Executive Recruitment for the Medical Device, Diagnostic and Biotech Industries
Funding for Start-Up Venture
Strategic Alliances

Making a Winning First Impression

Requires Crafting and Customizing Resume

As the adage goes: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s why an effective cover letter and resume are pivotal to opening doors and landing that lucrative position. 

Over the years I have reviewed several thousand cover letters. Some were most effective because they immediately stimulated my interest, compelling me to want to know more about the candidate. Others were too long, simply a shortened version of the resume, or rather boring. Those that got my attention were creative, direct and to the point. Cover letters should tell me the candidate’s needs, why they are interested and what I can expect from them. From these I am assured that the candidate has done his homework on the company and understands the job description.

Writing a cover letter is not rocket science and does not require an employment agency. In fact, the most effective cover letters have a personal touch. One big turn off for many of my managers is a boilerplate cover letter and resume. It means management has to dig deeper to find the truth. Is this really a hands-on person? It sounds good but not real. When one see several hundred cover letters in a week, those that leave too many questions are placed on the second tier. Honest, clear communication is all that is needed; anything else reads like filler or stuffing. And who has time for turkey outside of Thanksgiving?

Prepare an effective cover letter and a one- or two-page clean resume that reflects your background, education and professional tools that exhibit quantifiable achievements and help employers assess your potential contributions. 

Cover letters should be short, sweet and to the point. Their purpose is to highlight career achievements for the sole objective of enticing the reviewer to peruse the attached resume. Write no more than two paragraphs specifically addressing the position. The reader will scan this letter in 10 or fewer seconds to determine viability.

 Action Phrases

Avoid like the plague generic or third-person, bland cover letters and resumes. They are usually screened, thrown away and rarely seen or read by key decision makers. In today’s market, strategic sizzle or buzzwords are mandatory in all resumes because the hiring company usually scans and highlights important words used in their business model. Use verbs such as “seeking,” “challenging,” “designed,” “developed” and “created” to illustrate your qualifications and show definable career achievements. Avoid words such as “coordinated,” “facilitated,” “orchestrated” and “worked with.”

 Make sure all dates (months and years) of your professional history, starting with the most recent position, are in chronological order. Company names and position titles should be highlighted, followed by the products or services required in the position. Preparing your resume correctly is of utmost importance. As in the cover letter, the hiring authority will scan only the first half page quickly so it is imperative that you catch his interest early.

First, state your contact information, including name, address, phone number and linked e-mail address. Now the psychology lesson begins. Position or Career Objective is first. Use action phrases such as “Seeking a challenging, hands-on position as an R&D mechanical engineer for a progressive medical device or healthcare company.”

Next, and vastly important, is your college education if it is applicable to the position. Include degree, university and year completed. Add coursework included (i.e. micro miniature plastic design) if applicable. The next section is the position. Include degree, university and year completed.  Add coursework included (i.e. micro miniature plastic design) if applicable.

The next section is the Summary of Qualifications.  This includes one or two paragraphs highlighting your accomplishments and unique talents.  It is written in the same format as an author’s background on the back cover of a novel.  It should read something like:

      “Talented, degreed, hands-on mechanical engineering project manager with more than 15 years of medical device R&D experience and expertise in the fields of cardiovascular, urology and orthopedics developing catheter or minimally invasive based devices from womb to tomb. Launched seven successful products resulting in multiple millions of dollars in revenue. Utilized various materials including metals and plastic disposables; skilled in machine shop equipment, prototyping and CAD with excellence in SolidWorks.” 

The next section contains your professional experience. Do not use “work” experience; it sends the wrong message. Include start dates (months and years), company name and its purpose, title of position, responsibilities and detailed accomplishments. Make it personal and active so the employer can feel your energy and zeal.

The Keyword is Yes

Herein lies the psychological secret. You are attempting to get the reader of your resume to continue to say YES over and over again and believe you are the exact match for the position. Convincing the reader will lead him or her to thoroughly examine your resume and may result in a phone screening that is a prelude to a face-to-face interview.

The rest of the professional experience section chronologically follows your career. The resume should be personally styled with information on special skill sets, software knowledge and anything personal deemed important. Attach all publications, speaking engagements and pertinent data. The final line should read: “Excellent references are available upon request.”

Pitfalls include placing applicable completed education at the end of the resume. Conversely, highlighting incomplete or non-associated education after position objective is a mistake. Dull, generic, impersonal, long and unrelated resumes full of responsibilities and zero accomplishments will not advance your quest for a new position. Employers who see educational experience without degrees or dates will deem them incomplete. Spelling or grammatical errors are not tolerated.

If you have spent many years with one large firm, the first date appearing next to the company encompasses your whole tenure (i.e. J&J 1986-present). Further specify the dates employed at each division and job title changes so as not to appear as a job-hopper. Try to show upward progression in each position if possible.

Remember, a powerful resume paints a portrait in words of how you utilize your skills and professional tools to produce quantifiable results—the return on investment the future employer can expect upon hiring you; dress it up nicely as it is assumed to be 10% overblown or hyped.

Working with Recruiters

Do not underplay your assets. Try to submit resumes to the hiring authority, hopefully director level or above. Human resource staffs, especially in a small company, are mostly for screening purposes, so avoid this department if possible.

To fashion the most effective resume, use all resources available to you, including a medical industry recruiter with whom you are comfortable. He or she can help direct you in several ways, including proper resume and cover letter preparation, enhancing your interviewing techniques and assisting in negotiations to create a win/win situation. This results in a fair, equitable compensation package satisfactory to both parties.

Use one competent, experienced executive recruiter who understands the medical industry and who over the years has develop ed many positive working relationships with senior level executives. He can contact them easily to assess their interest level.

There is no need for a cover letter when initially working with a recruiter. After the recruiter has sent your resume to the client company and given a verbal sales presentation, a cover letter emphasizing your assets matching the job “hot buttons” should be provided to the recruiter, who forwards this “why-I-am-the-most-qualified- candidate” letter to the employer.

It upsets employers to receive your documentation from several different sources, especially after a diligent recruiter discusses in detail with an applicant a specific position and company. Employers who receive the same information from different sources may ultimately trash it. Insist the recruiter only submit your paperwork to each particular company upon your approval. Once you send your resume to several recruiters, you may find that it has been forwarded or mass e-mailed to thousands of companies for positions for which you are not qualified or interested in and to industries not even contemplated. Be very careful about placing your resume indiscriminately on job boards as well. Anyone can download your information, and you will have no idea where it is going and how it will be disseminated.

Following up is important. Proper etiquette is to send an email or make a phone call two or three days later after submitting your resume, and again a few days later to answer any questions that may arise. It is acceptable to be aggressive without appearing desperate. Employers like to see your desire, eagerness and enthusiasm. 

Always begin your job search with a positive attitude. Consider this time an excellent opportunity to rid yourself of the fear of the unknown. Keep an open mind as sometimes things happen for a reason. Focus on new goals with dreams and imagination. Drive forward, be tenacious and stay committed to your purpose. Rejection is a part of the process but be resilient and resolute. Take risks, as they result in rewards. Market yourself as a product, and package yourself professionally. Your resume will advertise your technical skills, experience, expertise, business achievements, education and personality. Most importantly, keep the faith. Good things happen when you are determined to succeed. Remember, the more options you create, the better choices you can make when selecting the right opportunity.