Candidate Journey

Candidate Interaction with AXESS

Talent Acquisition team: Your first point of contact at AXESS will be with one of our consultants in our Talent Acquisition Team.  The talent acquisition team are specialists within their own fields and will discuss specific opportunities and suitability. As a rule, we meet all our candidates face to face. This allows both parties to understand each other and helps us promote you to our clients in a greater capacity. We offer advice on how to bespoke your CV to bring out the key points that our clients will be looking for. Be prepared to answer biographical and competency based questions to help us assess your suitability in greater depth.


Administration team: When AXESS receives an interview request you will hear from our administration team. The team will liaise between yourself and the company to arrange your interview, providing you with all the information on times, who you will be interviewed by and any materials you require. They will also set up a call with our account management team.


Account Management team: Once your interview is set up, our dedicated account management team will call you to help prepare you for your interview. They will guide you from that point through to offer negotiation, approval and acceptance.


FAQ Section

  • Why use an agency like AXESS? We have been asked by the hiring company to recruit for them. This gives you the candidate a greater chance of being seen by the company than using general internet application.
  • I want to get industry information to know what my options are. When calling AXESS for general advice:
  • Be prepared for this call.
  • Asking for general advice on how to get into industry is ok as long as you can demonstrate you have done some background reading on the area you wish to work in.
  • Where does my CV go? You control where your CV is sent. Recruitment Consultancies are required by law to obtain your consent before sending your CV to any client. AXESS will only send your CV to a client with your express permission
  • AXESS cannot send your CV for a role that you have already applied for. You need to keep a spreadsheet of everywhere you CV has been sent.
  • If your CV has been sent without your knowledge by another party, you can provide AXESS with written consent that we are your representative.

Job Application Process

Developing your CV

Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) has only one purpose – to get you an interview with the company of your choice. It is a sales document; you are selling yourself to a prospective employer. It is important to emphasise your key skills and achievements; this is what sets you apart from other candidates.

Remember your unique selling points (USPs).


There are three areas to consider when reviewing or developing your CV:

  • Structure
  • Content
  • Presentation


CV Structure

The CV should be kept short, ideally no more than two to three pages, with an additional page of supporting information such as publications if necessary.

A chronological CV is the norm. Write your employment and educational history with the most recent jobs and qualifications first.

It is imperative to have impact and therefore top loading your CV with the important information is paramount.  If recruiters have to search hard for the information they want, you have less chance of getting through.

Write your CV in first person. This makes it sound like you are speaking directly to the reader.

The following format is fairly standard:

  • Name
  • Brief synopsis of experience and career aims
  • Personal details
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Specific skills
  • Additional information


CV Content

Name – Use the name that you are known by, rather than your given name, if different.

Brief synopsis of experience and career aims – This should be no more than about three lines, and should give the reader an immediate understanding of where you are now, your major personal skills, and what you are hoping to achieve longer term. Here you highlight your Unique Selling Point (USP) that will make a company be interested in you.

For example:
A well qualified clinical research associate with over 4 years’ experience working in the CRO sector. Therapeutic expertise includes CNS, oncology and urology. Now looking to move into a line management position within a pharmaceutical company.

Personal details – This should include your home address, home and mobile telephone numbers, e-mail address, UK/EU work status.

Employment – This should be presented in reverse chronological order, with the greatest amount of information given for the most recent or current position. If you have been promoted a number of times within the same organisation, show each job separately but under the overall banner of the company – recruiters like to see stability.

Focus on your achievements and key skills, especially “transferrable skills” if you are applying for a role you have never done before. These are skills that highlight competencies that you have experience of in past roles that can translate into a new role such as communication, scientific knowledge, problem solving experience. Remember to keep these examples tangible.

A common mistake is just to paste in your current job description or list of responsibilities. This only tells the reader what you’re meant to do in your role, not what you have actually done. Use the past tense to convey that you have actually done what you are writing.

e.g. Instead of “Provide support to team members”

Use past tense with positive affirmations: “Successfully provided support to team members”

Do not give reasons for leaving, as you will have ample opportunity to discuss this at interview.

Show job changes running in smooth chronological sequence with no overlapping dates, but if there are gaps in your employment explain them, e.g. Career break to go travelling. If you have been in employment for some time, your earlier experience becomes rather less relevant, and should therefore be edited down to one or two lines per company.

Education – Education & Qualifications should be presented in reverse chronological order, and should clearly state the name of each qualification, the establishment, and the relevant dates. If you have a good degree grade, add it in, otherwise leave the grade out. Only include A-Level qualifications or lower if you are a new graduate. If you are a recent graduate then this will be higher up your CV above “Employment section”

Specific skills – The content and size of this area will depend on the specialisation in which you are working. You should identify any particular therapeutic expertise, management experience, I.T. Skills or relevant training. If a field based role include information about your driving licence.

Additional information – This section allows you to add information on interests and non-work related achievements. It is also a good place to cover language skills, or international experience if this is not covered in the education or employment sections.

