resource Centre
Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) has only one purpose…
…to get you an interview with the company of your choice. It is a sales document; you are selling yourself to a prospective employer. It is important to emphasise your key skills and achievements; this is what sets you apart from other candidates.
Remember your unique selling points (USPs).
There are three areas to consider when reviewing or developing your CV
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The CV should be kept short, ideally no more than two to three pages, with an additional page of supporting information such as publications if necessary.
A chronological CV is the norm. Write your employment and educational history with the most recent jobs and qualifications first.
It is imperative to have impact and therefore top loading your CV with the important information is paramount. If recruiters have to search hard for the information they want, you have less chance of getting through.
Write your CV in first person. This makes it sound like you are speaking directly to the reader.
The following format is fairly standard:
- Brief synopsis of experience and career aims
- Personal details
- Specific skills
- Additional information
Name – Use the name that you are known by, rather than your given name, if different.
Brief synopsis of experience and career aims – This should be no more than about three lines, and should give the reader an immediate understanding of where you are now, your major personal skills, and what you are hoping to achieve longer term. Here you highlight your Unique Selling Point (USP) that will make a company be interested in you.
A well qualified clinical research associate with over 4 years’ experience working in the CRO sector. Therapeutic expertise includes CNS, oncology and urology. Now looking to move into a line management position within a pharmaceutical company.
Personal details – This should include your home address, home and mobile telephone numbers, e-mail address, UK/EU work status.
Employment – This should be presented in reverse chronological order, with the greatest amount of information given for the most recent or current position. If you have been promoted a number of times within the same organisation, show each job separately but under the overall banner of the company – recruiters like to see stability.
Focus on your achievements and key skills, especially “transferrable skills” if you are applying for a role you have never done before. These are skills that highlight competencies that you have experience of in past roles that can translate into a new role such as communication, scientific knowledge, problem solving experience. Remember to keep these examples tangible.
A common mistake is just to paste in your current job description or list of responsibilities. This only tells the reader what you’re meant to do in your role, not what you have actually done. Use the past tense to convey that you have actually done what you are writing.
e.g. Instead of “Provide support to team members”
Use past tense with positive affirmations: “Successfully provided support to team members”
Do not give reasons for leaving, as you will have ample opportunity to discuss this at interview.
Show job changes running in smooth chronological sequence with no overlapping dates, but if there are gaps in your employment explain them, e.g. Career break to go travelling. If you have been in employment for some time, your earlier experience becomes rather less relevant, and should therefore be edited down to one or two lines per company.
Education – Education & Qualifications should be presented in reverse chronological order, and should clearly state the name of each qualification, the establishment, and the relevant dates. If you have a good degree grade, add it in, otherwise leave the grade out. Only include A-Level qualifications or lower if you are a new graduate. If you are a recent graduate then this will be higher up your CV above “Employment section”
Specific skills – The content and size of this area will depend on the specialisation in which you are working. You should identify any particular therapeutic expertise, management experience, I.T. Skills or relevant training. If a field based role include information about your driving licence.
Additional information – This section allows you to add information on interests and non-work related achievements. It is also a good place to cover language skills, or international experience if this is not covered in the education or employment sections.
If you have voluntary work or charitable achievements, add them here. For example, ‘Raised £3,000 for the charity Mencap by running in the London Marathon’, ‘Successfully completed the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award’, or “School Governor”. These can be excellent talking points at interview, and allow you another opportunity to present your skills and attributes e.g. organisational ability.
Interests should be concise: ‘amateur dramatics’ conveys as much useful information to the reader as a description of your last starring role. Humour is not always a good idea at this point. Some people find it irritating and you are not looking to be remembered for the wrong reasons. Avoid generic pastimes such as “reading, shopping, and socialising”.
When people are reviewing CVs they tend not to notice if a CV is particularly well presented, but they definitely remember if it is presented badly.
- Keep the document as plain as possible
- Avoid borders, colour, fancy graphics or photographs
- Be consistent with your formatting, particularly if you are applying for a job which requires a good eye for detail, such as a Pharmacovigilance Physician or QA Manager.
- Ensure uniformity with date formats. Include the month and year for both education and employment.
- Use the spell and grammar checkers choosing UK English as the default language. Do not rely solely on them though. Proofread your CV and ask someone else to cast their eye over it for words that aren’t picked up by spellcheck e.g. “trail” and “trial”.
- Keep to a simple typeface such as Arial or Calibri, and use a readable font size (eg. 12pt.)
- Send as a Word document to ensure that the formatting is not corrupted – agencies and clients also find these easier for their databases.
Having built a generic CV, try to tailor it for each specific job, as the most relevant aspects of your career need to be highlighted (e.g. therapy area expertise). You are looking to highlight the skills outlined in the job advertisement. Always make sure that you keep a copy of each tailored CV to take with you to any potential interview.
1. Have you spellchecked and proof read your CV?
2. Does your CV highlight your unique selling points and your skills and achievements on the first page?
3. Does your online profile reflect what is in your CV? If you have a Linked In account ensure accuracy especially with dates.