Resume Writing Made Simple?

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

The first step in any job search is to ensure that your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is ready for submission to prospective employers. For those of you who may still be struggling with the difference between a resume and a CV, a resume is usually a 1-2 page synopsis of who you are, where you have been and what you have done. In contrast, a CV is a much longer document that does the same thing as a resume but in much greater and granular detail. For most scientific positions a CV is the preferred document style. However, in some cases, employers may request a resume so pay attention before you submit your application.

While most people believe that a resume or CV is simply a list of your education, skillsets and experience, there is a preferred style, format and way to write a resume/CV that will enhance the possibility of securing a interview for the position. That said, it takes many years of resume/CV writing to perfect the process–something that many of you may not have time to do.  If you are unsure about how to write a resume/CV or have not updated your “paper” in many years, the quickest way to being applying for jobs is to hire a professional resume/CV writer to do it for you.  Generally speaking, this will cost anywhere from $200-$500.  Sadly, many graduate students and postdocs don’t have the money to invest in resume writing and in many cases are unable to craft a job winning resume/CV.

If you are unable to hire a resume writing professional, I came across a DIY solution called Scientific Resumes. Apparently this service company exclusively caters to graduate students and postdocs looking for resume/CV writing help.  In addition to their automated self-help products, they offer resume proofreading services and I suspect customized resume/CV writing too.  I have not used or carefully evaluated their products but it may be worth a visit to their website.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

Finding A Recruiter Who Is Right For You!

Posted in Career Advice

I am frequently asked by life sciences job seekers about the value of using a recruiter to aid in a job search.  Generally speaking, experienced life sciences job seekers (those with prior industrial experience) are the only individuals who may benefit from working with a recruiter on a job search.  In reality, recruiters tend not to work with more junior job seekers (e.g., graduate students or postdocs) because they lack prior industrial experience and a majority of the searches conducted on behalf of their clients specify that prior experience is an absolute requirement!

Before you begin the exercise of identifying a recruiter you may want to work with, it is important to understand a bit about the recruiting business works.  First, there are two kinds of recruiters–retained or contingency– and both are paid by the  hiring company not the job candidate.  Retained recruiters are paid an upfront fee (retainer) and a hiring fee whereas contingency recruiters are paid ONLY when their candidate is hired.  While hiring fees can vary widely, they are usually 15% to 30% of a candidates total compensation package.  However, in many cases, the hiring fee is a percentage of a candidates base salary rather than the total compensation package (which can include sign on bonuses and other cash incentives).

When searching for a recruiter, the best approach is to get a referral from a friend or colleague or to search Google or LinkedIn for recruitment firms or recruiters.  If you have heard a recruiter’s name mentioned before or read about them in industry publications that is a good sign that he/she is good at what they do and probably can yield positive results. Once you have identified several prospective recruiter candidates, it is a good idea to read their LinkedIn profile (they will all have one) or Google their names to see what has been written or said about them before making a final decision.

In my experience (as a recruiter and job candidate), it is best to work with only one or two recruiters at a time.  If you work with too many recruiters, your CV will be plastered all over the Internet and probably find its way (in duplicate, triplicate etc) onto the desks of every hiring manager in the life sciences industry. When different recruiters submit the CVs of the same candidate, it signals to prospective hiring managers that the job candidate is desperate for a job, over-exposed, under qualified and certainly not worth hiring.

After identifying a recruiter, send your CV along with an introductory note specifying the type of job that you are looking for, the reason(s) why you are looking for a job, whether or not you are willing to relocate and your compensation requirement.  If the recruiter is willing to work with you, he/she will get back in touch with you via the phone to conduct an interview to get to know you.  It is important to be as honest and as upfront with a recruiter as possible regarding your job requirements and professional and personal circumstances.  This information is confidential and it will enable the recruiter to identify job opportunities that may be right for you.  Withholding information will hinder a job search and also may interfere with job offers.

In many instances, recruiters will contact potential job candidates directly either through referrals from colleagues and friends or via your visibility in your field of study.  Ways to improve visibility include: 1) Articles in trade publications; 2)blogs;  3) activity on social media platforms including LInkedIn and Twitter; 4) Attending industry conferences and 5) Giving seminars and participating on panel discussions.

