Resume help
January 4, 2013 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Would like to hear your thoughts on my sciencey resume and cover letter!

I am submitting my resume to several companies for positions as a Facility Director or Senior Research Associate. I am currently submitting one to this place:

I have 20 years of experience and education and my resume is fairly long; however, not nearly as long as others in this field who are more prolific than I, so I don't think its length is an issue, but if it should be more or less descriptive, that would be helpful to know. I'm not exactly qualified nor have the experience they ask for specifically, but I am hopeful that there is enough to be considered.

I have applied to similar positions in the past few months but do not get replies. I would really appreciate your thoughts on my resume and cover letter for the above position. (I have changed Proper Nouns to protect the innocent.)

Cover Letter


So, any tips or suggestions would be very much appreciated! Thanks a million!
posted by waving to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "I believe this position would be a wonderful opportunity for me, and my academic and professional background has provided me with the experience that you may be seeking."

This is a garden-path sentence. Split it into two different sentences and make the second start with "I believe..." (i.e. reverse the order.)

"I would love to discuss this or other opportunities at Olympia with you - please contact me via phone or email if you would like to discuss this further."

Don't use "discuss" twice in the same sentence, and "any other opportunity" flows a bit better. End the sentence at "with you" and start off a new sentence reading "Please feel free to contact me via phone or email at your convenience" or something along those lines.

On the resume, drop the "Laboratory skill summary" header down to page 2, so there isn't a jarring mid-sentence break.
posted by griphus at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2013


I do not deal with research, but I have dealt with resumes and hiring professionally.

Is this a requirement in your field? It is, technically, illegal to ask a prospective employee about their specific citizenship status (outside of "are you legally allowed to work in this country?") and you don't want to volunteer information that it would be a liability for them to hear. Generally, this advice is given to people who aren't citizens to prevent discrimination, but everyone really should follow it just in case of overzealous HR.

(Also: you misspelled "CITIZENSHIP.")
posted by griphus at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: "It is, technically, illegal to ask a prospective employee about their specific citizenship status"

Different countries have different laws regarding what is permissible to ask of candidates, so this is not necessarily true. And, in any event, I can think of many jobs for which American citizenship is required, such as those with various security clearances. (I have no idea if any of that pertains to the OP.)
posted by dfriedman at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2013

Yeah, that's why I asked if it was a requirement in the field. There's a lot of cross-cultural resume things that don't go over well in the U.S., which is where the company linked above is. For instance, at my old job, we were instructed to immediately discard any resume with a photo attached as a blanket policy preventing us from being attacked on the grounds of discrimination based on things we can tell in a photo but can't tell by the resume. Whereas, in other countries, attaching a photo was de rigieur, apparently, and the "we don't do that here" message never made it to the foreign applicants coming to us with photos in hand.
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on January 4, 2013

Response by poster: I took Citizenship off. When I lived in Germany, people included that info as well as a photo, which I realize is just not done here in the US. Thanks for this input so far!
posted by waving at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2013

Keep in mind I did this for plain ole' administrative stuff, not research, so def. check with your colleagues on this.
posted by griphus at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: I think you need to make your cover letter waaaaaay more specific. Right now it's fairly boilerplate and it doesn't really address how you are The Ticket for the job at hand, aside from listing your experiences. I would pick some of the job description and qualifications listed in your link and expand briefly on how you complement that in your cover letter.

For example, the job listing is looking for someone with "Proven background interacting with individuals at a variety of functional levels, representing the professional image of the company both internally and externally." So, talk about how in your capacity as Job Position, how you facilitated interactions between X and Y and link it with the job that you're applying to.

Also, I would suggest varying the verbs you use in your resume. There's a lot of "wrote", "managed", "identified". This link is one of my favourites for ideas (see appendix A).

Finally: "Analysis tools included viral culture, epithelial cell culture, IHC, manage
technicians and mentor students."

This sentence doesn't make sense to me. I think you have two separate ideas: the analysis tools that you used, and other responsibilities that you had (unless mentor students were an analysis tool).
posted by Paper rabies at 12:32 PM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: From a design perspective, I would not use the decorative font for your section headings on the resume. I'd opt for a bold version of your body text. Clean, simple, and professional.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:20 PM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: Re: your cover letter... 1) change it up so every sentence doesn't begin with "I" or "My" 2) express your enthusiasm in some other way than how it "would be a wonderful opportunity for [you] 3) they know to use your phone number and email address to get in touch. 4) you need to demonstrate that you know something about the company 5) don't bury the name of the position as she or other readers may be screening for many jobs. Here's one approach using most of your words...

