CV and Cover Letters

Everyone….and I mean everyone….needs an excellent CV!  Putting together a good CV is an essential task you will be performing in the near future.  The quality of your CV can ultimately determine whether you get called for a job interview…or not. The layout, format and content are each as important as one another.  For example, would you hire someone who submitted a CV to you full with spelling and grammar errors?  From an employer’s point of view, there is another reason for the CV process – screening.  CVs allow human resources departments to screen large numbers of candidates without having to interview everyone – this saves them time and money!  So you want to ensure that you get through the screening process.  In essence, your CV is a summary of your experience and outlines to a potential employer the skills and experience you have gathered and why you are suitable to a particular position. A good CV will open doors for you, so ensure you put time and effort in to its design.

Key Features of a CV

  • Have a great layout…..did you know a better laid out CV keeps someone’s attention for longer?!  See this eye-tracking link here
  • Be job specific, i.e be relevant – ensure you are pushing the right skills for the right job……the ‘one CV fits all’ approach does not always work.
  • Short, clear, concise as well as being easy to read and understand.
  • Ensure your CV does not contain too much text (a common pitfall)….no one reads long CVs.  Most CVs are scanned quickly and key points extracted.  People say a CV should be able to ‘breathe’, i.e. with some of the white paper still visible and not be too congested with text.
  • Use words familiar to the reader, for example avoid being too technical/scientific for a job in retail management (this depends on the job you are applying for)
  • Have universal appeal for human eyes and CV database
  • Show you to be a ‘productivity-orientied problem solver’
  • Show your skills using achievements or even by using ‘power words’ to start your points, i.e. Established, Managed, Developed, Implemented, etc.
  • Use bullet points in place of long text full paragraphs
  • normally kept to a maximum of 2 pages in length

CV Template Documents

Remember every CV is different, and you can only be an expert in one CV – you own!  So get going with a template and start to create something that can mould your future career.

CV template documents can be downloaded at Life Science Recruitment – click here to link to the page while they also have a good section on the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of CV preparation here.

Or – why not create an interactive CV online?  Check out and build your CV online to ‘show‘ them, and not just ‘tell‘ them, what you can do!

Cover Letters

Your cover letter represents an important aspect of your job application.  It is normally one page, in letter format, introducing your application.  Some people do not realise that your cover letter can be used to emphasise certain aspects of your background which the hiring manager may be interested in.  This is one aspect of your application that is well worth putting some work in to.  You will find numerous sample cover letters available online which can assist in preparing your own.  It’s sometimes the small things that can make a bid difference in an application, so ensure you are happy with your cover letter.  This site may act as a start for you with your cover letter – click here

Interview Tips

So hopefully your job application goes well, and you pass the first hurdle.  The next task an employer will undertake id to interview the shortlisted candidates.  After all, you would most likely do the same if you were going to pay someone to do a job for you.  The interview is a chance for you to shine, an opportunity to make sure the employer realises you are the one for the job.  Hence, it is a critical part of the process, and one you must be prepared for.

  • Don’t be late!
  • Listen to the questions being asked
  • Dress appropriately
  • Be prepared
  • Know about the company/college you are applying for
  • Have examples of when you met deadlines/worked under pressure/as part of a team etc.
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Be courteous – the interviewers will be giving up their time to meet with you

Sample Interview Questions

  • Can you talk me through your CV?
  • Tell me about yourself
  • What skills have you developed?
  • How do these apply to this particular job?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
  • What would you select as your top 3 skills and why?
  • How do they apply to the job?
  • What experience do you have in a work environment like this?
  • How do you fare in a team? are you more of a team leader?
  • What would your role in a team be?
  • Can you meet deadlines?  Do you have any examples of such?
  • Can you work under pressure?
  • Can you give me examples of when you had to work as a team? when you ever had to assume a lead position? how did it fare for you?
  • Why apply for this position? Do you know what it entails? Why are you suited to this position? Why don’t you go for a lab position? Why don’t you do a PhD/MSc?
  • Did you know about this area of work before? did you learn more about it? if so, what did you find out? were you surprised about what you learned?
  • In relation to previous work experience, what would they have in common with this job?
  • What frustrates you in a work environment?
  • Why did you choose to study where you did? Why this course? What next?
  • What would be a weakness you have and what have you done to address it?
  • What was the most technically challenging task you have ever completed in terms of dexterity and problem solving?
  • Give examples of when you had to work in a group environment where a dispute arose and how the dispute was overcome?
  • Have you ever worked on a problem, whereby you had to solve a problem on your own and if so out line the problem and the process by which you solved that problem?
  • What personal traits do you possess which would make you stand out from the rest of the candidates being interviewed?
  • What are your personal interests and hobbies?
  • Talk me through your CV
  • An example of how you worked as a team?
  • A challenging time when you felt a team wasn’t working and how you tried to change it or help others
  • A time you didn’t get the results/marks you wanted and how you tried to change approach
  • Talk us through the processes of upstream and downstream processing
  • What Interests you in this position
  • Why do you want to work for ???????
  • Talk us through what you carried out in NIBRT
  • Talk us through your research project and what was the result
In some interviews, you could be asked some technical questions (will depend on the job you are applying for). Here are some a recent graduate was asked:
  • Calibration of balances and pH meters
  • Cleaning up spillages/ general laboratory safety
  • Information on company you are applying to?
  • HPLC and GC ( workings, experience, differences between the two instruments)
  • SOP’s what they are, any experience writing them
  • Information on area applying for e.g. Stability department know what they do!
  • GMP – what is it?  Explain.
  • How do you make up 1L of a 3M NaCl Solution?
  • List and give an account of the analytical equipment you have used to date?
  • What is SDS PAGE used for and what can it show about a proteins purity
  • Whats UF / DF