Pharmacy bosses hire new staff based on a range of factors, including experience, skills and personality. However, the quality of your CV alone can be the difference between outright rejection and securing an interview.
A poorly formatted CV can make a candidate look unprofessional. A successful CV is easy to read, easy to understand and enables a potential employer to visualise a candidate. A clean black font, such as Calibri size 10, is clearly legible and makes a CV look professional.
Every CV should open with the candidate’s name and contact details — although this section may seem straightforward, many jobseekers get it wrong. Potential employers and recruiters look at this section to start building a mental image of each candidate, what he or she is offering and how he or she meets the criteria for the job. It is therefore important that these details are clear, concise and simple.
Your name and contact information, including full address and postcode, should be centred at the top of the page and you should ensure that your email address looks professional. You can also include details of any professional online profiles you maintain, such as your Twitter handle or LinkedIn account (see ‘Online footprint’).
If you are currently employed, include your job title in this section too. Additionally, including your General Pharmaceutical Council number is an easy way for a manager or recruiter to confirm your identity and your registration status.
There is a lot of debate about how long a CV should be. When it comes to healthcare, including too much information is usually better than including too little, because omitting experience, qualifications and accreditation will limit job prospects. Having said that, a CV should usually be no longer than three pages.
Many make the mistake of thinking that simply a long list of achievements and roles paints a picture of a good pharmacy worker. However, it is essential to include two or three introductory sentences at the top of your CV. This will dictate whether potential employers take further interest in you as a candidate, and should convince them to read the rest of the document. This paragraph must include who you are, what you specialise in, what you have to offer and what you are seeking regarding the role. Try to include one special point indicating your value to the industry. For example:
“I am a specialist aseptic pharmacist with 12 years of NHS experience looking to broaden my career within aseptics and haematology. While my particular strengths lie in total parenteral nutrition compounding, I would like to further my knowledge in the field of radiopharmacy.”
It is important to be as detailed as possible for each position you have held over the duration of your career. Detail is essential because it highlights your areas of specialism and experience. For example, if you are submitting your CV for a pharmacist role working in a haematology department, it is important to show what specific experience you have had in that role, or that you have applicable transferable skills. However, make sure that information is relevant and informative, and not just waffle.
Often, candidates leave out work experience placements because they do not consider them to be significant. On the contrary, it shows that the individual has been exposed to various other environments. Employers may have more confidence in your ability to expand your role if they can see you have worked outside your core pharmacist role. Therefore, it is advisable to include all your previous jobs and placements, but keep details concise and impactful. Additionally, include important facts such as the dispensing systems you are familiar with (for example, JAC, Ascribe, PharmSys).
Ward rounds are also an excellent selling point on your CV and, if you are applying for a hospital role, including this information is crucial. List every ward you have worked in and each position within the ward. Omitting this information is a common and fundamental error in many pharmacists’ CVs.
Recruiters always look for key words or “buzz words” in a CV, so ensure you include exact phrases from the job vacancy advertisement. For example, if an employer is looking for someone working in an “acute pharmacy setting” and someone includes this exact phrase in his or her CV, it is more likely to stand out.
Although many pharmacists work in locum roles, which tend to be for short periods of time, it is always a good sign if someone has been working in one position for more than six months.
Mind the gap
Employers are often concerned when a candidate’s employment history contains a large, unexplained gap, so always highlight any breaks that are longer than one month. Omitting this without a reason only raises questions. Explaining what you did in your career gap, even if it was backpacking around South America for a year, is perfectly acceptable and you will only be judged on what you have left out.
Pharmacy recruitment is driven by references, so if a candidate has outstanding references he or she is likely to stand a much better chance of securing a position. However, pharmacy professionals should not include references or details of their referees in their CVs and instead should state that this information is available on request.
Always speak to your referees before you submit your CV to ensure they are happy to provide a reference. Additionally, if you are invited for a job interview or are registering with any agency, inform your referees that they may shortly be asked to complete a reference. This will ensure that referees are prepared and will help them to respond in a timely manner.
Many employers will search for candidates online when they receive their CVs. They may look for a Twitter or LinkedIn account, but it is rare for an employer to request access to Facebook profiles.
Accessing a candidate’s social media profiles helps a potential employer to build up a picture of the individual, including how he or she interacts online and what views he or she holds.
Saving your CV as a PDF is recommended because this will not show previous edits to the document or when it was last edited — this is useful if it was edited five minutes before it was submitted. PDFs can also be opened easily on various computers, including PCs and Macs, which can be a problem with Microsoft Word files, for example.
Specific tips for pre-registration trainees
- Apply for as many roles as possible.
- Tailor your CV depending on the role you are applying for. For hospital roles, include details of any clinical experience.
- In the opening paragraph, state your career goals, why you are applying and why you would be a good candidate.
- Have good referees available. Ideally, at least one referee should be a former employer.