Finally, it is important to establish some ground rules with the recruiter you decide to work with. First, insist on confidentiality.  If a recruiter cannot guarantee this then it is not a good idea to work with them.  Second, demand that the recruiter contact you with each opportunity that he/she finds for you before they officially submit your name and CV to prospective hiring managers.  In other words, they must get you permission before they submit your name as a job candidate. Also, it is a good idea to tell the recruiter not to post your CV to job boards like Monster, Career Builder, SimplyHired etc. This allows you maintain control over your job search and to ensure that you are not over exposed.

Third, it is important to remember that most recruiters are contingency recruiters and because of this, there is a tendency to show your CV to as many hiring managers as possible so that the likelihood of successfully placing a candidate (and get paid for it) increases.

Fourth, good recruiters will initially ask for a copy of your CV to insure that it is properly formatted and constructed in the best way possible to showcase your talents and strengths. In many cases, recruiters will ask you to rewrite or modify the CV to maximize your candidacy for particular job opportunities. In my experience, recruiters who ask for you CV and provide little or no feedback are likely to be the type of recruiter that simply passes your CV  to as many hiring managers as possible with the hope that it may “stick” somewhere. I highly recommend not working with this type of recruiter.

Fifth, it is important to remember that recruiters are not miracle workers. It is true that they may have contacts at certain companies or have long standing relationships with others but at the end of the day it is really about what strengths, talents and skills that job candidates bring to the table.

Finally, working with recruiters is a good way to learn how to build relationships and it can help to expand your professional network and make connections. It is not uncommon for recruiters to contact persons that they have worked with in the past (successfully or unsuccessfully) for recommendations for a particular position that they are working on. And, if that job is one that you may be interested in, you can always tell them that you want to be considered for the opportunity!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!


Dispelling Myths and Urban Legends About Resumes

Posted in Career Advice

Yahoo jobs pointed me in the direction of an article entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job.” Usually these are so-called fluff pieces but after reading this one, I decided that it was one of the more informative articles on job searching that has appeared on the Internet. Rather then filling up the page with descriptive prose and insightful comments from HR professionals and prospective employers, the authors of the piece use quotes from various individuals involved in the hiring process to reinforce or dispel ideas and myths about job hunting. 

The article is divided into three sections: 1) What You Should Know About Resumes; 2) Secrets About The Interview; and 3) Things to Know About Salary Negotiation. Rather then publish them all at once; I will post them in three separate installments so that people at various stages of the job hunting process can read the sections most relevant to them.  

What Jobseekers Should Know About Resumes

1. “Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered pretty much unemployable. We assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.” –Cynthia Shapiro, former human resources executive and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know

2. “When it comes to getting a job, who you know really does matter. No matter how nice your résumé is or how great your experience may be, it’s all about connections.” –HR director at a health-care facility

3. “If you’re trying to get a job at a specific company, often the best thing to do is to avoid HR entirely. Find someone at the company you know, or go straight to the hiring manager.” –Shauna Moerke, an HR administrator in Alabama who blogs at

4. “People assume someone’s reading their cover letter. I haven’t read one in 11 years.” –HR director at a financial services firm

5. “We will judge you based on your e-mail address. Especially if it’s something inappropriate like or” –Rich DeMatteo, a recruiting consultant in Philadelphia

6. “If you’re in your 50s or 60s, don’t put the year you graduated on your résumé.” –HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina

7. “There’s a myth out there that a résumé has to be one page. So people send their résumé in a two-point font. Nobody is going to read that.” –HR director at a financial services firm

8. “I always read résumés from the bottom up. And I have no problem with a two-page résumé, but three pages is pushing it.” –Sharlyn Lauby, HR consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida* (see footnote)

9. “Most of us use applicant-tracking systems that scan résumés for key words. The secret to getting your résumé through the system is to pull key words directly from the job description and put them on. The more matches you have, the more likely your résumé will get picked and actually seen by a real person.” –Chris Ferdinandi, HR professional in the Boston area

10. “Résumés don’t need color to stand out. When I see a little color, I smirk. And when I see a ton of color, I cringe. And walking in and dropping off your resume is no longer seen as a good thing. It’s actually a little creepy.” –Rich DeMatteo

*While this may be true for non-scientists, there is no page limit on CVs. That said, the more concise that you are the better off you will be!

