Common Resume Mistakes To Avoid

Posted in Career Advice

While a resume is a mandatory requirement for all job seekers, writing one that ultimately may lead to a job interview remains elusive to many job applicants.  To that point, resume writing is more of an art than a science and it can take many attempts to discover a format that works. Nevertheless, there are several common mistakes to avoid when writing a resume to improve the likelihood of success.

1. Don’t forget to include a “Summary of Qualifications.” Instead of an objective statement at the beginning of a resume, replace it with a “Summary of Qualifications” (SOQ); 3 to 5 sentences that highlight an applicant’s skill sets, experience and personal attributes that help to distinguish her/him from other job candidates. The SOQ ought to be constructed as a “30-second elevator pitch” that cogently describes who you are and the value that you will bring to prospective employers if they hire you.  Don’t be afraid to pepper the SOQ with laudatory adjectives and action verbs.  The purpose of the SOQ is to grab the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager to continue reading your resume. To that point, it has been reported that hiring managers take between 6 to 30 seconds to review a resume and determine whether or not to move forward with job applicant.

2.  Make sure to include keywords in your resume. Increasingly, many companies are using software and keyword searches to screen the large number of resumes received for individual job openings.  Because of this, it is vital that jobseekers sprinkle keywords throughout their resumes (including the SOQ).  A good way to determine which keywords to use is by reading job descriptions for opportunities that interest you.  After identifying the keywords, make sure to insert them into your resume where appropriate.

3.  One size DOES NOT fit all! It is very tempting to craft a single resume and then submit it for all jobs that interest you.  Unfortunately, this approach is certain to increase the likelihood that your resume will land in the recycle bin. Prospective employers want job applicants to take the time to write a resume that clearly demonstrates how and why they are the right candidate to fill a position in a specific organization. Again, a good way to craft job-specific resumed is to read job descriptions for individual opportunities. Identify the technical skills, educational background and job responsibilities and then create a resume that shows that you meet all of the job specifications and requirements. While this may seem like a lot of work, it is necessary to ensure the likelihood of a successful job search.

4.  Typos and spelling errors are forbidden. Given the fierce competition for jobs in today’s global economy, a single typo can land your resume in the “not interested” pile.  Resumes should be spell-checked for typos and grammatical errors before they are submitted to prospective employers for consideration. It is vitally important to proof read a resume and it is a good idea to allow friends and colleagues to review it as well. A resume is the first exposure of a job applicant to prospective employers and it should be perfect.  Resumes fraught with typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors signal to employers that a job applicant may be careless, not thoughtful and does not take pride in his/her work product.

5.   Keep it simple. There is no need to use special fonts or color in a resume.  It is best to stick to black and white color and use basic fonts like Arial, Tahoma or Calibri with sizes of 11 or 12 pt. Also, it is important not to incorporate long or dense blocks of text into a resume. Dense blocks of text are difficult to read and increase the time hiring managers want to spend reviewing resumes. Instead, concisely describe achievements in 2 to 5 bulleted points per job. Also, be certain to highlight your accomplishments rather than simply listing duties for different jobs. Prospective employers are much more interested in what was accomplished rather than what your responsibilities were. Finally, white space is known to draw readers’ eyes to important points.  Therefore, it is vital that your resume is not cluttered, formatted correctly and contains sufficient white space to invite the reader to read it.

6.  Size does not matter! Urban legend tells us that a resume should be two pages or less in length. In reality, there are no absolutely no rules governing resume length!  The goal of a well crafted resume is to allow prospective employers to determine whether or not a job applicant is qualified for a specific position. While in some cases, a one or two page resume may be sufficient; in others a longer one may be required. That said, generally speaking, shorter is preferred by hiring managers/recruiters (because of the thousands of resumes that they review daily).  However, do not be afraid to craft longer resumes if additional space is necessary to present yourself in the best light to potential employers.

Although, the items mentioned in this post are common resume mistakes, it is by no means a complete list.  However, they are easy to fix.  A good way to test resume effectiveness is to revise an old resume (to fix the above mentioned mistakes) and then apply for different jobs using the old and revised resumes.  If there is an uptick in employer response rates to the revised resume as compared with old one then you are likely on the right track. If not, you may want to seek additional help with your resume writing.

