No matter how polished your CV may be, in some cases, the key to getting an interview is a clearly written and well-structured cover letter. Recruiters and HR professionals have large volumes of CVs to sift through within a very limited time so they may have a matter of minutes (even seconds) to glance through your application.
Most of the time, recruiters within this industry are looking for a very specific skillset or list of requirements, meaning that a cover letter could be your best shot at highlighting why you’re the best candidate. ProClinical can offer some inside tips on what to include in your cover letter to give you the best chance of securing the life science job you want.
Clearly state your current situation and preferences
Recruiters need to be able to quickly pull basic information from your cover letter; the reason you want to work for the company, any personal requirements you have, your notice period and if you're looking to relocate. If you make this information easily accessible and it ticks all of their boxes, you're a step closer to an interview.
When you're explaining why you want to work for the company, ensure that you avoid any generic statements such as "It would be a great opportunity to work for such a reputable company". Instead, impress them with a genuine and well thought out reason.
Tailor your cover letter for the specific job
There is no doubt that your CV is a major point of focus for employers, so make sure that your cover letter complements it by being just as clear and concise. All of our recruitment consultants agree that the main function of a cover letter is to draw out your most relevant key skills and competencies that best fit the role in question. For example, if you are applying for a CMC role within regulatory affairs, you cover letter should immediately emphasise the skills and experience you have within this field. Any other skills can be seen on your CV later on if needed.
Have the job description next to you as you write the cover letter so that you can give direct examples from your experience to match each bullet point. This will help to show that you are the best solution to their problem.
Make your examples as specific as possible
Your CV is likely to contain several brief bullet points that summarise your skills and experience, so a cover letter is a good opportunity to expand on these points. This is crucial as you want to be able to prove exactly why you are suitable for the role and how you will add value.
Important details to give could include the work you’ve done within a particular therapy area, examples of specific projects you have worked on, or perhaps a product that you have launched within the field that the job is concerned with. Be sure to mention any experience you’ve had abroad and how your expertise of other markets can benefit the company. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to engage and impress the recruiter or employer. The more specific and relevant the skillset, the more appealing the candidate.
Highlight your career achievements and any established networks
Standing out from the competition can be difficult so outlining some notable career achievements on your cover letter will help to position you above the rest. For instance, if you’ve successfully overseen a clinical research trial, established a new business unit in another country, or been internally recognised for your work as a top performer at a previous employer, make sure that some brief details of these achievements are included.
If you’ve established a strong network over the course of your career, your cover letter is a good place to include any high-profile people you are connected with. For example, if you are a medical affairs professional, demonstrating relationships with top doctors within certain therapy areas and a good reputation with key opinion leaders can be crucial in gaining an interview.
Personalise whilst showcasing your writing ability
As previously mentioned, your CV is a concise summary of your key skills and experience, but this leaves little opportunity to demonstrate that you can competently communicate information. A cover letter gives you a blank canvas in which to do this while allowing you to discreetly put across your personality. It’s important to remember that whilst they are predominately searching for the best skill set, recruiters and employers also look for the person who will be a cultural fit within the team. Most importantly, remember to thoroughly proofread your letter! Spelling mistakes and incorrect grammar can cause recruiters to doubt your attention to detail and writing skills.
Although a cover letter may not always be the most important component of a job application for all the different life sciences professions, there is much evidence to suggest that a strong cover letter is very beneficial in gaining interviews and helping with interview preparation. This is because it’s an important exercise in learning how to communicate concisely why you are the best fit for the role, which will help when answering interview questions later down the line.
For more advice on cover letters, CV writing and interviewing, follow ProClinical's career advice blog which is updated regularly. Alternatively, if you're looking for your next job in life sciences, simply apply to any current vacancies or upload your CV.