Back in November, I wrote a blog with tips for writing a cover letter. This blog will focus on the resume.
I spent a few years working for a great little start-up that hired me as one of their first 10 or so employees, which meant I wore a lot of hats. One of my hats was “Science and Technology Hiring Manager.” As the company grew, I looked at more and more cover letters and resumes from scientists who were making the jump (or had already made the jump) into program management support and consulting.
So here goes.
For the love of Mike, do not submit the same generic resume to every job you apply for! I’ll tell you, as a hiring manager, I was instantly put off by applicants who made me work to understand how their skill sets matched my position descriptions.
Think about it – a hiring manager may have tens or hundreds of applicants for a given position, and may have any number of positions at a given time. Translation: (s)he already has a lot of work to do, and probably won’t see the point in diving into the scientific literature to figure how each candidate might be a good fit. Here’s a little secret: The easier you make it for the hiring manager, the better your chances are of getting your foot in the door. This is especially true if that hiring manager (or HR, who is often the first gate-keeper) isn’t a technical subject matter expert in thermodynamics, or curing cancer, or underwater basket-weaving, or whatever your area of expertise happens to be. Do yourself a huge favor and put your resume in the language of the position description.
Along those lines, you’ve got to craft your language in the resume/CV not only to match the position description, but you also have to shift it from Science to English. Being able to translate Science to English is an invaluable skill. And if you’re leaving the bench, you will not survive without it. Unless you’re going into a job that requires the same technical expertise as your lab career, including all of the fancy names of the techniques you used, get it off your resume.
For example, the title of my thesis was “Response of NG2-expressing OPCs to Spinal Cord Contusion,” and my skill set included electrophysiology, primary cell culture, various histological techniques, animal microsurgery, blah, blah, blah. Is this what my resume says? NO! My resume says I have a PhD in Neuroscience and that my area of research was Spinal Cord Injury. Period. But in my professional experience section, I do include things like: “ability to manage projects from concept development through completion,” “financial management of grants,” “excellent oral and written communication skills,” and “ability to prioritize and meet deadlines on-time.”
But again, these should be tailored to your experience and shaped to meet the requirements listed in the position description.
The “Professional Statement” or “Executive Summary” should most certainly be aligned with the position description. And yes, you should have one. This is your elevator pitch. Hit the main points in three or four sentences. For example, if the position description calls for a PhD in a biological science with five years of experience in project management and personnel management, and happens to be for a position at a small start-up, your statement should start with something like, “I have a PhD in <insert field>, with more than 10 years of experience in large- and small-scale project management with budgets in excess of $X. I have successful experience in both leadership and teaming capacities, and I have an entrepreneurial spirit.” Basically, you’re telling the hiring manager, “I am perfect for this job!”
A few other tips, in no particular order:
1) Include your education on page one. You’re not in academia anymore, Toto. The PhD counts!
2) If the job requires U.S. citizenship, state your citizenship status on page one.
3) Include your computer skills. It sounds unnecessary, but believe me, not everyone knows how to use the MS Office Suite applications, Adobe, Outlook, or online databases and search tools (e.g. PubMed).
4) Put your continuing education efforts in there somewhere.
5) Include your publications, or at the very least have a statement that says something like “15 primary research publications available upon request.”
6) Do not include marriage status, age, social security number, name of children, etc.
7) Consider including professional activities like affiliations, grant review committees, boards that you sit on, professional mentorship, etc.
8) Include your contact information.
9) Include a few highlights for each position under your “Professional Experience” section.
10) Consider including community service or outreach activities, depending on how the industry you’re trying to break into will view such things. For example, if you’re applying to a non-profit, it might be useful to include such activities.
So there it is. But remember, your resume just gets you in the door. So polish up that personality! The fun is only just beginning…