Until next time…

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

Informational Interviews: Do They Really Work?

Posted in Career Advice

I first heard about informational interviews several years ago at the Annual Biomedical Research for Minority Students (ABRCMS) at which I was reviewing resumes and offering career advice. I asked the student who mentioned the interviews exactly what they are. And, much to my surprise, I learned that the process involved approaching a “professional” to set up a meeting to discuss possible career paths at a company that a jobseeker was interested in.

At first blush, it sounded like a terrific idea to me. Unfortunately, the concept presupposes that jobseekers have done their homework and identified prospective companies that seem “like a fit” for them.

Second, it also presupposes that job candidates have a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities of career options available at prospective companies. For example, several years ago many scientists who wanted to get out of the laboratory frequently mentioned business development as a possible alternate career options. In response to the question, I always ask “Do you know what business development professionals do on a daily basis and what skill sets are required to be successful at that job? Not surprisingly, the most frequent response to the questions was no!

Further, while corralling a so-called profession at a meeting or conference to chat about possible career options at his/her company or institution is a possibility, asking the same person to take time out from their busy daily schedules to have the same discussion with you becomes increasingly difficult.

Finally, the notion that most professionals want to help others achieve career success is unrealistic and pretty much not the way things work.

As you may have guessed, I am not a big fan of informational interviews. And, I suspect that most professionals who are asked to participate are not either. Nevertheless, these types of interviews are growing in popularity and apparently are de rigueur. That said, the purpose of this post is help folks who participate in informational interviews to manage expectations. To that end; will an informational interview result in the possibility of getting hired at a particular company—probably not. Will it provide jobseekers with valuable new insights and information about possible career choices? Maybe; if you ask the right questions. Will the interview be worth the time that you took out of your day to participate? Possibly, but you don’t know until you try it.

For those of you who may still be interested in informational interviews, I found an article that provides readers with a step-by-step approach to informational interviews (see below)

Open a Door With an Informational Interview

What is an informational interview? An informational interview is a meeting between you and a professional. The purpose is to help define your career options or research a company where you want to work. It is NOT a job interview. Do not expect anyone to make you an offer.
What is my role? You are the interviewer. Prepare plenty of questions to keep the conversation moving.  Include questions about the occupation or business, but ask about other things too: Do they enjoy their work? How do they spend their day? Open-ended questions are best to avoid yes or no answers. See a list of sample informational interview questions.

How do I set one up?

  1. Find people ask everyone you know for potential contacts in a field, company or job that piques your interest.
  2. Make contact Pick up the phone and make contact. Possible phone script:

“Mrs. Smith, Brad Johnson suggested I speak with you. My name is Steven Olson and I am interested in the ________ field. I could use advice from someone who is in this field. Do you have any time this week when I could meet with you? I know you’re busy, so I only need about 15 minutes of your time. I would really like to learn more about your company and the ________ field from someone like you.”

What else should I remember?

  • If meeting in person, dress and act professionally.
  • Make a good impression. This person may provide additional leads or referrals that could lead to a job.
  • Keep it short. Limit your initial interview to 15 to 30 minutes based on how the conversation is going.
  • Feel free to schedule the interview with someone without hiring power. They often know more about day-to-day activities and have more specific information for you.
  • End the interview with an action plan. Ask the interviewee if you can contact him or her again.
  • Remember to send a thank-you note after your interview!

Until next time…

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

LinkedIn and Your Job Search

Posted in Career Advice

While LinkedIn is not considered by many to be a “true” social networking site (some consider it to be little more than a place to post an electronic resume), it is increasingly becoming the place to go to look for or find a job. Most recruiters and many hiring managers used LinkedIn to source qualified candidates for job open at their organizations. That said a well-thought-out and carefully written LinkedIn profile can make the difference between employment or not.

To that end, I came across a great article entitled “Five Minutes to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile”. Its author, Ian Levine, provide some excellent advice and tips about how to craft a LinkedIn profile so that you will be found by recruiters and prospective hiring managers. Not surprisingly, the key to success is peppering your profile with keywords that are contained in standard job ads in your industry. According to Levine, LinkedIn appears to scan only four categories: Professional Headline, Titles, Specialties and Industries. LinkedIn scans these categories for frequency of the keywords selected.

