An executive CV is undoubtedly the most important asset in your job search toolbox (CV, LinkedIn profile and pain letter). This tactical document not only acts as a highlight reel of your expertise, experiences and accomplishments, but it also demonstrates your underlying value. Hiring managers should be able to identify whether you’re qualified for the role at a glance. Since your CV has seven seconds to catch a Hiring Managers eye, this document is of paramount importance for executives in their job search. If you fail to submit a killer executive CV, this could result in your CV being tossed in the recycle bin before you can even say “hire me”.
Your executive CV is essentially a sales tool designed to get you noticed by the hiring manager. While it can be tempting to spout about your responsibilities in your current role, this won’t persuade or initiate excitement. It’s not about what you do, but the impact that you have on organisations that’s key. It’s your ability to transform and implement change that needs to be communicated. As a senior manager or executive working in the life sciences, you won’t be short of opportunities to shout about, so aim to set aside a half-hour once per quarter to ensure your CV and LinkedIn profile reflect your most recent accomplishments.
Consider adapting your CV in compliance with our tips below:
If you want to secure your next executive tenure, then the structure of your CV is of paramount importance. It won’t come as a surprise that the first thing Hiring Managers and recruiters should see is your name at the top alongside your current job title. This strategic action immediately qualifies and aligns you with the job. Including your phone number, email address and a link to your LinkedIn profile in this section will ensure that you are easily contactable.
A snippet of your executive bio should come next. This should introduce you alongside numerical evidence of your accomplishments in 10 lines or less. In the mind of the hiring manager, numbers speak louder than words. If you include statistics that demonstrate your direct impact and achievements, this will help highlight that you are the right person for the job.
As an executive or senior manager, you’ll likely have so much relevant experience that you may be inclined to attempt to list it all on your executive CV. However, strive to be more meticulous and include only tenures held in the past 15 years. The hiring manager will lose interest quickly if you include irrelevant experience. Chronological order is the best format as it’s easy and logical to follow. If you have gaps in your employment history because you took time off to have children, volunteer or travel, ensure that this is accountable and evident. A single line to qualify the gap will suffice. However, leaving a prolonged gap without qualification may signal a red flag.
The majority of executive positions will require qualifications or educational background, so be sure to cover this after the experience section.
Aim for your executive CV to be no more than two pages in length. It should only contain the most relevant information; if it doesn’t fit on two pages then you’re not being concise enough.
Tailor your executive CV
It’s important to have a formatted CV that you can customise for each role you apply for. Not every job is the same, therefore using the same CV to apply for positions is ineffective and tardy. A CV that is strategically tailored to match the job advert or job description will earn brownie points from the hiring manager. If you think about how many CVs the hiring manager receives for one position, a CV that immediately qualifies you will carry far more favour.
Do your research on the organisation; look at their values and embed these into your CV if they align with your own. Additionally, pick out the key requirements of the job advert by highlighting keywords and phrases. You can then incorporate these elements into your CV to prove that you are what they’re looking for. Your aim should be to prove that your experience matches all of the requirements of the role.
List achievements, not responsibilities
Rather than listing the day-to-day responsibilities in your current position, describe your successes and achievements. Tell your engaging story to the hiring manager that proves why you’d make an excellent employee. Describe how the procedure you implemented increased sales growth by 53% for example, or how your effective management resulted in your team exceeding targets. Proving that you have a measurable impact on your organisation is far more persuasive than a list of responsibilities. While these might be considerable, they don’t actually prove your ability or execution. This not only demonstrates your capability but also what unique value you could bring and what makes you tick.
Once you’ve found a relevant job, highlight keywords relating to the requirements and responsibilities of the role. If you’re viewing a job advert online, the Google Chrome plugin Beanote will allow you to highlight text in one of three different colours or even add notes. Alternatively, print off the job advert or job description and use a traditional highlighter.
This can serve as a guideline as to what to include in CV, not to mention your pain letter. There’s a fine line between using too many keywords and too little, however. While you should ensure you don’t completely copy what’s stated in the job advert, indicating that you have the skills they’re looking for will work in your favour. Try to subtly spread the keywords throughout your executive CV to catch the hiring manager’s attention.