Stay tuned for the next installment; Secrets About the Interview

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Five Ways to Improve Your Curriculum Vitae

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I have been professionally critiquing curricula vita (CV) for scientists for the past 10 years or so. While some are better than others, they all tend to suffer from the same problems and mistakes. This is mainly because scientists, unlike many other jobseekers, are rarely taught the “ins” and “outs” of resume writing. 

 Like anything else, resume writing is more of an art than a science and it takes many years and lots of trial and error to discover a format that works. That said, I found an article written by Charles Purdy, the Editor of Monster Hot Jobs, that offer would-be resumes (CV) writers some useful tips.

In the original article, Purdy offered eight tips for resume writers. However, some of the original eight were not germane to science CV writing. To that end, I pared the list down to five and added my own titles and commentary.

1.  Customize the wording of your CV

An easy way to make sure your resume gets you in the door for an interview is to echo or parrot the language in a job post in your CV. This is because a resume reader—whether human or software-based —will be screening them for so-called “key words.” Failure to include key words in a CV will likely mean that it will be placed in the not interested pile.

Look for ways to creatively use keywords throughout your CV. And yes, for those of you who may be thinking ahead, this means that a new CV will have to be created for every job applied for! You cannot be lazy if you are seriously looking for a job.

2.  Insure the accuracy of CV content

There is a saying among professional recruiters that goes something like “they all lie.” This means that there is a general consensus among recruiters and HR professionals that most jobseekers include “little white lies” in their CVs to bolster their changes of landing a job.

While this practice may have been tolerated in the past, the advent of social media, online background checks and increasing competition for jobs suggests that person who knowingly include false or misleading information in their CVs will suffer the consequences for lying. Nobody is going to hire an individual who has the propensity for not being forthcoming or telling the truth. So, keep it real and honest; or you may find yourself unemployed for a very long time.

3. Objective statements are passé

Honestly, I never truly understood objective statements; especially if they said something like, “to obtain a position as a laboratory scientist.” Well…duh….we know that you want to be a laboratory scientist because you applied for a laboratory scientist position at our company! 

Instead of an objective statement, I highly recommend CV contain a section (at the beginning) called “Summary of Qualifications” or “Personal Profile” This provides jobseekers with an opportunity to tell perspective employers who they are, what they bring to the table and why  they, rather than their competitors ought to be considered for the job. It also allows jobseekers to generously incorporate as many keywords gleaned from the job post into their CVs.

4.  Keep the verbosity down and use exciting and laudatory language

Scientists tend to wax romantically about their work and in many cases are overly verbose when it comes to describing what they have done and where they have been. On the other hand, hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters don’t have the time or patience to read dense, wordy and often times redundant CVs.

The key to success is to clearly, cogently and boldly express your skill sets, talent and other assets that you will bring to the table if hired at a company. This requires a substantial amount of thinking, time and word-smithing to get it right. In other words, you will have to spend more than 30 min throwing together your CV.

Also, it is vital to construct a CV using action verbs and flowery, laudatory adjectives to sell yourself to prospective employers. Writing in the passive voice is tedious and quite frankly boring. Prospective employers want to hire people, who are confident about their abilities, demonstrate the ability to take control and face challenges without flinching.

Further, I know that we scientists are told not to promote or say exemplary things about ourselves but it is time to get over it; the rest of the job-seeking world does it and we are no different than other persons!

5. Appearance does matter!

Let’s face it: nobody wants to read a densely-packed CV written in 10 pt font. While it is true that content is the most important thing contained in a CV, the way information is presented can influence whether or not a CV is read by a prospective hiring manager or employer.

I generally recommend an open, inviting design that allows a reader to easily find all of the pertinent information about prospective employees.  Truth be told that when I was working as a professional recruiter, I tended to not even look at dense, visually unappealing CVs unless I was desperate for a job candidate.