One way that Levine recommends to assess whether or not your profile is a good one is to enter specific keywords that are consistent with the type of job(s) that you are interested in landing. If your profile comes up at the top (or close to it) of these types of searches than your profile is a good one. A failure to appear in the search results suggests that your profile may need some additional work to land a job!

Until next time…

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

Tips on How To Cope After Being Layed Off

Posted in Career Advice

Getting layed off is not uncommon in today’s economy.  Nevertheless, it is a difficult experience even for the most season employees.  I found a video on YouTube that provides some ideas on how to manage being layed off and what you can do to get back up on your feet. 

Until next time…

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

Career Advice–Week of December 13, 2010

Posted in Career Advice

"I want to know if you’re somebody who feels comfortable enough to talk about dumb things that you have done or dumb advice that you have taken.  It tells you something about the character of the person."

—Founder and CEO of, a job search Web site, when asked "What’s the most effective question that you use in most interview?"

What Not to Do When Using Social Media to Find a Job

Posted in BioJobBuzz

There is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that using social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook may help to improve your chances of landing a new job. For example, a recent article that appeared in Time Magazine recounts the story of an individual who lost and subsequently found a job in 11 days using a job search strategy based exclusively on social media. While social media tools are still evolving, social media has become part of the fabric of every day modern life. Therefore, it makes sense that social media may be useful when using it to find a job. 

In previous posts on this blog, I recommended using a variety of social media strategies when conducting a job search. However, like any other technology tools, if social media is not not used or managed correctly it may backfire and give you less than anticipated results. To that end, the folks over at Online Degree send me a post entitled “The 10 Worst Social Media Mistakes that Will Prevent You from Landing a Job.” 

Although some of the tips and ideas may be obvious to some, many jobseekers have little or no understanding of what is acceptable when conducting a social media or traditional job search. I highly recommend that you heed the advice offered here–it may very well make a difference between gainful employment and living at home with your parents or relatives!

1. Don’t Be That Guy : We all have at least one social media friend who shares him or herself too much. Things like realtors putting up each new listing, every sale a business has, or constant reminders on the same event can be as off putting to an employer as it is to a friend. If using your social media account to promote your work, be thoughtful of other people’s time. Chris Brogan has an excellent rule of one promotional update for every 15 casual ones. Check out his blog for more useful moves.

2. Use it or Lose It : Twitter and other sites are essentially a blank canvas. Don’t let them go to waste by using the same backgrounds and graphics as anyone else. Use the opportunity to showcase photos, art, events, logos, and anything else that will make you stand out. Mashable has a great guide on how and why to create a custom Twitter background. For inspiration, click here to see many successful attempts at creating memorable, yet simple backgrounds.

3. You Can Have Too Many Friends : Too many friends and followers actually can be a bad thing. While real people with real accounts are a plus, the more popular an application becomes, the more likely it is to be subject to hacking. Both Facebook and Twitter have had troubles with phishing such as Zombie and Twply. Gullibility does not make you attractive to an employer. Better to have 100 actual friends/followers, than 200 phony ones, both in social media and IRL.

4. Don’t Down the Updates : So you just got a new gadget and it rocks? Or was the sushi overpriced and stale? Did your kid just do the cutest thing? Now think about if a potential employer wants to read every detail about the above. While short, incisive updates are appreciated and even admired, they can also do the opposite. Have a look at this list to see the worst status updates and delete them before they prevent you from landing a job.

5. Sir Mix-A-Little : With social media becoming more and more popular, you likely have more than one account. While there is nothing wrong with having a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account all at once, mixing them can be a problem. In an amazingly well thought out article, Nicky Jameson discusses the pitfalls of mixing social media business and pleasure. If still unsure, check out #10 on this list.

6. Too Little of a Good Thing : Now that you have social media account and know how not to update too much, don’t go the other route. Too few updates can show lack of commitment and general spazziness. Updates that come once a month, or even once a week, can be too few. However, with loads to do and little time to do it in, updates can be challenging. Visit this link to get a guide to FeedMyTwitter. It can auto post pre-written updates on the date, category, and more of your choosing.

