A life science recruiter's blog on placing R&D professionals.

Blog/Career Advice for Life Science Professionals

A Life Science Recruiter Gives Tips on a Tailored CV

It can be a bit tricky to write a tailored CV or Curriculum Vitae when applying for a new job. Do you list all your skills, qualifications, and publications and just be done with it? Let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. Or do you fine tune your information for each individual job? As a life science recruiter, who sees countless CVs in her job at Clark Executive Search, I tend to side with those who think a scientist should tailor their Curriculum Vitae for each job. Often my candidates are multitalented. They may be very skilled in biology, chemistry and informatics. Yet the job they are applying for is in chemistry and therefore a tailored CV slanted toward chemistry is in order. But you have to be careful to not tailor yourself out of a job; so follow my guidelines for a tailored CV:

1. Clearly show your skills and background: Let’s face it; it is tough to get screened today with thousands of applicants sending their CVs to every job online. A recruiter has to quickly vote “yes or no” on what is in on the paper in front of them and move on to the next. Therefore you need to stand out with a tailored CV and have your keywords match the ones the recruiter is looking for.  Often the person screening is not highly trained, especially in science. They very easily might miss what a trained life science recruiter, such as myself, would spot in a highly qualified candidate. Coming from a  great lab or having been published in a top scientific journal might not register to the person.What seems obvious to you might not be to the person screening. Don’t leave anything to doubt. Even I occasionally am not sure if a person has a particular skill in some area needed for the position I am recruiting for. So I say  to the person, “ Just to be clear, you do have experience in ______, right?” But you might not get this chance to talk to a live person before either a screening program or undertrained person rejects you.

2. Your tailored CV should be unique: Yes, you want to point out the keywords and skills. But don’t make the mistake of copying every word on a job description and pasting this into your CV. This will not look genuine and you will most likely be rejected. No one matches a job description that closely. You must be yourself, and have your own personality come through. For this reason I do not send a written job description to a candidate until after I receive a CV.

3. Tailored CV for different job functions:  Scientists have a great deal of technical skills but sometimes listing every lab test you know or every software program you have used can be detrimental if applying to higher level jobs where management and strategic thinking are more important. Since I do not recruit recent postdocs for entry level PhD life science jobs, the CVs I review are usually more focused on skills other than basic lab skills. It is assumed the person knows these skills from their earlier days of their career. Therefore I do not like a keyword rich Curriculum Vitae for higher level positions. The point here is you need to be careful how you word your tailored CV. It must make sense for the position at hand.

4. Be careful not to tailor yourself right out of a job: I repeat that you have to let your true self come through and describe all your career highlights even if they aren’t spot on for the particular job. I have seen many times where a candidate is not chosen for one job, but the client company liked the person so much and liked another particular skill so much they made a new position for the person. This would not have happened had the person submitted a tailored CV primarily focused on the listed skills in the job description and not their own strengths.

5. Perhaps use a cover letter instead of a tailored CV : Generally, as a recruiter, who only recruits scientists and doctors, I like to know as much as possible about my candidates. The more information, the merrier. I don’t think a scientist can be expected to have a two-page resume like someone in sales, for instance. So, along with a full Curriculum Vitae, I would rather see a good cover letter that reflects that a candidate did a good job reviewing my client’s background and needs and emphasizes his or her appropriateness for the position with examples from their career. Do not use canned cover letters that you send to all companies with only the company name changed!

Related CV Articles:

There are many posts on how to write a tailored CV, but there is one site, that is slanted toward researchers, with a post titled ”  9 ways to tailor your CV ” that I thought useful.

What Biotech Recruiters Look for in a Good CV

Submit a CV Online or with a Biotech Recruiter

A Recruiter’s Tips on Writing a CV

Refreshing your Resume” from ACS

01/22/14 Recruiters spend about 6 seconds reviewing a resume or CV. But as a life science recruiter, I spend a few more seconds. I also check out the quantity and quality of scientific publications. Remember the number of publications isn’t as important if they are not in top tier science journals like Science