Top tips on what to include and how to format your CV to get that dream pharma job

As a former scientist who moved into recruitment, specializing in laboratory based roles within the pharmaceutical industry, I’ve been on both sides of the job hunt. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about what pharmaceutical companies in Ireland look for in a CV. I’ve outlined below my top tips on what to include and how to format your CV to get the pharma job interviews you want.

Detailed career history

The main thing pharmaceutical companies are looking for is candidates with industry experience.

List your responsibilities and duties and always remember to be specific. For example, avoid generic statements such as “performed routine testing”, instead, specify what techniques you used to perform those testing activities. If you are in a testing role in a laboratory, don’t forget to mention your dealings with the documentation side (e.g. reviewing SOPs) and any laboratory systems that you are using (e.g. LIMS, Trackwise, SAP).

It’s also important to include key achievements. This could be projects you worked on, or any problems that you solved. Again, use specific examples that showcase your technical knowledge, and stats and figures to back this up.

Tailor your CV for each job

Like in any other industry you should always tailor your pharma CV when applying for a job. Why? Time is of the essence for recruiters as we work towards tight deadlines and if we receive a tailored CV it will increase your chances of getting a call back. Studies have shown that on average recruiters spend just 6 seconds on your CV, so make sure it stands out.

Make sure your CV reflects key words in the job description and always keep a copy of the job spec too. Include testing techniques acronyms that you use or used in your roles such as HPLC, ELISA, FTIR. Never assume a recruiter or the company knows automatically what analysis you perform.

Avoid spelling mistakes

Attention to detail is one of the top requirements in terms of competencies in the pharmaceutical industry so always pay attention to your spelling and grammar. Including grammatical errors or spelling mistakes will make you look unprofessional and might result in your CV being ignored. 

CV format

Make your pharma CV appealing and easy to read. It should be 2-3 pages long and laid out in a way that key information is found quickly – bullet points and clear headings are good for this. Always use the same structure the whole way throughout, include full dates for your positions (month and year), and please don’t include a photo.

Explain any gaps on your CV - whether the gap is due to traveling, sickness or family circumstances. It is important to write a little explanation, because if you don't recruiters or employers will only think the worst. As a former scientist and pharma recruiter I'd always advise tailoring your CV to the job spec, including a detailed career history and paying attention to specific testing techniques you're familiar with whilst avoiding spelling mistakes.

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Science recruitment expert gives advice on how to snag a pharma job in Ireland.iStock