You might be patient with customers, excellent at Excel and have mastery of medicines use reviews (MURs), but just what computer skills and how much clinical knowledge do you need to list on your curriculum vitae (CV) to make the right impression on potential employers? And, just as importantly, do you know what to leave out?
“What someone ought to put on their CV really depends on the specifics of the vacancy they are applying for because the client is looking for somebody whose skillset and experience is the best fit for the role,” says Elen Davies, recruitment manager of New Directions Pharmacy, part of New Directions Recruitment. The company sources locum and permanent pharmacists, dispensers and technicians for non-NHS community, hospital, GP and prison pharmacies — amongst other things — throughout the UK.
“Obviously we’re looking for a candidate to show evidence of a variety of accreditations because nowadays there are many different services offered by pharmacy, so the more they have, the more services they can offer the client,” she says. “However, things that can really stand out include experience in a variety of sectors — for example, hospital or industry or clinical – as this shows a broader knowledge.”
Nevertheless, Davies stresses that age is not always a measure of experience: “We see candidates who may have 20 years’ service in pharmacy but have only done the mandatory accreditations, whereas someone who has only been working for two years might have done more. Clients are aware that everyone has to start somewhere, so it’s all about pulling in the right skillset. For example, someone going for a trainee manager role might not have pharmacy management experience but may have experience outside of pharmacy where they have led a team in another way.
“This means that it’s not always about where you’ve worked, but what else you’ve done that might contribute to what the job is looking for. For instance, a two-year sabbatical leading a team doing voluntary work tells us a lot about the management skills and experience someone has.”
To get your foot in the door at Superdrug, the pharmacy multiple wants to see evidence of a wide range of experiences: “We would be looking for pharmacists who have been proactive and are delivering all the locally commissioned services, and can demonstrate that they network with other healthcare providers, be that local pharmacists, GPs or dentists,” says Bina Tailor, human resources business partner in healthcare.
A lack of years under the belt is no barrier to employment at Superdrug either: “We often attract pharmacists who are early in their careers and don’t always have ‘management’ experience,” says Tailor. “However, if we have the right person, our in-house learning and development team can help them gain those skills.”
If candidates have got teamworking skills then that is a big bonus, Tailor explains. “In community pharmacy, the pharmacist is very often leading a team,” she adds, “but this does not come naturally to everyone so examples of people skills would definitely help in an interview situation. It would be good to see how candidates manage in a team environment, including examples of how they have worked well in a team and motivated others in the past.
“It would also be good to see how commercial they have been in their previous roles, and how they think outside the box so we can understand how they would drive our business.”
And although leadership skills might not be something that most people think to put on their CV, Tailor says that it “should definitely be an answer they have prepared if they are selected for an interview”.
A matter of course
If you feel you are lacking in some skills — particularly on the business side of things — it could be worth considering adding some broader competencies to your portfolio, according to Lesley Johnson, Faculty development lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
“I think it is important to mention courses you have you done, but I see too many CVs where people go on about obvious training that we’d expect most pharmacists to have,” she says. “While it’s true that a business course may be useful for a community pharmacist, or a management course for a hospital pharmacist, I don’t think it’s necessary to separate these out for the different pharmacy sectors. A pharmacist should aim to have all those skills, whether they are in hospital or community — after all, the NHS is still a business.
“What makes you stand out is if you’ve done something like a ‘training the trainers’ course, for example. However, don’t forget to talk about the skills you’ve gained in a general sense so that you don’t pigeonhole yourself. Think wider than sector-specific stuff and you’ll realise there is commonality that can be useful to mention.”
When it comes to applying for roles in the community sector, Tailor adds: “Having extra qualifications and participating in courses is all very well, but what we would be looking for in a CV or during an interview is examples of how those skills have been put into practice.”
Involvement in research projects might also sound like a compelling — and interesting — way to boost your employability, but Johnson suggests that when you add them to your CV you highlight the overall skills you gained from working on them, rather than narrowing down the emphasis of your achievement to the actual topic or clinical area you focused on.
“Again, regardless of what projects you’ve done, go a little bit higher and talk about your project management skills,” she says. “A project is a project, and your project area might not be useful to a prospective employer, whereas project management skills are wanted in most jobs, and are always transferable.”
Professional memberships are also worth pointing out. “Certainly I’d mention that you’re a member of the RPS and say if you are working towards or are a member of the Faculty, as this shows you are keen on advancing your practice,” says Johnson. “Also include things like if you are a Faculty Champion, or a mentor. In fact, the Faculty’s developmental framework covers key components of any job so you could almost build your CV around those types of things.”
Examples of hobbies and interests outside work are also worth including, although Davies says you need to be selective: “With hobbies and interests, it depends what it is and how it’s worded. Don’t just mention that you enjoy sport. Have you been a team captain, for example, or arranged a tour, perhaps? Something like that gives you organisation and leadership skills, and shows you are a people person, and employers are also seeking those attributes in their staff.”
Johnson agrees: “I like to see hobbies and interests on a CV as it shows you have commitments in your own time and that you are a rounded person. For example, I say on my CV that I play tennis for a team, and I’m a school governor. Too many CVs focus only on candidate’s qualifications, but we already know that you’ve got these. We want to know who and what you are now. Talking about your activities outside of work shows what you can bring to a team and adds a bit of depth to a person.”
Tailor adds: “We do, of course, expect that our pharmacists keep themselves up to date with the latest clinical and service developments, so examples of recent continuing professional development and how it has been put into practice would be helpful. But it would be good to see the candidate’s external interests and hobbies to understand their personality further and to see how they would be the perfect match against our vision, values and our environment. Having a good work/life balance is important, so examples of hobbies or other out-of-work interests would show us that the individual has this.”
If all of this sounds a little all-encompassing, Johnson adds that there is merit in leaving things out: “I’ve seen so many CVs that list all kinds of things, so tailor your CV to the role in question, putting the most relevant things in at the top of the list, or leaving things out altogether,” she says. “Think of it in layers, mention the less relevant skills further down, and don’t focus on what you did years ago. If you follow these steps you can’t go wrong.”