A person sits at a desk with a pen in hand, editing their CV

How to Write a Scientific CV

Your CV is a window of opportunity to sell yourself and your potential; understanding how to write a scientific CV can sometimes add more complexity to the process. As employers are known to spend minimal time reading CVs, it is important to condense your education, skills, and experience, whilst plucking out the most valuable and important parts for the role you’re applying for.

Statistics show that recruiters typically spend an average of just 6 seconds examining a CV before determining if the applicant is worthy of an interview. Along with this, recruiters are usually hiring for multiple vacancies at the same time and receive hundreds of CVs for each vacancy. Many recruitment agencies and employers use database systems to filter through their prospective candidate’s CVs, saving time by highlighting those that match key criteria.

This article helps explore the key elements of a successful CV in the scientific industry to help you attain your ideal role in STEM.

Read on to discover: 

  • How to write an effective CV for science roles
  • What to include in your CV
  • Expert tips and recommendations


How to write an effective CV for science roles

When writing a CV there is no specific length that is considered correct. The length should mirror your grades, abilities, and experience. You must include all previous experiences, presented inPresentation is key when it comes to constructing an effective scientific CV. Stick to a traditional format, and steer away from being overly creative. For example, avoid using colours and abstract designs - your CV must be concise and to the point. 

Use Microsoft Word or PDF documents to format your CV clearly. Check your spelling and grammar throughout, and make sure you do not refer to yourself in third person at any point. 


What to include in your CV

Your CV is the first opportunity you get to introduce yourself to a prospective employer and your chance to tell them why you’d be a suitable applicant. It is often their first impression of you, so it is reverse chronological order, leaving no gaps. Emphasise the skills you hold that are relevant to the job.

 vital to publicise both your skills and your personal qualities, including your reliability, dependability, and dedication to the role. 

Many recruitment agencies and employers use database systems called Applicant Tracking System’s (ATS) to filter through their prospective employees, to save time and create more of an even playing field when searching for relevant experience. ATS systems scan the relevant information from a CV, before producing a shortlist of potential prospects based on their experience and expertise. It works by searching for key words within your CV, so make sure to include key qualifications and techniques you have experience of. 

To successfully qualify for a shortlist, your CV must include all the data needed for the company to assess whether you’re a good fit for the role.
Make sure you include the techniques and duties you use on a day-to-day basis. Bullet points are your best friend to make the CV clear and concise.

Use relevant keywords, such as, experiment analysis, machine learning, statistical modelling, data visualisation, quantification, data analytics, CLP/GHS, Reach, HPLC, Cell culture, LCMS. Don’t overcomplicate your techniques by writing out acronyms. For example, everyone who will be reading your CV knows what HPLC is so there is no need to put “high performance liquid chromatography”. It may even hinder you because it could be missed in key word searches.

Remember to include clear personal information such as your address, mobile number, and email address. It is also useful to add your eligibility to work in the UK. 
Make sure your CV is focused more on your significant skills, achievements and experiences related to the job you’re applying for, rather than simply listing your duties. You could even include a short line about personal hobbies or volunteering to help your CV stand out, especially if you are a graduate or in the early stages of your career. 

Overall, be clear and concise, consider using bullet points to break up points, and be careful not to exaggerate. 


Science CV buzzwords

‘CV buzzwords’ are keywords that you can use to improve your chances of being noticed by recruiters for specific roles. They can include acronyms like ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry), or adjectives like ‘negotiated’. 

In scientific recruitment, it’s important to note that adjective buzzwords are seldom used to prioritise candidates. Generally, recruiters base their candidate search on the techniques that are specific for the particular position. 

In order to build a successful scientific CV buzzword strategy, you should highlight the key techniques you have experience with that align with particular positions. It’s also important not to unnecessarily expand acronyms that are commonplace like HPLC or ELISA, as the acronyms will be used by the recruiter to search for candidates, instead of manually typing out “high performance liquid chromatography” or “enzyme linked immunosorbent assay”.


5 expert tips and recommendations

  1. Research the role you’re applying for - include keywords the recruiter has used in the job description that are applicable to you.

  2. Know the industry and area you’re interested in – take the time to understand and contextualise the fields your ideal employer works within. What major trends are shaping the sector?

  3. Avoid repeating yourself - repetition of words/ phrases can suggest you don’t have a good deal to say, which can translate to a lack of knowledge and expertise.

  4. Showcase your technical experience – take the space to highlight your technical experience, and include brief details of any published academic papers.

  5. Accurate spelling and grammar creates a good first impression - Always be sure to re-read your CV and make the most of spellcheck before sending it off; even better, ask a friend to proofread it for you. 

Ready to accelerate your career?

Use our quick job search tool to find your next opportunity across the world of STEM. We have contract and permanent roles across the scientific spectrum including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medtech, biotech and FMCG.

About the author: Luke Argent specialises in identifying scientific talent for the life sciences sector in Scotland.

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