7. Drive a Manual : Automatic DM’s may be useful to some people when used correctly, but a misstep can hurt those looking to avoid mistakes. If a prospective employer has the courtesy to follow or friend you, thank them properly. A generic “thank you" is just as insulting as it sounds. Write one yourself, make it personal, and stand out just a little more. This site shows you how to disable Auto DM on Twitter.

8. Spelling Isn’t Just for Bees : Yes, its social media and, yes, there is a certain sense of informality. However, especially if going for a writing or editing job, any spelling or grammar mistake can prevent you from landing it. If your browser has a spell check, use it. Even if it does, don’t turn the spell check in your noggin off even if you’re writing about your favorite restaurant. This article from Scrawlbug lists eight stupid spelling mistakes that happen more often than you think.

9. Spam is for Canned Meat : If someone does check your account, an overload of spam cannot only be off-putting; it can also show that you have little technical knowledge. A potential boss can only assume that you will behave the same and subject the whole office to lottery scams and the like. To prevent from making this social media mistake that will prevent you from landing a job, learn the in’s and out’s of your account. This site is entirely devoted to stopping spam on Twitter.

10. You Got to Keep ‘Em Separated : Love your Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts and will censor them for no one? Go for it. That’s one of the reasons why the internet invented multiple accounts. Simply use one for all of the professional stuff with your proper name, pictures, messages, and such. All the intimate stuff can appear on another account under the nickname of your choice. Visit this link to see a quick and easy way to set up two accounts on the same computer with no problem.

Hat tip to

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting on Twitter and Facebook


Life Scientists: Tweet Your Way to Your Next Job

Posted in BioJobBuzz

While most life scientists that I know have Facebook pages and profiles on LinkedIn, many fewer don’t use Twitter. Perhaps more troubling, many life scientists who have heard of Twitter aren’t exactly sure what it is. For those of you who may have spent too much time in the laboratory for the past two years, Twitter is a microblogging platform (limit 140 characters) that is taking the social media community by storm. Analysts predict that Twitter may become larger and gain a greater market share than Facebook; but I digress.

Unlike most life scientists, many non-scientist types have tried Twitter and have almost immediately recognized its power and worth. It is extremely useful tool for information dissemination, exchange of ideas, branding, advertising, marketing and business development. The rapid uptake of Twitter by businesses and the lay public has led to the use of the platform to transact business and even to search for a new employment opportunities To that end, I recently received a post from Katina Solomon over at Online entitled “20 Simple Twitter Tips for Your Job Search.”

While some of the tips are very Twitter-specific, others are very useful when it comes to a job search like # 9 Toot your own horn (something scientists do poorly) or #5 Keep a copy of your resume online on the web or #19 Not broadcasting that you are unemployed.

Read and learn.

  1. Use your real name: You use your real name when searching for a job, so make sure you do the same on Twitter. Set up your first and last name in your profile, and if you can, use your name as your Twitter username.
  2. Tweet before you follow: Be sure to share useful content before you start following friends, colleagues, and industry professionals. This way, you’ll give people a reason to follow you back.
  3. Search for opportunities: Don’t just expect an opportunity to fall into your lap — seek it out! Use Twitter’s search to look for jobs in your niche.
  4. Use a Hire Me! ribbon: Put a ribbon that advertises your desire for work, so even when you’re not tweeting about your job search, followers know that you’re looking.
  5. Keep a web copy of your resume online: If you get in contact with someone who would like to see your resume, it’s handy to have one that you can just send in a tweet. A tool like VisualCV comes in handy.
  6. Follow your target companies: If the company or companies you’d really like to work for are on Twitter, follow them, and any employees that are on as well. You’ll be able to connect better than before and stand out among candidates.
  7. Share on multiple networks: Integrate Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn so that contacts on all networks hear your message. If you can, use tools that can push updates from one service to another.
  8. Follow industry leaders: Follow the leaders in your industry to learn more about it and benefit from their network.
  9. Toot your own horn: Put yourself in the Twitter stream by describing your specific skill set. Be descriptive — if your specialty is selling phone systems to food service companies in South Florida, say so!
  10. Use hashtags: Find hashtags for upcoming conferences in your industry, hot topics, and more to become part of the conversation as well as identify people that you need to be following on Twitter.
  11. Look for a job posting account: If there’s a certain company or industry you’d like to work in, try to find specific Twitter accounts that offer updates on new job postings available.
  12. Ask for help to close the deal: If friends or contacts work where you’d like to get a job, ask them for a recommendation to increase your likelihood of getting hired.
  13. Give good karma: Don’t blatantly self-promote. Take some time to retweet and interact with others.
  14. Make your presence employer friendly: Use your bio as a job pitch, use a professional-looking avatar, and tweet about your job search. You can even link to your online resume.
  15. Be worth following: Don’t be rude or boring — share interesting and useful updates with your followers, and focus on interacting with them as well.
  16. Always keep SEO in mind: Your Twitter profile and tweets are indexed by Google and other search engines, so any time you put information out there, think about how you can better make it found.
  17. Retweet industry news: Pass on news and tweets that are important, and you’re one step closer to being found.
  18. Have a "Twitter pitch" ready: Much like the elevator speech, you need to be ready with a pitch you can deliver in 140 characters or less.
  19. Don’t tweet about unemployment: You don’t want to come off as whiny-keep your complaints about unemployment to yourself.
  20. Look for job search advice: Find posts from career gurus and other people who can help you find a job on Twitter.