RE: Senior Manager/Associate Director for Clinical Quality Assurance

Dear Ms Cunningham:

Enclosed you’ll find my resume for your consideration. As you’ll see, I offer twenty years of experience in medical research (immunology) and the biotechnology industry, including positions at Genzyme, New England Biolabs, Pfizer, and United States Biotechnology Corporation. This work encompassed cellular and molecular biology, quality assurance, laboratory oversight, and product development.

Since my PhD and post-doctoral work focused on human immunity against influenza (resulting in several publications), both my academic and professional work are on point. I've been following [pertinent blah blah about Olympia] and [enthusiastic interest without implying sadness if the job doesn't relate to the previous pertinent blah blah]

I’m eager to learn more about Olympia’s needs and explore whether this position might be a good fit. I look forward to hearing from you.
posted by carmicha at 1:49 PM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: This is a long reply with lots of nitpicky details, but it all boils down to this: you look like you have a lot of good experience and skills. However, the organization and formatting of your application materials imply you lack professional polish and attention to detail. When a reviewer is dealing with dozens of applications, that is a first impression that is nearly impossible to recover from.

On the cover letter: it doesn't matter at this stage whether the job would be a good opportunity for YOU. That is important, but is a question best left for the phone or in-person interview stage. The primary job of your cover letter is to 1) convince the reader it's worth their time to look at the rest of your application materials, and 2) demonstrate you are actually interested in this company and this position (not just any position at any company).

To do this, you need to be specific about what skills you bring to the table. You don't have to get into details about ALL of your skills, just pick one or two and be assertive about why they make you a great candidate. You also need to demonstrate that you have done your research about what the company is doing. Mention specific and noteworthy projects they have undertaken recently, if you can find information about them. Refer to the job listing, as Paper rabies suggested. carmicha's rewrite is a very good start.

For the CV itself, I would definitely recommend doing a very thorough spellcheck. There are several words misspelled; citizenship, as griphus pointed out, but also Pittsburgh (which is misspelled as both Pitssburg and Pittsburg) and Carnegie Mellon.

On a more structural note, you are using a really strange combination of bullet points and quasi-paragraphs. I would recommend either ditching the bulleted lists altogether (except for under headings like "Editorial Activities" and "Memberships and Professional Organizations" where you've used bulleted lists well), or making the descriptions actually fit the bulleted list format. For example, the New England Biolabs job description would look like this:

• Managed purification, quality assurance and documentation for MAP kinase-related protein-specific antibodies.
• Wrote detailed product literature [a little more detail here perhaps?]
• Developed and managed Access database of entire product inventory [maybe state how many products this entailed?].

Other nitpicky items:

• Use the same font throughout both documents. Different sizes, weights, and formatting (bold, italics) of that font are totally fine, but right now you have three or more fonts, and it's pretty distracting.
• Shorten your sentences / phrases. Include only one thought, task, project in a single bullet point.
• Under Professional Experience, I think the heading (the part in bold) should list your title, and the employer information should be secondary. In academia, pedigree is everything, but you should still list the position title you held first. For example:

Senior Scientist
Genzyme Corporation; 09/2011 to present

• The Ruth Kerschstein Research Scholar position deserves its own separate heading. Just use the same formatting example above, and put the appropriate beginning and ending dates.
• Whether a position was a contract position is unnecessary information. Remove it.
• You are already giving the beginning and ending dates of employment, you do not also need to specify how many years that translates into. Remove that information.
• Be consistent about the information in each heading. Either include the location of each institution you worked for, or don't. I vote for don't.

The whole point of a resume is to make it easy for the reviewers to understand what you can do, so you need to make sure the information is very well-organized, that there are no formatting or spelling mistakes (it's incredibly distracting, and as I said above calls your attention to detail into question), and that it is easy to skim for key words and phrases, which should always go towards the front of a bullet point, if using bulleted lists.

The best thing you could probably do right now is print your materials on plain white paper, grab a red pen, and ask your most anal friend to mark the hell out of it for you. This stuff seems superfluous, but in a competitive job market, it absolutely makes the difference between a foot in the door and a door in the face.
posted by zebra at 9:05 PM on January 4, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all so much, this has been incredibly helpful. I have incorporated all of the suggestions, all great comments. I love nit picky, very grateful you took the time!
posted by waving at 6:25 AM on January 5, 2013

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