While I am sure that I missed a few things, these tips will help to improve your CV and possibly lead to gainful employment. Let me know your thoughts!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Resumes, Curriculum Vita and Cover Letters

Posted in BioJobBuzz

After almost a week advising students about the difference between resumes and curriculum vita (for scientists there is no difference), academic vs. an industrial curricula vitae and cover letters at Experimental Biology this year, I came to two conclusions. First, all scientists should take a resume writing course. Second, there is no single resource to help students and postdocs figure out a way to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of resume writing and cover letters.

Much to my surprise and delight, Monica Kerr, who is Director of Science Alliances at the New York Academy of Sciences, offered a link to a great resource developed by Harvard’s Office of Career Development. The document entitled “CVs and Cover Letters”offers ideas and samples of academic CVs and cover letters. Further, it provides insights into formatting and verb usage when constructing CVs and resumes. While the document does not address how to construct an industrial CV, it is one of the best resources that I know of for resume writing for life scientists.

Those of you looking who may be looking for advice and guidance about constructing industrial strength CVs can check out a post that I crafted for BioJobBlog a couple of years ago. Like the Harvard document it focuses on CV formats, verb usage and other job search related items.

Hat tip to Monica (and Harvard Office of Career Development)!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!



Back By Popular Demand: Resume Writing for Scientists

Posted in Career Advice

Like it or not, writing a carefully-constructed resume or curriculum vitae (as resumes are known in scientific circles) is a vital part of any successful job search. Inexperienced job seekers tend to hastily craft resumes without paying much attention to format, style or content and then wonder why they can’t land job interviews. The best way to approach resume writing is to think of a resume as a work of art–something that requires a lot of thought, creativity and attention to detail. As one well-known professional recruiter and job search expert put it”Trying to find a job without a smart, well-crafted resume is like showing up for dinner at a fancy restaurant in a T-shirt and cutoffs. They won’t let you in.” 

I think that it is important for job seekers to think of a resume as a personal marketing brochure that will either land a job candidate interviews or turn a job search into a long, arduous and frustrating process.

The primary goal of a resume is to show prospective employers how you are different than other applicants and why you and not they ought to get the job! So, what are the salient features of a winning resume?

Writing tips

Hiring managers, professional recruiters and human resource professionals tend to quickly scan resumes that they receive and make snap judgments. Therefore, your qualifications and personal attributes must “jump off the paper.” This can easily be accomplished by using bold type, headings, underlining, bulleting and varying font sizes–all of which are simple ways to visually call attention to your strengths. Avoid using paragraphs because they are dense and difficult for hiring managers to navigate.

Powerful, action-oriented, emotional words produce a strong, positive impression. Unfortunately, we scientists have been trained to write in the “passive voice.” That said; try to resist using the passive voice as much as possible when crafting your resume–think outside the box!

Job Objective or Summary Statement

I am sure that somebody has told you at one time or another to include an “objective” on your resume. Objectives tend to be boring, vague and passively delivered. Instead, I highly recommend that you craft a vibrant, action-oriented, can-do “Summary of Qualifications” that accurately reflects and highlights why you are a “right fit” candidate for the job. To that end, it may be necessary to craft more than one summary of qualifications if you are applying for several different types of jobs. For example, your summary statement for an R&D job should be markedly different than the one that you would use to land a business development job.

Which of the following examples do you think better positions the job candidate?

Objective: To obtain a research scientist position at a pharmaceutical company


Summary of QualificationsExperienced scientist with expertise in protein purification and microarray technology. Exceptional leadership abilities and outstanding oral and written communication skills. Able to work independently or as part of a multidisciplinary team.

Professional Experience

Resumes can be constructed either chronologically or functionally. Chronological resumes, which are most common, list content in temporal order and should be used for either lateral job moves or when seeking a promotion or looking for a new job to advance your career. When crafting a chronological resume, jobs or work experience must be listed from most recent to past. In contrast, functional resumes offer content based on skills and are most effective for individuals who are seeking career changes. Functional resumes should present your skills in the order of importance for the new career that you are pursuing. 

It is important to stress that only information relevant to the position should be included in a resume. Unrelated job titles or skills can sometimes confuse hiring managers and may cause them to pass on a qualified candidate. As mentioned above, most hiring managers and employers are simply too busy to read all of the resumes that they receive. Resumes that are chosen for further considerations are typically the ones that contain pertinent, job-specific information that is presented in a straightforward and unambiguous manner.

