Reworking your résumé for industry

Courtney Chandler
Jan. 24, 2020

It’s a new year, and maybe that means you’ve set your sights on a new job. One of the first steps is updating your résumé or curriculum vitae and tailoring it to the job you want. If that’s a job in industry, there are specific traits you’ll want to highlight whether you’re moving into industry for the first time or are a veteran.

For this week’s column, I talked with Michael Matrone, associate director of the Office of Career and Professional Development at the University of California, San Francisco, to learn the tips and tricks for creating an effective industry résumé. Matrone is also program director of Non-academic Career Development at UCSF, meaning he spends a lot of his energy focusing on how graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can secure jobs in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

CV vs. résumé – understanding the difference

First, let’s start with the basics: The terms CV and résumé are not interchangeable. Matrone describes a CV as an academic document without a length limit that is basically a list of degrees earned, positions held, manuscripts published, awards won, conferences get the picture. Little to no detail or explanation is included with each entry, and certain sections, such as publications, will likely grow longer as you continue your research.

On the other hand, a résumé is a short, tailored and targeted document that is specific to the company and job to which you are applying. Instead of listing publications or positions held, résumés should instead emphasize skills and the subsequent accomplishments made as a result of those skills.

“The point of a CV is to chronicle your scientific accomplishments throughout your career, and the point of a résumé is to land an interview,” Matrone said.

For industry applications, Matrone recommends a CV–résumé hybrid. This document should be two to three pages long and highlight your skills and accomplishments like a résumé but also incorporate sections from a CV, such as publications or conference proceedings.

Designing your document for success

Your résumé (or hybrid document) should have a few key elements to catch the eye of industry recruiters or hiring managers.

Matrone suggests the following organization:

Summary: Begin with a summary or personal statement that provides a short synopsis of you as a professional. Think of it as the abstract of your document; it should highlight how you’re a fit for the position to which you’re applying and should entice the reader to look at the rest of your application. Succinctly highlight important skill sets or experiences that make you well suited for the job.

Education and professional experience: The order of these two sections is interchangeable, depending on personal preference, but should come right after your summary or personal statement.

“The largest section of the document should be your professional experiences,” Matrone said. “This is where you’ll list your accomplishments that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.”

Focus on specific experiences, give a brief summary of the skills you learned and results you got, and try to connect these skills to the position you’re applying for.

Matrone also stressed the importance of highlighting your scientific accomplishments in a manner that nonexperts can understand and appreciate.

“Don’t assume the reader will understand the significance of something you’ve done,” Matrone said. “Tell them directly – describe the impact your findings had on your field or lab.”

And don’t forget to include soft-skills accomplishments, such as team projects and collaborations, communication successes, and teaching or training of students and interns. These can emphasize the breadth of your professional experience and set you apart as a well-rounded applicant.

Selected publications and conference proceedings: These sections can be combined or separate and should be last. If you have multiple publications or proceedings, avoid CV-style listing and choose first-authored publications or highlight those that are most relevant to the job. Try to think about how they relate to the new position or how they demonstrate skills or techniques that are applicable.


Top tricks for industry résumés

I asked Matrone for what he considers the three most important aspects of a CV or résumé for industry jobs. Here’s what he said:

  1. Make action-oriented and accomplishment-focused statements under each professional experience. Convey to the reader not only that you can perform tasks/duties but also that they led to specific accomplishments.
  2. Excellent formatting. It should be consistent in hierarchy, easy to read and make use of white space, as it conveys your attention to detail.
  3. Your document should be tailored and targeted to that position at that company. Matrone advised never to use the same résumé twice. The format can be the same, and the content may be similar, but the order or emphasis should change depending on what the position description details.

As far as the most common pitfalls, Matrone’s advice is applicable to any job application: Avoid errors! (Grammatical errors, spelling errors, formatting errors, etc.) Pay attention to the details. You don’t want to be removed as a candidate based on one of these simple errors before the hiring manager even gets to the meat of your application.

Matrone’s last piece of advice was to go beyond the résumé and always include a tailored and targeted cover letter with your application, even if a job description doesn’t call for one.

“When deciding on invitations for interviews, cover letters can also serve as a tie-breaker between two equally qualified candidates,” Matrone said.

Taking this extra step demonstrates your desire for the job and allows you to describe how you will meet the company’s needs; plus, it shows off your written communication skills. As with the résumé or CV, make sure your cover letter is specific to the position you’re applying for and free of errors.

Whether you’re taking the first leap into industry or trying to get ahead in it, these tips and tricks should help you create a stand-out résumé to land your next job.

Want more advice from Matrone? Follow him on Twitter. 

Ready to apply?

If you’re ready to put Matrone’s advice into action, here are some current job listings:

Celgene, now a part of Bristol–Meyers Squibb, is looking for an associate scientist for gene editing and delivery technology in Seattle.

Black Diamond Therapeutics in New York City is hiring a research associate in discovery biology to work on precision therapeutics with a focus on cancer and oncogenes.

Emergent BioSolutions in Gaithersburg, Maryland, (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) is recruiting a clinical research clinical scientist to help lead clinical research studies.

AGTC develops therapies to restore visual function in patients with rare genetic conditions and is looking for a research associate for preclinical assay development in the Gainesville area of Florida.


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Courtney Chandler

Courtney Chandler is a biochemist and microbiologist in Baltimore, Md., and a careers columnist for ASBMB Today.

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