5 tips for a winning scientific CV

No matter how eager you are to find the perfect scientific job, you won’t get anywhere without a compelling CV.

With every role potentially receiving hundreds of applications, employers and recruiters often have an endless pile of CV’s to sift through. But the key to securing the job is to make sure that yours is the one that stands out.

So, check out these 6 tips to craft a winning scientific CV:

1. Research your target roles

HR manager reading application documents

The key objective of any CV is to show an employer how you meet the job requirements and make a good fit for the company. But how are you meant to achieve that without first undertaking some thorough research?

Before you even think about writing your CV, spend some time analysing the job description. What specific skills is the employer looking for? What qualifications and certifications and how many years of experience does the post require? Jot these down and make sure to refer to them throughout the CV writing process.

Don’t forget to research the organisation, too. By understanding their history, goals and values, you’ll be able demonstrate how tuned in and well-matched you are to the company culture.

2. Tailor to the role you’re applying to

You may be tempted to impress recruiters with every single detail of your BSc, PhD and postdoctoral experience, but remember that they’re only interested in whether you can carry out the specific job they’re recruiting for.

So while it is worth showing off your most impressive achievements, you do need to avoid going into excessive detail about aspects which aren’t directly related to the role you’re applying for. Instead, use the information you gained from your research to match your CV to the desired specification as closely as you can.

Also, be aware that the titles of your thesis or conference contributions might not be relevant to the employer you are targeting. Instead, you could summarise this information into 1 or 2 lines that simply mention the fact that you have “presented at global conferences” and discussing the subject matter of your thesis.

And only mention the names of your supervisors if they are well-known in their field, or it’s highly unlikely that employers will know who they are!

3. Prove your impact

With hundreds of skilled candidates at their fingertips, recruiters are on the lookout for those who can provide tangible value to employers. So, rather than just stating your skills, make sure to prove your impact by quantifying them wherever possible.

Whenever you talk about a skill in your CV, make sure to briefly describe a time you successfully used it and note down an impressive, measurable/quantifiable result or benefit you achieved. The same goes for your job descriptions – focus on the results you gained for the company rather than merely listing your responsibilities.

For example, if you’re writing a graduate scientist CV, rather than merely stating your degree modules, you could state that you “Achieved the highest class grade of 95% in Plant and Microbial Sciences module”.

4. Optimize it for the skim-read

Did you know that recruiters may well spend just 20-30 seconds looking at your CV in the first instance? With so many applications to get through, a quick, first screen is essential to decipher who and who isn’t able to carry out the advertised role.

Therefore, it’s essential to make your most relevant and impressive skills, qualifications and experiences immediately visible. Optimize the top third of the first page of your CV by creating a punchy profile and core skills section. Here, you can include all the required specifications and allow recruiters to immediately see your suitability for the job.

5. Don’t underestimate the design

Presenting busy recruiters with a cramped, poorly-formatted CV is likely to land you an immediate rejection. Simply spending some time perfecting your CV format and design can hugely increase your chances of landing an interview.

Make sure to divide sections clearly with adequate white space or borders, as well as bold headings and subheadings. Utilize bullet points where appropriate to facilitate reading and try to keep page transitions smooth (ie, don’t split up a section over two pages).

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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