I remember it feeling like a dark and stormy night that time I first sat down to write my resume. The utterly painful task of boiling down years of education and experience into a single line or two on Microsoft Word is enough to ruin any day. However, you don’t have to stumble through the darkness alone. I was luckily able to interview a scientist named Christina Hughes from Envision Communications, and she shared with me some great tips that can help keep you from getting lost. Thankfully, with each new revision, I felt as though these short descriptions reflected me better. Here are some of Christina’s suggestions for crafting the ideal resume to get you noticed by a prospective employer:
· If you are using a big job recruiting website, then the use of buzzwords is important. Sites like Indeed or ZipRecruiter send you emails based on buzzwords that you provide directly to the site in your search or based off words you list in your resume. Depending on what job you are specifically looking for, the buzzwords will be different. Make sure to do some research to find out the contemporary lingo used in your field.
· Examples of skills to include that are always in demand:
o Communication: remember tutoring is one form of this very valuable skill
o Project management: think group presentations
o Teamwork: such as fundraising for your sorority or club
o Mentoring: a form of altruism that can translate into passion for the company or organization to which you are employing
· While formatting, avoid white space, but make sure the page isn’t too crowded. Check online for various visual examples of different resume styles and pick the one that’s a best match for your background.
· When describing the responsibilities you held in your previous positions, try taking the approach of writing for an audience that is outside of your field.
· A single page should suffice. Most likely the person reviewing your resume is reviewing many others and too much text can be enough of a turn-off that your resume ends up in the rejection pile. However, if you have a lot of relevant experience, it can be helpful to put the most eye-catching information front and center so that your potential employer is motivated to turn the page.
· Any format is fine whether chronological or based on relevancy. Just be sure to get your point across that you have the advertised skill set.
Your cover letter should always be tailored to the position you are seeking. Also, it should at the very least include the following points:
· Why you are interested in the job
· That you are aware of your potential company, organization, or employer’s notable accomplishments and what they are currently working on. The point is that you know enough to initiate and continue a conversation with them
· What you can do to help said company or organization to further their research, goals, or mission
There are two main forms of delivering your cover letter and resume:
· Online: If you are responding to a job posting, most likely you will be asked to e-mail or submit your information directly to a site. If you can’t find a specific person to apply to and you are hoping to be noticed by someone in HR, LinkedIn is the favorite for professionals. There is an option for you to let potential employers know that you are a job seeker. Additionally, there is also an option for you to check out the resumes of other users in private mode if you are so inclined.
· In-Person: Try to give your cover letter and resume directly to the HR department or if appropriate, to the person who may be hiring at a career fair, representing their company at a conference or lecture. If there is no specific job opening at the time, attending conferences and career fairs is the best networking method because it allows you to directly interact with the exact person you want to work with or for. This is your chance to find out if they would be a good fit for you, as much as you would be a good fit for them. Even better, it’s the perfect opportunity to give your elevator pitch!
Now that you handed in your well-tailored resume and cover letter, what happens next? Well, right when you deliver or email these documents, you should ask that specific person what their preferred method for follow-up is and when you should follow-up. Make sure to respect those answers because you want to give them the least amount of reasons to say no; if you cannot follow simple directions the first time you interact with said person, then it reflects poorly on you.
What if you don’t hear back after the allocated time has passed? I will usually email the person once a week, specifically around 10AM when most of the morning chaos is winding down. Don’t be afraid to reach out 3 or 4 times, even though it can be hard not to see yourself as annoying if you send a few emails with no return. Try instead to think of yourself as passionate and determined, and hopefully your potential employer will too!
Jennifer Banarez is an international medical school graduate with an undergraduate degree in Biology. She regularly participates in science policy advocacy work and STEM outreach programs. Her interests include sun safety, nutrition, NASA and medicine, particularly the stem cell field and cardiology.