When you submit a CV online, it more often than not goes through a talent-management system. This software could work with AI to screen CVs before they fall in the hiring managers hands. Up to 50% of applications that go through a talent-management system are discarded before anyone views the CV or executive pain letter. While you might think you’ll impress the hiring manager with your keywords, the software might flag it as spam and send your CV to the ATS (applicant tracking system) blackhole.
Internationalise your CV
Executives are no strangers to globetrotting for work. For this reason, it’s helpful to have an international version of your executive CV up your sleeve. For example, if you’re a British citizen looking to apply for US positions, you can adapt the language of your CV to reflect American English.
Europe is the global hub for the life sciences. For this reason, it might be worth considering translating your CV to the common European languages – French, German and Spanish. This isn’t an essential requirement, however, since most, if not all, life science organisations in this area speak English fluently, but it’s a nice touch and can help you stick in the hiring managers. You can find good value translation services on sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
If the vacancy is advertised externally, the hiring manager could receive hundreds of applications. There are steps you can take to make your CV more memorable and cut through the noise. This may be as simple as ensuring that all subheadings are bold to divide the page and draw attention. Bold, italic and numerical numbers are far more engaging and eye-catching for the hiring manager.
With a lot of information to fit in a small space, it’s difficult to get the balance right. You should try to ensure there’s plenty of negative space to break up the page; information will be absorbed more easily in this way. Pay close attention to the colours and fonts you use so that they’re consistent across your job search touchpoints and readable on every device. Wacky fonts may be unique, but it does you no good if it’s not legible or the hiring managers computer doesn’t recognise it. If you abide by these formatting tips, the necessary information will be successfully deciphered.
Spelling and grammar
Even executives make mistakes, spelling and grammar being one of them. Typos found on your executive CV will be significantly penalised. This is supported by 61-76% of hiring managers rejecting a candidate based on one or two typos on their CV. Making a spelling or grammar error not only damages your reputation as an executive, but it also demonstrates carelessness. This is a quality that no hiring manager will want to see in prospective employees, so it can have a detrimental effect on your success.
Other things to consider
- Ensure that your CV complements your LinkedIn profile. Keep them aligned so that they reflect the same work experience, skills and accomplishments, but use your LinkedIn profile to expand on details that you had to forgo in your concise executive CV.
- There’s no point penning a killer executive CV if you don’t include your contact details – how will the hiring manager get in touch? Make sure to display this information clearly at the top of the page.
- Consistency is key; keep in mind your personal brand when crafting your job search touchpoints. Where possible, you should use the same language, colours and styles across your job search touchpoints. Your CV, LinkedIn profile, executive pain letter and executive bio should all contain and reflect the same information.
It may feel like the weight is on your shoulders to get this right, but there’s plenty of help available. There are sources you can fall back on if you struggle to spot errors or demonstrate your true strengths.
- If spelling and grammar aren’t your forte and you’re concerned you won’t find your own mistakes, print it off and read it through before submission. For whatever reason, it’s a lot easier to spot mistakes on paper than on a computer screen. Alternatively, there’s an abundance of proofreading tools available, such as Grammarly. You can copy and paste your CV into this software and it will highlight spelling and grammar errors. You can then make adjustments to the original document.
- If you don’t feel confident enough to sell yourself, consult a CV writer. These professionals are excellent at understanding who you are and what needs to be included on a CV to secure a hire. Their job isn’t to write a timeline of your career, but to create a compelling, marketing document. Many will specialise in specific industries, so it’s best to hire one that has knowledge of the executive roles in the life science industry.
- Consult trusted members of your network to proofread your executive CV. Not only will they be able to spot errors, but they can give you honest feedback about whether you’re selling your best assets. This can be as simple as asking your partner to read it, or contacting your mentor or previous colleagues.
Your executive CV is a mission-critical document that could be your key differentiator in a competitive marketplace. Consequently, it requires careful consideration and hard work to craft a CV that gives you the best chance of success. It’s not a document that you can just wing whenever you feel like applying for a new job. Optimise your CV for success and you’ll reap the benefits.
For more job-search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…
- Read How To Find The Best Executive And Senior Management Jobs.
- Read How to Balance Your Executive Job Search while Employed.
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.