tips for job seekers

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 for job seekers.

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 Happiness 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.   

Across the full glut of science jobs for which one may conceivably apply - ranging from biotechnology and pharmaceutical to engineering and R&D roles - there is the need to make your cv stand out

As much as we may wish to think that we are recruited on the basis of our skills and experiences, without a sufficiently eye-catching CV, such is the intense level of competition for the most desirable roles that it is doubtful we would get hired at all.

If you are wondering how to make your CV stand out, here are five of the best ways to keep eyes lingering on your resume.

1. Mirror the language used in the job posting

With studies indicating that the average recruiter spends just a few seconds considering a CV before accepting or rejecting it, chances are that your CV will only be scanned quite quickly.

You should make the recruiter's job easier, therefore, by including the very terms that are present throughout their initial job posting, to make it even clearer how your skills and experience relate to the role.

2. Avoid clich├ęd terms

So common are terms like 'team player', 'innovative', 'results focused' and 'highly qualified' on the average CV, that they have been reduced to meaningless fluff from the perspective of many hiring managers.

If you can't use more distinctive, unfamiliar terms, at least provide immediate, live examples of how you possess such characteristics, to prevent a bored reader simply drifting to the next CV in the pile.

3. Adapt your resume to each position

This is a source of consternation for so many science recruitment agencies, to the extent that many would regard it as disrespectful not to modify a CV for their specific position.

You might do this by re-arranging what appears on your CV, perhaps grouping your traits by skill area or job function. Alternatively, you might have a reverse chronological CV, which can show how you have gathered competencies relevant to your new position over time.

4. Explain any employment gaps

Many recruiters for science jobs will reject a CV as soon as they see an unaccounted-for gap, preferring to save their limited interviewing time for candidates who don't seem to have something to hide.

It is therefore a better bet to properly explain why you may have been unemployed for a certain period of time, and how you nonetheless used that time productively.

5. Don't be afraid to brag

Your CV is not supposed to be modest. It is there to quickly make a positive impression on a complete stranger, so you should tell them everything great about you that means they need to hire you right now - from relevant previous jobs to coveted awards and big promotions.

If you can convince science recruitment agencies that you are something special, they will be much more likely to urgently call you to interview - whatever the science role for which you are applying.

"Why should we hire you?" is 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. Before you go for the interview you need to ask yourself, "why should you hire me?", and come up with an answer. 

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. "Why should we hire you?" is a 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!

In all science jobs - whether in chemistry, molecular biology, quality assurance, engineering or R&D - a well-written CV is extremely important.

Today we're looking at 10 of the biggest CV mistakes to avoid when you're applying for a job in science. 

1) Too long

You shouldn't require more than two or three pages for a CV. Venturing onto a fourth or even fifth page is a rookie CV mistake, and employers will get the impression that you are disorganised and tend to ramble on.

2) Misspellings and typos

This is an obvious CV mistake to avoid but that doesn't prevent it being made time and time again. Be sure to run your CV through a grammar and spelling checker before you send it off to any prospective employers. 

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. Be sure to check if everything on your CV is relevant before making the CV mistake. 

4) Falsified information

Saying that you passed a degree, diploma or certificate that you actually failed 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 and another common CV mistake.

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 writing .com where you should have said, or giving the address of your previous rather than current address

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 and many common CV mistakes that can be made. 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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