How to Write a Scientific Resume
You’re a scientist, you’re very well educated, you’re intelligent, and so writing your own résumé should be easy, correct? I mean, how hard could it be? Especially if you have written your own thesis or dissertation in the past, you may feel that you can save the $300 bucks (or however much it costs, even if it is a tax deduction!) and simply do it yourself. The answer to this may surprise you…
Sometimes you can write your own résumé, and write it well. From my experience as an industry recruiter, where I saw hundreds of scientific résumés every day, there would be maybe 1 or 2 résumés that were REALLY well written. Then there was the tier of résumés that you had to suffer through in order to find out the actual skills that the individual possessed. I will confess, there are times when I threw out a résumé because it was simply too jumbled, and it was just frustrating to read.
Here are some tips:
Step 1: What are the secrets to writing a great résumé? First, you need to have a plan. Get an actual written example of the position to which you are applying. Your résumé has to be tailored to this position, or your résumé ends up looking too general. I know there are times when you are a bit lost, and you don’t know what kind of job you want. My advice? Find out. Unless you are a new graduate, a general résumé will only hurt more than help.
Step 2: Organize your abilities. Focus on skills, not research projects. I can’t say this enough. The title of your dissertation is really not as interesting as the fact that you conducted small molecule scale up in a Medicinal Chemistry Department and have experience with HPLC and NMR. Don’t be afraid to sell your most marketable skills!
Step 3: Know what a hiring manager wants to see and give it to them! This is where it becomes very hard, and it’s a bit like playing Russian Roulette unless you know the industry, the market forecast, and recent downsizing / shifts within the industry. This is one of the main reasons why people use a Certified Professional Résumé Writers that has biotech / pharmaceutical industry experience (there are only a handful around the nation). It is invaluable to get that key “hiring manager perspective”, simply because you may not know you are doing anything wrong in your résumé. Have you ever sent your résumé to a prospective employer, and it just seems like a black hole? There is zero feedback; it is almost as if you had never sent your résumé at all. The reason why this happens is that you may not be a match for the position, even if you feel like you are. It is amazing what red flags can go for a hiring manager just from your résumé, so you need to be very, very careful in how you word and structure your experience.
Step 4: You are ready to edit! And edit again, and edit again! Don’t you dare hit the “SEND” button on your email until you have had at least 3 friends review your résumé. And those friends need to be harsh about their feedback, not nice! Your friendship may suffer for a week or so (but I sincerely hope not!), yet your résumé will be all the better for it, and honestly, this is the only way your résumé will improve. This is perhaps the most humbling part, because it is human nature to be offended when someone critiques your work. I’m not just talking about grammar, either, although this is probably the most popular offense. Your friends have to really be able to THINK like a hiring manager, and your résumé needs to reflect your strengths, highlight your true skills, and lowlight all those things you want to hide.
Yes, it is certainly easier to simply contract a Certified Professional Résumé Writer to write your resume. It saves you the headache, saves at least 10 hours of your time, and gives you the confidence that you end up with a legal document with which you can be proud. The downside of course, is that it will cost you money. Your resume may be tax deductible, however, so make sure you check with your financial advisor to see if this applies to you.
But if you don’t have the money, make sure you have some good friends around, the kind that can withstand the rigors of editing!