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!!!!!!!