July 6, 2023, by mzyhe3

Acing Applications – My Top Tips for a Cancer Sciences Placement Cover Letter

By Hannah Evans, third year cancer sciences student blogger

Your CV is written, it’s looking good, now time for you to show off more skills with a cover letter. If you’re anything like me, then this is both the longest and most tedious part of the entire application process.

But a well written cover letter can really set you apart from other applicants. This is your time to shine! Link your skills to the job and sell yourself as the best candidate imaginable. I’ve written more of these in the last month than I can count, so I figured I’d share with you just a few of the best pieces of advice I’ve picked up whilst writing cover letters applying for my fourth year cancer sciences placement.

Read the job description and company values

An employer is looking for applicants that would work well in their company, so start by finding out what they’re after in an employee. For this, start at the job description. Try to include as many buzz words as possible that they used in their job description in your own application. If you want to take this further, which I would highly recommend, do a bit of research into what the company do and value. I’d really recommend looking up what specific products the company makes; by mentioning these it shows you’re interested in them as more than just a source of income.

For example, when I was applying to GSK, I found that they are super big on teamwork. So, I made sure to mention times I’ve been a part of a team throughout my letter. I also included my interest in immuno-oncology and how I was “curious to look at their checkpoint inhibitors of CD226 when I come to work for them”, as I had read on their website that this was a key molecule they were looking into at the time.

Details of your skills

The main thing I was told in my CV review with the Careers team was that I needed to be specific about experiences and how they gave me certain skills. You don’t want to just say “I was a waitress so I have people skills”. Instead, you could say “working as a waitress helped me develop my confidence and communication skills, as it was my responsibility to greet multiple guests at the door, listen carefully and communicate their orders to the kitchen, and resolve any problems they had during their stay”. By giving examples of how you gain skills you’re proving beyond a doubt that you do really have those abilities and aren’t just throwing in buzz words for the sake of it.

This is the case for hard skills too. You are taking a very niche degree, where you learn a lot of skills that others on more generalised degrees may not have. Going for a lab placement? Talk about the ELISA test you did for a second year module. Interested in immuno-oncology like me? Highlight how there is an optional module in third year all about this. Your experiences on this degree will have helped you gain skills and knowledge that are really sought after, so be sure to include them.

Away from academia

As important as education is, I know for a fact that a company like AstraZeneca won’t hire you just because of your degree. You have done so much more than just school! You may have been part of a club for years, that shows dedication and commitment. Maybe you helped set up a society, that shows leadership and resilience. You might have gone on holiday on your own, that shows independence and organisation. Even if you may not think your experiences are relevant to a biotech placement, the skills they helped you develop are. So, mention them!

Confidence is key

This is my number one top tip! You have to convince them that you are the best choice for the job. Make it seem that you’d be doing them the favour if you worked there. I know you might be nervous about applying (I know I was), but don’t let that come through in your writing. In my experience, the best cover letters are ones where the applicant is so convinced that they’re perfect for the job that it’s hard to disagree. Be confident and you’re twice as likely to succeed.

Find out more about Making applications.

If you want to find more information about how to write a cover letter, then you can book a Cover Letter Review with the Careers team.

Posted in CVs and Cover LettersStudent Bloggers