One task that is essential for those gunning for all manner of science jobs, ranging from clinical, biotechnology and engineering roles to posts in quality assurance, regulatory affairs and procurement, is selling oneself quickly.

As the saying goes, hiring managers form opinions about candidates very quickly these days - within just seconds - so it is vital to quickly make a brilliant impression at interview. Whether you refer to it as your 'personal pitch', '60 second commercial' or something else entirely, the basic gist is obvious: it needs to succinctly summarise what you do and why someone else should work with you.

The basic rules of the 'lift pitch'

The 'lift pitch' is so-called because it is based on what you would say to your dream employer if you found yourself in a lift with them, and only had the time from the beginning of the lift's journey until the end in which to convince them to take you on.

It therefore needs to be a genuinely concise introduction of no more than 30-60 seconds, in language that is easy to understand so that the listener is hooked immediately. You will need to use strong, powerful words to create a memorable image in the hiring manager's mind of a person who they simply cannot afford not to hire.  

A great lift pitch isn't just a sharp bullet-point list of the great things about your candidacy - it also tells a story, setting out a problem and how you can solve it. It is also necessarily tailored to the vacancy in question, in much the same way that a great CV is.

Putting together a great lift pitch

A great lift pitch tends to open with a compelling 'hook' that piques the interest of the employer or science recruitment agency, followed by a passionate demonstration of what you stand for as a professional and the value that you can bring to the role. You might conclude it with a question that asks something of the interviewer.

Given the 60-word limit, we would recommend a 150-225 word count for your lift pitch. When you come to write it, you should first consider what you actually do, and come up with 10-20 different ways of expressing it in spoken form - the idea being to edit these ideas and eliminate those that come across as too dull, inappropriate or even amusing.

Your aim is to generate as many potential lift pitches as possible, crafting, refining and/or merging as necessary to create a powerful message that advertises you at your best. Don't forget to record yourself in audio and/video form, making your lift pitch, so that you can consider further changes.

Creating lift pitches is a continuous process

Remember that the process of creating the perfect, clear and impactful lift pitch is never-ending, with your pitch necessarily differing between different science jobs. You should also constantly contemplate ways to improve your lift pitch so that you are always making the best possible first impression at each and every interview that you attend for a science role.   


If conventional wisdom is to believed, catching the attention of science recruitment agencies and employers with your job application is easy: you get your CV into shape, find the most relevant science jobs being advertised and then send through your application with a presentable cover letter.

However, a downside of such conventional wisdom is that it is conventional, meaning that everyone is doing similar things. If you really want to turbo-charge your search for a suitable new science role, you may therefore want to try the following tips.

1. Show your vulnerability

Don't necessarily presume that you have to turn yourself into an arrogant superstar to land your dream pharmaceutical, clinical or medical role.

Instead, consider showing your vulnerability, getting in touch with those who you would like to work with, expressing your admiration for what they do and asking questions. It can be a great way to start building up relationships that could help you when a vacancy next opens up.

2. Don't necessarily follow your passion

Career seekers have long been told to "follow their passion", but it isn't always entirely robust. Many people in science jobs that they now love may have only come to love it after developing their competency and experience in the role over time.

3. Don't obsess over finding your dream job right now

This advice is especially useful to those in the early stages of a science career. Whether in R&D, bioinformatics, regulatory affairs or any other field, given the unglamorous nature of most entry-level positions, your focus shouldn't necessarily be on finding a job that you love right now.

Instead, envisage what the role has the potential to become if you work hard over the next five years. That's the post that you are effectively applying for.

4. Contact the decision-maker directly

Those who watched the Will Smith film The Pursuit of Happyness may especially appreciate this pointer. Sometimes, it is all too easy for applications for science jobs to disappear into a black hole. Instead, tactfully and respectfully approach the person who will actually be making the decision whether to hire you.

5. Be your desired employer's biggest fan

If there's a specific science employer that you would like to work for, mark yourself out as a brand loyalist - someone who is always defending the company in the blogosphere or feting its expertise or services to friends or on social media.

Ambitious firms love employees who love them - so you may just find yourself first in the queue when the next perfectly-tailored position arises.   

It's as common a question on the lips of science recruitment professionals as it is among hiring teams in any other sector, and it takes forms that can easily catch out the ill-prepared interviewee. You may be asked what makes you the right fit for the position, why you are the best candidate for the vacancy or what you would bring to the job - whatever, the gist is much the same.

Be employer-focused

One of the first things that any applicant must realise about this question is that they really must answer it from the employer's perspective. It can be easy to effectively only answer why you would like the job - for example, because you have always had an interest in biochemistry or R&D, need the money or would like to move to wherever the role is based. These are not answers to the question of why the employer should hire you.

The frank truth is that a hiring manager does not really care about the benefits to you of getting the job. They're much more concerned about the risk to their position if they make a poor choice of hire, such as someone who leaves the organisation prematurely or does not fit in well with their colleagues or the company philosophy.

 

They are certainly interested, then, in your ability to do the job to an exceptional standard, get on well with your colleagues and bring to bear skills and experiences that make you stand out from the other candidates.

