CV Writing Guide
Your CV is your initial contact with a company. It’s one of the most important documents that you’ll ever write and genuinely will make the difference between getting an opportunity, and not getting an opportunity.
This guide is there to give you the basics, the tools to build on from with a CV, with an example at the end. Fundamentally it needs to do two things, first of all be a nice readable summary of you that creates that first impression, secondly it needs to perform on job boards when being searched.
Must-haves on a CV:
- Full contact details (ALL of address, mobile, landline, email, twitter) whether you like it or not, you will get a number of calls but do put a number on there
- Profile, scientific CV’s are technical in nature and profiles can be short or long but will bring out the person behind the CV
- Degree, if graduate CV an overview of the course studied is essential.
- Experience, most recent jobs have them most written about them. Key talking points being duties but also achievements, awards, promotions etc.
- Skills either in dedicated section or referenced heavily throughout
- Interests / Hobbies
The problem with CV’s.
First of all in my view, CV’s are a difficult way of communicating your skill as a scientist. They’re the best means we have though we tend to make the decision once we’ve talked. So in the writers view as long as it gets people to ring you then it is performing ok, however an exceptionally written CV can make this phonecall much easier.
How does a CV work to connect you to the right people. The diagram below sums it up, you write this, enter it onto a job board and the phone rings. In between, the job board keyword matches you and allows the CV to come up in a search. So, going back to the above lets say you are an analytical chemist in pharmaceuticals and you’d missed the skills off the CV and instead focussed on core competencies, with a clear reference to being an analytical chemist in the job title but not mention of techniques used. Reasonable enough, however if I’m emailed or posted your CV, I can tell you’ll have the skills for a job and will call. The problem is you’re out there looking, I’m over here with a job and we need to connect. How does this happen?
Most people will send their CV to a job board or large database. Even in sending a CV to a large corporate one will still likely go onto a database that’s searchable by the recruitment team so consider big companies and job boards under the same light. By job board I mean websites like Reed, Totajobs, Indeed, CV Library, Jobsite, Monster etc (others are available)...
How we connect
Your CV will be subjected to a Boolean search one way or another. Some websites we use do it for us, others rely on our inputting the values ourselves.
A moment on Boolean as it’s a bit of shop-talk or jargon – this system takes a lot of documents and filters using: AND, OR, NOT, “”, brackets and *’s.
AND – relationship between the words, and both (or more) terms are required on the CV
OR – no relationship, but one of the terms are required on the CV
NOT – do not wish to see this on the CV
( ) – using brackets allows two simultaneous searches or different things that would not usually go together in a search but are both relevant to me. For example I’m looking to buy a new mode of transport so search (red AND car) Or (blue AND motorbike)
“ “ – searches a series of words as if one word, useful for phrases that consistently go together i.e. “gas chromatography” or “cell biology”
* - is used to save us putting endless endings into words for example you might have written chemical, chemistry, chemist on a CV. If I write chemi* is will bring them all up
So how might a recruiter search for you? A good question to ask yourself. Well we need to take into account every single possible way of you having written your CV. So in the example above, it’s not uncommon at all to not mention the specific skill of HPLC. Or perhaps it’s High Performance Liquid Chromatography on yours. High Pressure Liquid Chromatography on others… you can see where this is going people write things differently.
Now a CV search is only as good as what goes in. Job boards are not ‘smart’ and how it comes out is ruled by Boolean or something close to it but effectively it’s looking for “words and phrases spelt right” to be frank! So if I want to see all three of the above, a quick HPLC or analytical chemist search isn’t going to do it. Sure I’ll get some results maybe even get away with it but that’s not how we do things - the client’s paying us to know all the candidates for them.
So lets say you search on (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) OR HPLC this will bring up only CV’s containing the words, or the acronym. This is why skills are essential. However the world doesn’t all talk the same language so we end up searching: HPLC OR LC-MS OR LCMS OR LC/MS OR “High performance liquid chromatography” OR “liquid chromatography” OR analytical AND chemi*
So… if it’s not on the CV then it doesn’t come up in the search. This is why the skills are critical.
If we consider the CV above (it’s a bit basic you can have two pages) - would it come up in the above search? Absolutely and this is a key part of CV writing, do this and the recruiters will find you.
Should you want advice on your CV or a review of it then don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be pleased to help email - firstname.lastname@example.org