If you have voluntary work or charitable achievements, add them here. For example, ‘Raised £3,000 for the charity Mencap by running in the London Marathon’, ‘Successfully completed the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award’, or “School Governor”. These can be excellent talking points at interview, and allow you another opportunity to present your skills and attributes e.g. organisational ability.

Interests should be concise: ‘amateur dramatics’ conveys as much useful information to the reader as a description of your last starring role. Humour is not always a good idea at this point. Some people find it irritating and you are not looking to be remembered for the wrong reasons. Avoid generic pastimes such as “reading, shopping, and socialising”.


CV Presentation

When people are reviewing CVs they tend not to notice if a CV is particularly well presented, but they definitely remember if it is presented badly.

  • Keep the document as plain as possible
  • Avoid borders, colour, fancy graphics or photographs
  • Be consistent with your formatting, particularly if you are applying for a job which requires a good eye for detail, such as a Pharmacovigilance Physician or QA Manager.
  • Ensure uniformity with date formats. Include the month and year for both education and employment.
  • Use the spell and grammar checkers choosing UK English as the default language. Do not rely solely on them though. Proofread your CV and ask someone else to cast their eye over it for words that aren’t picked up by spellcheck e.g. “trail” and “trial”.
  • Keep to a simple typeface such as Arial or Calibri, and use a readable font size (eg. 12pt.)
  • Send as a Word document to ensure that the formatting is not corrupted – agencies and clients also find these easier for their databases.

Having built a generic CV, try to tailor it for each specific job, as the most relevant aspects of your career need to be highlighted (e.g. therapy area expertise). You are looking to highlight the skills outlined in the job advertisement. Always make sure that you keep a copy of each tailored CV to take with you to any potential interview.

CV Checklist

  • Have you spellchecked and proof read your CV?
  • Does your CV highlight your unique selling points and your skills and achievements on the first page?
  • Does your online profile reflect what is in your CV? If you have a Linked In account ensure accuracy especially with dates.

The Interview

This is your moment to shine!  Make the most of this opportunity to showcase your skills and experience.


Different types of interviews

Standard interview process


1st Round:

  • Biographical interview. This is a CV run through. Have a copy of your CV to hand.
  • Competency based interview (CBI). Have a portfolio of examples ready.


2nd Round:

  • Presentation – Read the brief. Use technology, have presentation back-ups in case of a power cut etc.
  • Role play – Know what the end goal of the role play is. Ask open questions to gain the required information.
  • Case studies – Summarise/ pull out the key details from the information provided. What’s important/ not important.
  • Meet the team. This is still part of the interview. Maintain professionalism.


Some interview processes may have more than two steps


Tips for different media

Telephone Interview

  • Ensure you have a good signal or a land line as a back-up.
  • Make sure you are in a quiet area and set aside enough time for the interview.
  • Treat it like a face to face interview.
  • Have a pad of paper with all your notes to hand including questions to ask.
  • Telephone interviews are often held as part of the agency interaction, with HR and /or the Hiring Manager. It is essential to remain professionalism and show respect at all times with everyone you interact with.

Face to Face interviews:

  • Dress professionally.
  • Plan your route, ensure you know how to get to the interview location!! (Public transport, driving, do they have spaces).
  • Arrive at reception around 15-20 minutes before the interview.
  • Know the names of the people you are meeting.
  • Have your CV to hand.
  • If giving a presentation, have it on multiple media and in hard copy with enough handouts to give to all on the interview panel.
  • Have your competency based question examples ready.

Video Interviews. (e.g. Skype)

  • Make sure you have the right software Skype, Facetime etc.
  • Test the software and ensure you know how to use it, dial in codes, good Wi-Fi or hard line connection.
  • Find a quiet area and make sure the background is suitable.
  • Treat it like a face to face interview and dress professionally.


Interview Preparation

Preparation starts before you get to any interview. Interview preparation goes hand in hand with writing your CV. It is better to over prepare than under prepare. Start by understanding what role you are looking for as this helps to ensure you come across as having the right focus.

Read up about the company. Look at their products, pipeline, culture, values, location and personnel, especially those who will be interviewing you. A hiring manager will expect as a minimum that you know about the company you’re interviewing for.


The Competency Based Interview (CBI)

What is a Competency Based Interview?

The majority of interviews will involve a series of competency based questions which are founded on the idea that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. This allows all candidates an equal opportunity to present their past experiences in line with the criteria for the position being sought.  Different companies look for different competencies when they recruit for their positions; refer back to the job description to remind you of which competencies are required for that specific job. Focus on your main competencies, transferrable skills, and USPs again as mentioned in “Developing your CV”.