The information that you must give

Therefore, by setting out an answer that clearly details such factors as your industry experience, relevant past accomplishments, soft skills, technical skills, education/training and/or awards/certifications, you are making the hiring manager's professional life much easier.

When you communicate memorably and confidently that you possess these traits that answer the employer's pain points, whether their field is chemistry, molecular biology, immunology or something completely different, they will be more confident to trust you with the role.

But remember...

With this being only one of potentially many interview questions, not all of the above parameters necessarily need to be included in your answer. This question is a golden opportunity to sell yourself for your dream clinical, biochemistry or pharmacology role. However, such 'selling' is generally best done with just three or four powerful points - backed up with easy-to-remember descriptions and/or examples - than with a quickly rifled-off list of 12 strengths that you are unable to explain further.

The employer should be left in no doubt as to your unique combination of relevant experience and skills. This question will not be your only opportunity during the interview to make that clear - which is all the more reason to provide well-selected highlights rather than the full catalogue of your credentials.

However, it is so often a memorably convincing answer to this, or any number of the aforementioned similar questions that separates those who secure sought-after science jobs from those who don't. Good luck!


There are no science jobs - whether in chemistry, molecular biology, quality assurance, engineering or R&D - where a well-written CV is not extremely important.

Here are 10 of the errors that crop up most often that could spell the end of your chances.

1. Too great a length

You shouldn't require more than two or three pages for a CV - venture onto a fourth or even fifth page, and employers will be given the impression that you are disorganised and tend to ramble on and on.

2. Misspellings and typos

The apparent obviousness of this mistake doesn't prevent it being made time and time again.

3. Irrelevant information

Talking about ghost hauntings at your last job (unless you're applying for a ghostbuster job!) or that you were the best dancer in the office isn't likely to endear you to science recruitment agencies seeking only salient information.

4. Falsified information

Saying that you passed a degree, diploma or certificate that you actually failed at isn't a mere bending of the truth - it's an outright lie that will almost certainly catch up with you later.

5. Cliches

Simply saying that you are a "good communicator" or "work well in a team" without backing it up with any hard evidence is meaningless to any demanding recruiter.

6. Wrong contact details

Even the most brilliant CV might be of little use if the phone number or email address on it is wrong.  Be wary of stating .com where you should have said .co.uk, or giving the address of your previous rather than current flat.

7. A one-size-fits-all approach

Don't send out the same CV for an information systems job as you would for a procurement role - the CV needs to match the employer's needs, so adapt it to each application.

8. Vague explanations

Simply saying that you are looking for a new challenge that offers the opportunity for professional growth doesn't much serve a potential employer. Instead, state something more specific that focuses on their needs, not just your own.

9. Fancy font

You might want to stand out through your CV, but you can do that best by demonstrating your unique qualifications for the role, rather than merely using an unconventional font that might merely distract the reader.

10. Name and personal details in the header

The technology used by many science recruitment firms today to process applications may not pick up information included in the document header, so we would advise that such crucial details are kept in the main text.

There are many potential reasons why you may not secure an interview - don't allow any of these easily avoided errors to be the cause of your own next job application failure. 

Do you want to hire a true game-changer? The answer to that question might seem to be "yes" for every new person that you recruit, but there is a particular type of candidate that has recently attracted the attention of HR managers in many science companies for varying departments, including Quality Assurance, Regulatory Affairs, R&D and : the 'purple squirrel'.



These especially rare individuals are associated with a combination of exceptional talent and an often 'maverick' personality type that can make them difficult to manage. While they are therefore not necessarily the best team players, being somewhat unconventional at times, there are nonetheless significant rewards to be had when they are successfully integrated.

At their best, the 'purple squirrel' can bring dazzling new perspectives to your organisation and push it in a decisive and successful new direction - possessing the education, skills and experience to be major innovators. Celebrated businesspeople who have been described as 'purple squirrels' include James Dyson, Philip Green and David Ogilvy.

However, it is many of the unique characteristics of the 'purple squirrel' that can also make them difficult to pick up via the more traditional recruitment methods. None of the three aforementioned individuals, for example, possessed a university degree, meaning that they would have been missed by a more competency-based hiring approach.

Instead, science employers looking to pick up a 'purple squirrel' are advised to apply more aspiration-based search and hiring techniques. To know where to look, it is a good idea to first ask yourself what incredible results you would like your organisation to achieve. You will then be able to start defining the kind of person who could produce them.

Adopting this more lateral perspective will lead you to consider individuals who you might not have ordinarily deemed suitable for your vacancy. However, it is also crucial to understand the very different motivations that 'purple squirrels' can have. Such candidates are much more likely to ask about your company's direction and values than the size of the financial package on offer or how many promotions they could rack up.

The key to finding the elusive 'purple squirrel' is disruptive talent searching, rather than the received wisdom of more established recruitment methods. Land such a candidate, however, and your organisation could be set for a new era of innovation and profitability - just as long as it is willing to adapt in turn to the exciting newcomer. 

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