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Creating Smarter CVs

There is no “one best way” to construct a CV, but there are critical dos and don’ts that I urge you follow prior to applying for your next job.

You probably feel that writing a CV is a daunting task, however the chances are that you have a CV saved somewhere. However before you race to add your latest job to the top of what’s already there, please read this blog post and take some notes to make sure you’ve got EVERYTHING you need to create an extremely smart and effective CV that will get you an interview.

Style

“Flashy” CVs stand out for the wrong reasons.

I would never normally start by talking about style before substance, however this is 2017 and thanks to the accessibility of online software and the internet we’re seeing more CVs come through that at a glance look very flash; lots of infographics, funny little images and fancy artwork. The thing that concerns me about these CVs is that the style is detracting from the content. Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies are serious and evidence driven where decision makers are highly trained to scrutinise everything they read. The work you do is important and the image you need to portray has to follow suit and whilst flashy CVs with little substance do stand out, unfortunately they do so for the wrong reasons! 

Substance

The first thing you need to do before writing your CV  is read the job advert and job description.

Decision makers and hiring managers will inevitably receive many CVs for any job they advertise and, in most cases, do not have the time to carefully read and analyse everything that gets in front of them. What they’re looking for is something that very quickly tells them that; ‘this person could do this job – they’re worth an interview.’

What this means for you is that the first thing you need to do before writing your CV or applying for a job, is read the job advert and (if provided) the job description. You need to do this very carefully and make sure you pull out four or five key requirements you think they are looking for, and write them down.

TOP TIP:

Ideally your CV will be two pages long, however don’t worry if you go over a little. Three pages is fine. Any more than that and you’re trying to say too much. Remember, sometimes less is more and this is one of those times!

Structure

Once you’re happy you’ve identified these requirements you’re ready to build your CV around these points in a way that shouts out to the reader ‘I can show you examples of this….’ So here’s the structure and approach I recommend you follow in order to do just that;

1. Personal Details

First up you should make sure your name and contact details are clearly visible. I usually recommend candidates keep these in capitals and centred at the top of the page to help the reader remember your name when they come to shortlisting the best CVs.

You should include your name, full postal address, telephone numbers and email address.

TOP TIP:

Choose a sensible email address. One that looks professional such as ‘davidsmith@gmail.com’ as opposed to demon_davo@xxxuniversity.com!

We don’t recommend you include a photograph with your CV, however you should write a personal statement in between your contact details and work experience to help the reader start to build up a perception of you and your capabilities. As it’s at the top of your CV, this statement needs to be finely tuned to sell your fit for the role without using cheesy one-liners and generic business speak such as; “I am an excellent communicator who works well in a team…… “ or “I’ve always been a real people person”. These words mean nothing! You can choose whether you use sentences / prose or bullet points to do this. I tend to prefer bullet points;


Example: How to write a personal statement

SUMMARY OF CORE SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE

  • Career Pharmaceutical sales professional with experience across multiple disease areas
  • Top Performers Club member for three out of the last five years, with sales of over 110%
  • Highly experienced at interacting with and influencing Key Opinion Leaders
  • Project Management skills developed through running several joint Sales and Marketing projects
  • Strong leadership skills demonstrated via mentoring and coaching new team members

 2. Work Experience and Results

It’s very easy to focus your energy on telling readers you’ve worked for the best companies in the industry, however you MUST also state how well you performed there and what you achieved.

To do this you should divide your work history up into easily digestible chunks using bullet points and chronological ordering, starting with your most recent Company and job and work down from there.

This should be positioned in the upper to middle section of the first page of your CV, as this is the section readers pay most attention to.

Make sure each section shows the company name, job title and key dates you’ve done the job from and until. Then within each of these Company (or job title) sections use bullet points that highlight the top 4-5 responsibilities and / or achievements you have to share with the reader that align most closely with the statements in the job advert. These can reduce to 3, 2 or even just 1 responsibility or achievement for each job you’ve done the further you go back in your career. Finally I like to use bold text to help certain parts stand-out such as in the example below;


Example: How to lay out your career experience

CAREER EXPERIENCE

Company X
Oncology Account Manager
March 2014 to present

Responsibilities;