I would be interested in talking with folks who have actually used Twitter to conduct a job search that ultimately led to a new job.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Tweeting!!!!!!!


The Job Search: How to Stand Out in the Crowd

Posted in Career Advice

It goes without saying that the competition for jobs in the life sciences industry is extremely fierce. This means that job candidates must use whatever means possible to differentiate themselves from the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others applying for the same job!

While I have written numerous posts on how job candidates can stand out from their peers, I discovered an insightful article that summarizes my advice in a single post. Like I said, there are no revelations here; just a convenient way to jog your memory as the job search slogs on!

Click here to read the post.

Until next time…

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


Resume Insights: Dealing with Getting Fired

Posted in BioJobBuzz

As much as I hate to admit it, I have been fired at least three times (usually for insubordination or rabble rousing) from jobs in my long and illustrious career. My guess is that anybody who has worked in the private sector has been fired at least once! Of course, nobody ever admits (unless asked) that they have been fired from a job. The point is that many people get fired and if you’re one of the unlucky people who get does fired; you will need to know how to deal with a “termination” on your resume. After all, once you are fired, you will likely need to look for a new job!

I came across a well- crafted post that provides ideas and insights about dealing with being fired and employment gaps when constructing a resume. Check it out—someday you may need to use some of the proffered tips.

Until next time….

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

Part 1-Ask the Recruiter: Organizing a Successful Job Search

Posted in Uncategorized

Many people think that organizing a job search requires little more than quickly throwing together a resume, applying for online jobs or answering print ads and then kicking back to wait for responses from prospective employers. While this scenario may have been accurate 10 years ago– when jobs were abundant and the economy was humming– it is no longer the case. In fact, the current science job market may be one of the most challenging in the past 20 years or so. This is likely due to shrinking government research spending, contraction of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries and the possibility that the American economy is slipping into recession. Nevertheless, there are still available jobs out there. But, in contrast with the past few years, getting them will require a carefully planned and well orchestrated job search.

The initial steps of any job search require answers to several key questions. These include:

  1. What do you think you want to do?
  2. What type of job are you likely to get (i.e. what jobs are you really
    qualified for)?
  3. What are your long-term career goals and aspirations?
  4. Where do you want/ need to live?
  5. What are your salary requirements? 

Although answers to these questions may, on the surface appear easy, I can assure you that they are NOT and require a great deal of thought!  First, not everyone knows what they truly want to do after completing 6 or more years of graduate and postdoctoral training. More importantly, many people are convinced that they know what they want to do (largely based on discussions with mentors and advisors) but are ill- informed or have little idea about the actual day-to-day responsibilities and specific duties of certain types of jobs. Therefore, before you apply for a particular job, you must critically assess whether you possess the requisite skill sets or experience to successfully compete for the job. For example, if you are protein biochemist and have no industry experience, it wouldn’t be prudent to apply for business development jobs that require a year or more of industrial experience. No matter what lab you trained in or how many publications you have, I guarantee that you will not get the job. Therefore, it is vitally important that you understand the requirements, qualifications and types of jobs that you will be able to compete for.  If you don’t understand these parameters, you are in for a long, frustrating and unsuccessful job search.

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