Before continuing it is worth reading the “Resume vs. CV: Can You Tell Them Apart?” blog so you know what you are aiming for depending on where you are in the world. I’m British so I will be using CV throughout but feel free to interchange this depending on where you are.
So, you’re fresh out of education, switching up careers or just don’t have much experience yet. This is OK! It is tough when starting out fresh and knowing what to put on a CV is a big part of the battle. I’ll start with some generic tips that work well generally for CVs:
- Keep it concise and to the point.
- Only add relevant information. To be frank, prospective employers don’t care right now if you like long walks and reading. Keep hobbies out (unless somehow relevant). This is a snapshot of you to get in the door for an interview.
- No more than 2 pages will be ideal. Typically, these are not read for long so you want to make the best impression and quickly. If you think that your job application is too long, consider CV editing services to let the professionals improve it.
- Keep it simple. Some jobs may be good to show off your design skills but this isn’t one of them. That being said, it can be easy to use Word Designs to add a bit of personality.
- Watch your spelling and get it proof-read.
A Pro Top Tip. If you use Color in your CV, match these colors with the colors of the business you are applying with. It gives the impression of being a part of the company already.
- Organize your CV with Name, Personal Statement, Skills List, Employment history (most recent and most relevant first) and then Education History (most recent first). In the End, if there is room, add any papers/awards/writing/significant achievements or volunteer work.
- NEVER LIE! Only put down what you can do. People talk. If you ruin your reputation by lying in one place this can jeopardize future opportunities.
An interesting way to go about this is to write your personal statement like an abstract on a paper. If you try to write about yourself in the first person you can run into the “I am….” Trap too often. Write it as if someone else was writing it for you. You can add in here things like:
- Passions (but keep it brief and not too fluffy)
- Show off skills/achievements
- Mention Techniques
- Scientific areas you have covered and are interested in.
“Achieved 1st Class Degree in Genetics. Skilled in qPCR, PCR, Sequencing, and bioinformatics. Attends scientific conferences and networking events. Consistent good grades within all university modules. Awarded 2nd year best placement student 2012. Passionate about the potential of gene therapy improving health outcomes around the world. Ambitious to eventually lead businesses into discovering stronger therapies for positive patient outcomes.”
You want this to be able to be easy to scan read. If the potential employer is only giving each CV a quick glance then clearly outlining your key skills will help them know if you are right for the job. It may even spur them on to read more!
For Biology, you want to show your technical expertise, research expertise, and basic employment skills if you can. Again, don’t lie. These should be relatable to the job.
Create your skills section to be noticed. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is Bullet points in two (or more if you can fit it/need it) columns.
Have a search on google if you need help thinking of key skills, but you do need to be able to demonstrate this with work/education history.
If you are fresh out of university you may not have had a job within Biology before. When you are new it is ok to put any previous job here. Summer jobs, Volunteering and Christmas Jobs will all work.
If you worked throughout university this is great. It shows you can manage a job, turn up, work hard and manage work with education. These all show valuable skills employers are looking for. If you have never had a job before, I would suggest volunteering or finding a weekend job somewhere. This is just to show you have the basic capability to go to work when you are supposed to and do a job consistently.
When jobs require higher education, the employer is looking at filling the position will someone who will be worth the investment. These jobs tend to be more costly to the employer since they may have to provide further training, travel costs, and equipment costs as well as the salary and benefits that are included. They want to make sure they are investing in someone they can trust to turn up every work day and actually do the job. If someone has never had a job before these tend to be seen as more high-risk.
If you absolutely don’t have any work experience you can put down then skip to Educational experience and you can add things like achievements, extra-curricular activities (maybe sports) and University Clubs as a way to show your skills.
With Employment history, you should put your most recent employment first, with any others following. Put the most focus into the most recent job and use the other, older job, to either reinforce skills or show skills you can’t or haven’t in the most recent one. Include Job title, Company and month/year from and to. After this is a chance to show off your skills and responsibilities. I also find bullet points helpful here just to keep things short, sweet and easy to read.
These may seem like basic tasks however these demonstrate that the person would be trustworthy, a team player can communicate effectively, can show good customer service and can handle high-stress situations. In a CV you can, and need to, say a lot with a small amount of information.
For newly graduated students, and even if you are switching career, educational history is the main area you are likely to shine. As with Employment History, Educational History should be most recent first. Ph.D., Masters, Degree, A-levels, BTECs, GCSEs. Don’t include all of these, it would take up far too much room.
Generally, once you are past the next education or employment point, the previous history becomes much less important. If you have a Degree there may be value in adding you’re A-Levels in after but this is generally not as important. If you have a Ph.D. you may add that and your Masters (Degree if you didn’t do a masters) but again, this will be much less important.
You want to give the most room to the most recent education. This is your main focus and where you should show most of your skills. As with Employment, if any of your previous education showcases skills you don’t have from this then it could be worth adding that. Be sensible though. Your GCSE IT grade doesn’t matter if you have just completed a Masters. Add IT Skills to the skill list if you think it is relevant.
Layout and formatting should be consistent with Employment History. This shows continuity and attention to detail.
Here you can add your Modules (with or without specific grades depending on how you feel about them), extra educational activities and research projects. Again, most recent first.
University of fiction Genetics, BSc 1st Class Sept 2016 – July 2019
Carry this on until you have included everything you feel is relevant.
After Educational History you can add whatever extras are applicable to the job and if you have room. This does not include what you like to do at the weekend, with the exception of if it is relevant to the job or shows a skill you haven’t already demonstrated.
The good things to put here are things like:
- Published Papers
- Relevant Blogs
- Awards & Achievements
- Sports or group activities showing new relevant skills, not already demonstrated
- Applicable hobbies (Bird Watching Surveys, Herpetology Surveys, etc)
- Memberships/Journal Subscriptions
Try to keep the formatting and layout similar to the previous two sections. If you have Published Papers then these do tend to have a specific format for CVs. This is:
Author List (Last Name, then Other names or initials), Title, Journal, Published Year, Issue Number, Volume, Page numbers. Add a link as well if you are able.
- Once you have written a CV it does not have to be the only one. If you aren’t getting responses, try to change it up a little. Experiment to see what does and does not work.
- Many people write one CV and send this to each job application. As much as it can be done, it is not ideal. Read the job description of each job you are applying for and focus on the required skill they ask for in your CV. It doesn’t actually take that long to edit once you have one CV done. If you Save each one separately you can find the one closest to what you need and tailor it quickly before sending.
- Starting off is hard. You may get many rejections at first and this is normal. Ask for feedback from interviews to improve on interview and CV skills. You may hear “we went for a candidate with more experience” often. Try to show them in an interview why you are ideal and could be better than a person with years of experience. It is tough but you just need to find that one company willing to give you a chance.
- Networking at events and on LinkedIn can really help get your name and skills out to prospective employers
- Find a good recruitment agency. This can make a big difference as some companies only advertise through agencies. Be good to them, it is their job to sell you as a candidate.
Many thanks to our guest writer Cara Hall who shares great tips and useful information with our readers. You can ask questions in the comments below.