  • Account management in South West London for product X and device Y
  • Build relationships with key opinion leaders across five university teaching hospitals
  • Another responsibility of this job (related to job ad you’re applying to)
  • Another responsibility of this job (related to job ad you’re applying to

Achievements

  • Member of Top Performers Club in 2015 with 113% sales v target for Drug X
  • Responsible for driving brand of a 15% increase in market share across territory 
  • Another example of an achievement (related to job ad you’re applying to)
  • Another example of an achievement (related to job ad you’re applying to)

Company Y
Diabetes Care Sales Representative
January 2010 to March 2014

Responsibilities;

  • To sell ‘Brand X’ to doctors and nurses in both primary care and hospital setting across South London

TOP TIP:

Use action words such as ‘sell’, ‘build’, ‘planned’ or ‘organised’ and make sure you know your numbers by quoting sales vs target data, market shares or league table figures that you can back up with printed evidence in the form of a ‘Brag File’ you can show in an interview.

3. Education

We’re into the back end of your CV now, and in this article I’m making a recommendation to put your education here. Please note however that if you’re a new graduate or have only had one or two previous jobs then it’s just as fine to put this in between your personal statement and your career experience.

Again keep this section really tight, to the point and easy to read.


Example: How to lay out your qualifications

EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

University of London | BSc (2:1) Sport and Exercise Science

University of Cardiff | HND Business Management

Matthews School, Nottingham | A levels in Biology and English Literature

Matthews School, Nottingham | 11 GCSE’s including Maths, English and Sciences


 4. Interests and Personal

Once you’ve got through your experience and education you can add something about your interests and personal life. It’s advisable to keep this section short and to the point and the further you go through your career your interests will typically diminish to be replaced by your career achievements.

Bullet points can be used to separate interests into different categories such as family, hobbies, sporting interests etc. however don’t use clichés such as “socialising with friends”.

The other thing to avoid are solitary hobbies such as reading or watching films.

The best thing you can do is show a range of interests to avoid coming across as narrow: if everything centres around sport they may wonder if you could hold a conversation with a customer who wasn’t interested in sport.

Any interests relevant to the job or potential career path you’re on are worth mentioning, as is any evidence of leadership such as captain or coach of a sports team, course representative, chair of a student society or scout leader.


Example: How to lay out your interests and personal information

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Professional / Technical

  • Management Training via company Management Academy
  • Taken BHBIA market research qualifications
  • Good computer literacy, copywriting and Microsoft Office skills

Personal

  • Love cooking and regularly enter regional amateur chef competitions
  • Manager of Sportsville Youth Football Club Under 10’s
  • Married with three entertaining young children

 5. References

And finally, references. If you’re currently working, a potential employer shouldn’t check references at the application stage so unless the vacancy specifically requests referees it’s fine to omit this section completely if you are running short of space or to say “References are available on request.”

Normally two referees would be sufficient. For those new to this industry one might be an academic referee (perhaps your tutor or a project supervisor) and the others an employer (perhaps your last part-time or summer job). Whatever your situation your recruitment consultant can advise you on the best way to approach this part of job hunting.

In Summary

There is no single “correct” way to write and present a CV, however with almost 20 years of Pharma and Healthcare recruitment experience, CHASE has literally seen tens of thousands of CVs come through from prospective candidates, so we know what works best in this industry.

Remember to start with the job description, pick out the key skills they want and then build your CV for that specific job, making sure you follow a logically ordered, easy to read format.

My final piece of advice is to ask a friend or family member to read it and get their feedback and absolutely make sure you check it for date accuracy, don’t allow any gaps between jobs and get that spelling and grammar checker to work.

TOP TIP:

If you mention attention to detail as a skill, make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect!

One thing I’ve not mentioned is which size and style of font should you use? Most businesses go with an 11 Calibri or Arial in black text, so I’d recommend to choose and stick to one of these. It’s also fine to send over your CV in either a Word document or a PDF. You might choose to send both and allow the employers to choose which they prefer!

Whatever your situation work with your recruitment consultant to get the advice you need to craft the slickest CV you possibly can. You need to stand out for the right reasons.

Next week we’ll look at creating Killer Cover Letters, so keep an eye out for our blog and social media posts across the week and don’t forget to share them with your friends and colleagues.

Andreas Knight
Senior Recruitment Consultant; North & West & East London/Essex/Herts/Beds/East Anglia