April 2010

Functional Résumé Writing Tips for Life Scientists

When listing your educational background, I recommend presenting your lowest degree first and ending with your most advanced degree or educational experience. The name and location of the institution that awarded the degree and your major or area of expertise also should be listed. It is reasonable to list the names of your graduate or postdoctoral advisers if you think it will help your candidacy.

You also may want to include your thesis title if you wrote a master’s or doctoral thesis. It is not necessary to list the dates your degrees were awarded— by listing dates, 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. Invited lectures or presentations also may be listed under a separate heading. It is important to list extracurricular activities or specialized skill sets you think may be relevant.

All of your publications should be listed on the last page of your CV in a section titled “publications.” This section should be divided into subsections and appear in the following order: 1) peer-reviewed publications; 2) chapters, books and reviews and 3) oral and poster presentations. However, if you are a mid-career professional, I strongly recommend that you list only peer-reviewed publications, review articles, books and book chapters and eschew the oral and poster presentations sections. Manuscripts that are in press should be listed. That being said, I don’t think it is appropriate to include submitted manuscripts— this signals you may not think your publication list is long enough to warrant consideration.

Never send your references to prospective employers unless they ask for them. Simply indicate somewhere on your résumé/CV that references are available upon request. However, for most academic jobs, it is customary for search committees to request references at the beginning of the application process. For industrial jobs, references generally are not requested unless an employer is interested in a candidate.

Finally, it is important to understand that a well thought-out and carefully crafted résumé/CV is a necessary first step in the job hunt. Poorly organized CVs that contain spelling and grammatical errors are certain to eliminate you as a candidate. With this in mind, before you send out your résumé or CV, make sure that it has been spell-checked and reviewed by a friend or colleague. In today’s economy and highly competitive life sciences job market, small mistakes may lead to or perpetuate unemployment! 

Clifford S. Mintz (cliff@biocrowd.com) is a freelance writer, blogger and speaker at career fairs and professional meetings.

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