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. 
Whether a candidate is seeking a role in biochemistry, genetics, virology, pathology or any number of other science fields, the interview process is intimidating enough without them also having to worry about how their personality type will come across to prospective employers.


Introverted job candidates often fear that they will compare poorly to their extroverted peers in such an inherently social situation as an interview. However, by playing to their strengths and creating the right personal branding, introverts, too, can deliver standout interview performances that get them hired.

Prepare well

This is one of the areas where an introverted job aspirant can thrive, by gathering all of the information that they can about the company and position - in addition to the finer points of their CV and what they are likely to say in the interview - in advance.

By taking such steps the day before the interview as practising your answers to likely questions, organising any documents that you will bring with you and trying on your outfit for the interview, you can relieve a significant amount of stress.

Work on the basis of your strengths

It can be easy for employers to make unfair assumptions about introverted candidates, so you will need to carefully consider how to express yourself at interview. Are there certain personality traits, qualifications or skills that you would like to emphasise?

Remember that knowing your strengths as an introvert is one matter, but actually selling them to the prospective employer, quite another. The aforementioned self-assessment should give you a greater awareness of the qualities that you can market to hiring managers.

Introverts, for instance, can be good listeners, so you may wish to explain how such skills have contributed to past projects. You should be sure to back this up with examples of praise accorded to you by previous employers - especially given that as an introvert, it may not come naturally to you to 'brag' about your successes.

Take a confident approach

Rather than worrying about how their personality could compromise them in interviews against the extroverted competition, introvert science job applicants are advised to take confidence in their interview style.

An introvert can succeed in an interview context with the right self-branding that helps to show their value as an employee in their own right. By taking the right approach to interviews, introverts can mark themselves out as indispensable prospective employees.  

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