How to answer Competency Based Questions

STAR Method

You will be asked to relate past job-related experiences in the context of the specific capabilities or competencies that are required for the job.  When you are relating these experiences, the interviewer is looking for a specific situation or task, the actions that you took and the results you obtained.  This format, known as STAR, is the basis of all competency-based interviewing.  A STAR is:-

  • the Situation
  • the Task that you encountered
  • the Actions you took in light of the situation
  • the Results of your actions


How to prepare for a Competency Based Interview

Refer back to the job description to remind you of which capabilities (and competencies) are required for the job.  You will be questioned about some or all of these.  In order to prepare for this section of the interview, for each capability/competency:-

  • Identify two job-related STARs that occurred during the last two years that will demonstrate that you possess the capability/competency.
  • Stay focused on you – say what you did. Use “I” not what “John” or “we” did.
  • Plan to take five to ten minutes to relate each STAR, giving the highlights rather than every detail.
  • Most companies align their competency questions to their Core Values so check them out on their website.
  • Practice. Practice.


Checklist for all interviews

  • Prepare and do your research
  • Make a note of any questions you would like to ask at the end of the interview. Aim for 10. You will probably have 5 of these answered by the hiring manager prior to you getting to this stage.
  • Have a notepad and pen ready, along with your diary
  • Have your CV at hand. In all probability the hiring manager will have a copy of it too, so you probably won’t be asked to describe your background in detail.  Ensure you are familiar with your CV and clear on reasons for career progression to date.
  • Prepare mentally, or better still in writing, a very brief ‘potted history’ to answer the demand ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Managers ask this not because they want the information (they already have your CV!), but because they want to listen to you, to find out how communicative you are, and how you sound.


Interview conduct: Things to remember:

Telephone interviews

This is the most important aspect of this form of interview is Tone of Voice. The detail is of very little importance – the manager has your CV, so they know exactly what you’ve done, and in all probability wouldn’t be talking to you if they weren’t essentially interested.

The main rules are:

  • Think about how you normally answer the phone at home. When you answer the phone, do so by announcing your name, in an enthusiastic style
  • Sound interesting/interested, energetic and enthusiastic
  • Vary your tone and pitch a little. Remember that your voice needs to make up for lack of body language!
  • Be succinct (don’t waffle)
  • Ask open-ended questions (beginning with who, what, when, why, where, how: these all ask for information, and keep the ball in the other person’s court). Be prepared that they will do exactly the same!
  • Don’t use jargon
  • Know who you are speaking with: Use the other person’s name regularly throughout the conversation (but not all the time). Also, use the company name a few times. Don’t get their name wrong.
  • Ask “What else would you like to know?” (An ideal opportunity to ‘close’ – see below)
  • Closing the telephone interview
  • Part of the purpose of the telephone interview (from the hiring manager’s perspective) is to find out how keen your level of enthusiasm for the role and whether you have natural closing ability (particularly for roles with elements of negotiation).
  • As soon as it seems appropriate during the conversation, ask for a date to meet for a face-to-face interview. Say something like ‘Well, this certainly sounds like just the job I’m looking for Mr. Brown. I’m sure I can contribute a lot to your company. I’d really like an opportunity to meet with you face to face and further explore this opportunity”.
  • You may have to be content with the response ‘I’ll contact AXESS, but at least you can ask ‘When am I likely to hear from you?’
  • Please telephone your AXESS Account Manager immediately to let them know the outcome. They should be able to find out the answers to the other questions, on your behalf.


Face to face interviews/ Assessment centres

On arrival

  • Arrive in good time. If you are very early stay in the car or find a convenient cafe nearby
  • Ask to use the toilet for the final time. Check yourself in the mirror to ensure you are presentable.
  • Offer a firm handshake
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • If offered where to sit, choose the seat that means you would not get any background distraction such as people walking past the door
  • Sit upright, no slouching.
  • If offered a drink, take it. Having a sip of drink gives you thinking time when asked a question. Don’t do it too often or you will run out when you might need to use this tip late on in the interview.
  • Remember the tone of voice tips for the telephone interview section above. It applies here as well.



  • Number one: “Read the brief. Understand the brief. Stick to the brief”. The main reason for someone failing an interview is not adhering to this simple rule. Always request clarity if you are unsure of what’s required.
  • Ensure everyone in the room can see you and the slides (if using them).
  • Less is more with slide content. Don’t over complicate them. The focus should predominantly be on you. Imagine the slides are the bones of the discussion and you are adding the meat to them.
  • Keep track of time. Practice your presentation to see how long it runs for.
  • Do not rush: relax. Nerves sometimes cause this resulting in you finishing the presentation too quickly and missing important points.
  • Allow questions to be asked during the presentation to stimulate debate.
  • Have a strong finishing statement


Role plays

  • As with presentations, “Read the brief. Understand the brief. Stick to the brief”
  • Conduct yourself as is a proper meeting. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and outline the agenda.
  • Ask open questions to gain information from which you can provide solutions.
  • Get into character as much as possible. If the person you are dealing with is role playing as a clinician, treat them as such.
  • Close the meeting and by discussing next steps. Understand what the outcome requirement of the role play is work towards it.