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

Blog/Career Advice for Life Science Professionals

Resume / CV Writing Tips

Format and Length of the Resume or CV:

  • The most common question people have when writing a CV or resume is about length, but do not be overly concerned by it. You are in a very technical field and a simple two-page resume will not begin to explain who you are. Publications alone will often add many pages. But of course it is very rare for a CV or resume to be 20 pages or more except for one belonging to someone with an outstanding academic record.
  • Make sure you use a font that is easy to read and especially large enough. Don’t use a tiny font and try to squeeze everything on one or two pages.
  • Either Word documents or PDF files are suitable.

Starting at the top of your resume or Curriculum Vitae:

Contact and personal information:

  • Contact information should be at the top where it is easy to see.
  • Be sure to include both work and home contact info. Clark Executive Search understands that confidentiality is imperative, but occasionally we need to speak to you immediately and must be able to reach you at work. Don’t worry, we will be discreet and won’t even leave our company name should someone else answer your line.
  • Do not put any personal information on your resume. In this day of identity theft we all must be very careful with the information that goes out electronically. Examples to avoid: social security number, maiden name, citizenship, marital status, number of children, reference to children, race, religion, religious organizations, national origin, age and physical condition (including disability).
  • Generally is not a good idea to put your hobbies, sports or political information on the resume. One exception might be for a top athlete, such as a state champion or Olympian. Top athletes are often dedicated, well organized individuals. These attributes are sought after by hiring managers. But this information can go under the Awards and Honors.

Summary of Qualifications:

  • Be sure to include a summary of your qualifications. The reasons are many but mostly recruiters and employers need a quick handle on what you do in plain simple non-scientific language. This is especially true for lengthy resumes that are typical for scientists. Remember the target audience is varied from scientific colleagues to recruiters and human resource people who may or may not have a scientific background.
  • Keep the summary to just several sentences. You’ll have your chance to give more details below in the resume, during an initial phone interview or possibly in a cover letter.


Employment History:

  • Do start with the current employer and work backwards chronologically. Recruiters and employers are more interested in what you do NOW.
  • If you have worked for some start up biotech companies, which might be unknown to some of your target audience, a sentence or two describing the company is very helpful.
  • Do not just list a title, department, date and company. The final hiring manager that sees your CV might be able to tell what you do based on your publication record but the initial screeners of your resume, who might not have a technical background, probably need more information to understand what you do.
  • Devote the most space and information about your current position and decrease your space and information as you go back in time. The only exception here will be if your responsibilities were very different at one company/position than another. In this case it is important to give details even if this is for work you did in the past.
  • Show your career progress for each promotion and be sure to include the years. Do not make the mistake of saying ” I went from Scientist to VP from 2000-2007″. Recruiters like to see good timely career progression.
  • Do not repeat the same job responsibilities from a previous position under your current position if your new responsibilities are in addition to what you were already doing. Simply state your new responsibilities and in one sentence mention that you are also responsible for the functions mentioned in the previous position.
  • If you have been employed in a short amount of time at several biotech companies that have closed their doors or laid off many employees, including you, in order to keep their doors open, be sure to note this info on your resume. Most people in this industry understand the ups and downs of biotech but still you don’t want to appear a job hopper. It is important the information about the lay offs etc is accurate for this information is easily checked. So don’t use company problems when in fact you left for personal reasons.
  • Whenever you started having managerial responsibilities, be sure to note this and give the number of direct reports as well as total responsibility. Again employers want to see your management progression.
  • If you are in a matrix environment be sure to state this and describe the number of people you share and work with on projects.


  • Some people place education information right at the top of a resume under the contact info and this can be acceptable especially if you have gone to a top university. But the education information can go after employment info as well. This is a personal choice.
  • Be sure to list the dates for all degrees. By not including this information you run the risk of inferring that you have something to hide.
  • It is a good idea to state your thesis title and advisor if you received a PhD.
  • Give all pertinent information about your postdoctoral, medical, or MBA education.


Honors and Awards:

  • List all relevant awards but if you have many, stick to the top ones.
  • This is a good place to mention top athletic awards, but only if they are significant such as, State Champion or something at the Olympic level. It is not a time to mention you were on the high school basketball team.

Professional Associations:

  • List all present and past professional associations you belong to including the dates. Some examples of respected organizations in life sciences are:

Drug Information Association
The Society for Biomolecular Sciences
Licensing Executives Society
American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
American Chemical Society
Regulatory Affairs Professional Society
American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
The Protein Society
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
The Academy of Pharmaceutical Physicians and Investigators
Association of Clinical Research Professionals


Speaking Engagements:

  • List the title, the name of the organization or conference and the date of all invited seminars and talks. For many positions employers expect their people to represent them at both internal and external meetings. A history of speaking engagements assures the employer you communicate well.


  • List current publications and work backwards chronologically. Again recruiters don’t want to flip through pages of publications to find your current work.
  • It is much easier to find your name if it is bolded for each publication.
  • Be sure to include your publications and do not say “publications upon request.” That makes one more step for an employer and he might not take the time to do this.
  • If you were a scientist before you moved into another area in the pharmaceutical or biotech world, such as business development, then be sure to include your publications as well as your deal sheet. In other words all information is important.



  • It is not a good idea to include references unless you are just starting out and your academic advisors are necessary to help you get your foot in the door. Otherwise save your references for when they are requested by a recruiter or employer. Remember you don’t want just anyone who sees your resume contacting your references. You want to be able to warn them and set up an appropriate time for the reference checking process.


Resumes of the non-scientist:

If you are not a scientist and in another area of the pharmaceutical or biotech industry your resume is of course going to be structured a bit differently. If you are a clinician it would be important to list your trial experience. If your background is in business development you will need a separate deal sheet. Those in manufacturing are going to give more information about their plant sites. These examples should point out that many of you will have a different flavor to your resumes. However many of the same above points are still important.

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