If you switch jobs frequently or have gaps in your experience put the dates of employment in the far right hand column of the resume (we read from left to right so sometimes dates of employment are overlooked) or hide the job-changing by combining or grouping several jobs together to appear as one. Also, employment dates ought to be listed as years; not the exact start and stop dates of employment, e.g., dates should appear as 2001-2002 not July 10, 2001-January 15, 2002.

Tailoring Your Resume

A resume is not just a list of what you have done and where you have been. It is your opportunity to present and highlight the skills that you possess and how those skills translate into making you the right-fit candidate for a particular job. Quantifying or embellishing achievements and using strong, definitive statements elevate and add authenticity to you as a job candidate.

Which of these examples sounds better?

Designed and directed experiments to study Alzheimer’s disease


Designed and carried out experiments that identified a key protein in amyloid plaque formation

For each position that you apply, it is critically important to list all relevant experience in the order of perceived importance to the hiring manager or employer. Carefully reviewing job descriptions will allow you to quickly and easily identify those things that are most important to the employer. What is seen first means the most! 

When necessary resumes should be tailored so that as many of your skill sets and accomplishments match what was stated in the job description. This means, that it is highly unlikely that you will be able to use the same resume/CV for all of the jobs that you are interested in. To insure success, I highly recommend that you take the time to customize or tailor each resume/CV that you submit to prospective employers.  When I was looking for a new job several years ago, I crafted no fewer than 20 different resumes!

Odds n Ends

Many of you may have heard that resumes should be no longer than one or two pages in length. While this may be the convention for other fields, it is certainly not applicable to CVs or scientific resumes. That said, it is a good idea to limit the length of your CV/resume because, outside of academic circles, nobody has the time nor the inclination to read a CV that is half an inch thick! When I was working as a professional recruiter, it typically took me a minute or less after scanning a resume/CV to determine whether I had identified a “right-fit” candidate. Candidates whose CVs are too long, overly verbose or difficult to decipher rarely make it to the interview stage. I subscribe to the notion that less is more and simple is elegant!

When listing your educational background, I recommend that present your lowest degree first (associate or bachelor) and end with your most advanced degree or educational experience, e.g. postdoctoral fellowships or professional school. The name and location of the institution that awarded the degree and your major or area of expertise should be listed with each. It is perfectly reasonable to list the names of your graduate or postdoctoral advisor in this section (if you think that a mention will help your candidacy). You may also want to include your thesis title if you wrote a masters or PhD thesis. It is not necessary to list the dates that the degree was awarded. By listing the dates that you received your undergraduate and graduate degrees, an employer may be able to deduce your age. While this may not be a bad thing for entry level employees, it may hinder more experienced job seekers from securing new positions.

Membership in professional societies, organizations or clubs should be listed in a section that is separate from your educational background. Any invited lectures or presentations may also be listed under a separate heading. Also, it is important to list any extracurricular activities or specialized skill sets that you think may be relevant to the positions that for which you are applying. For example, letting prospective employers know that you were an Olympic swimmer or president of the debate team may be what differentiates you from other equally-qualified job candidates.

All of your publications should be listed on the last page of your CV in a section entitled Publications.  If you are just starting your career, it is permissible to list along with your peer reviewed publications all of your abstracts, poster presentations, etc. However, if you are mid-career professional, I strongly recommend that you list only peer-reviewed publications, review articles, books and book chapters and eschew the abstracts. Any manuscripts that are “in press” should be listed. That said,  I don’t think that it is appropriate to include “submitted” manuscripts –this signals to prospective employers that you may not think that your publication list is long enough to warrant consideration.

Never send your references to prospective employers unless they specifically ask for them. Simply indicate somewhere on your resume/CV that references are available upon request. For most academic jobs, it is customary to ask for references at the beginning of the application process. For industrial jobs, references are not requested unless an employer is interested in moving forward with specific job candidates.

Finally, it is vital that you understand that your resume is a required first step in the job search process. A carefully crafted resume/CV that indicates to prospective employers that you are the right woman/man for the job will likely get you to the interview stage. After that…it is all up to you.   Look for the next installment of the series on interviewing skills and tips.

Click here to see the wrong way to write a resume and here for an example of one that resulted in a job offer.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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