How to write a great pharma CV

Do it Now

The biggest error most people make is to write a mediocre CV at the last minute; a good CV gives a recruiter a detailed impression of you from only a glance. They can tell right away who has taken time to prepare, and who’s rushed it. Regard your CV and application letter as work in progress and give it a polish every couple of months. You never know when you might need it.

Think like a journalist

For each occupation, and each level of each occupation and for changes of career and country, there are key things you need to say on your CV that recruiters want to hear. If you already know what those things are, make a list before you start writing to help concentrate your thoughts. If you need more information, speak to your recruiter to find out what buzzwords, concepts and competencies will carry conviction.

Make your CV interesting

A boring format or copy of your job definition makes very dull reading for recruiters; your CV needs to hook your recruiter’s interest pretty much straight away. Spend a bit of time thinking about how you’ll sell yourself to a recruiter; what makes you stand out from the crowd? The story of your career needs to convince your recruiter that you’re worth meeting. You need to contextualise your achievements and tell your recruiter what value you can add to an employer’s future.

It’s all about the detail

Recruiters will look to your CV for a full understanding of your experience with different product groups; we want to know the level of engagement you’ve secured with your customer base and how high up the food chain you’ve worked. Recruiters like to see results and financials, sales versus target – specific, detailed information. Don’t forget that structure and presentation is critical.

Keep it short and punchy. Write a small personal profile including your contact details and education, including a degree if you have one and its classification, then move on to what you’re doing now. At the beginning of each employment section make sure that you state the role, the company and the dates you worked there, beginning with your most recent post. Below each employment heading put down perhaps three bullet points about the role, something along the lines of who you sold to, what you sold and the geography you worked.

Now list your achievements but make sure they’re comparative; if you achieved 100% versus the national average, don’t forget to tell your reader what the national average is. Bullet points are a great space-saver, but you must make sure they relate to each other in a logical way and carry their own merit. A list of superlative claims without evidence won’t fool anyone. Your CV should be no more than two pages long. Only people with around 25 or more years of experience warrant a third page.

Stay away from titles like ‘Profile’ ‘Career Objective’ and ‘Skills.’ All you really need is a few sensible headlines such as ‘Career,’ ‘Education’ and ‘Personal.’ Make sure that your style and layout is consistent throughout. Finally, when you think you’ve finished, take a look over your CV and ask yourself whether you think it looks good; if it doesn’t, work on its appearance until you’re completely satisfied that it looks appealing.

Don't state the obvious

If your reader has reached the third paragraph of your letter and glanced at your CV, you’ve already shown them that you can communicate; there’s no need to tell them in so many words that you’re a ‘good communicator,’ a ‘self-starter’ or a ‘great team player.’ Your skills should be implicit in the quality, structure and relevance of the CV’s content.

Don't forget about your cover letter

Your letter needs to capture the spirit of what’s best about you. Safe, boring, over-length, repetitive letters that regurgitate your CV or try to match every single minor point in the job definition won’t do the job.

Edit and edit again

Professional writers throw away more stuff than they publish; put your information down and then reduce it until you fit two pages. If necessary, group all early career information under a separate heading and just give each job a line or two. Place the focus on the last 5-10 years and the highest levels of activity and achievement. If you’re short on space cut the minor roles and competencies which are already implied by the big stuff you do. Write your brief and a powerful introduction last, when you know what you need to say to summarise your offering, and don’t worry about giving it a heading; your reader will be able to tell what it is.

Check your spelling

It’s easy to miss errors if you’ve been looking at the same thing for a long time. To be on the safe side, ask someone else to read your CV; fresh eyes that aren’t accustomed to particular errors may spot something you’ve missed.