You have scoured the job boards and found the perfect position. The job description, location, pay…everything is good. You quickly fire off your resume to the employer, confident that you have the skills and drive to succeed in that position. Excited, you wait to hear back….and hear nothing. Wouldn’t the employer see straight away that you are an excellent candidate? Well, as it turns out, you may be getting in your own way. Mistakes on your resume, be they tiny or glaring, may be killing off your chances of getting that return call. Today we’ll take a look at some common scientific resume mistakes that could be costing you that ever important call-back.
Although the content of the resume can (and should) be the most important part to your resume, the physical layout can greatly affect the impression your resume gives. There are several parts to consider here. A standard scientific resume should be typed in black ink on white paper, in an easy to read font (such as Calibri, used here) in an 11-12 size font (heading may be larger). You should not be including any extra pictures, graphics, or whimsical borders. There are other industries where a “creative” resume may include all of those things, but those are all positions where the job in question would require those artistic skills (such as a graphic designer). Scientific positions may ask for creative problem solving at times, but they often require strict adherence to many different rules and regulations as well. Keeping your resume clean, neat, and professional tells your potential employer that you are ready to take the responsibly of this position, giving you the best chance to make the first great impression.
The order in which you lay out your resume can also affect your chances. In our prior resume articles we went over the basic parts of the resume, but we will give a basic “order of go” here. The order you should place your resume in is as follows: Heading/Contact Info, Objective (if you choose to include it), Education, Relevant Skills/Coursework, Employment/Research/Other Employment, and “Filler” (fillers include professional memberships/certifications, awards, and relevant presentations/publications, patents). Keeping your resume in this order gives the company or recruiter the best chance to find the important information quickly and easily. If you have held a position in industry, your experience may be included before the skills section. For a recent college graduate, the skills section should generally come first, unless you have held a full or part time relevant job or internship while attending school.
The length of your resume can also play a significant factor. If your resume is very short, it may be because you did not include the one or more of the sections listed above. If you do not have the experience or information to include in those sections, that cannot be helped. If you do have the experience, however, it is best to include that information in order to showcase what skills and experience you do have!
A resume that is too long can be just as damaging. While it is important to include the relevant skills or responsibilities in your research/job/etc., you do not need to include every possible detail you can think of. A standard rule of thumb would be to include 3-5 bullet points per position. In other words, what were the main responsibilities you held? Which of those tasks most closely pertains to the job you are applying for? As an example, many laboratory positions may include attending multiple meetings. But if you are applying for a laboratory position that does not list “meetings” as one of its top job duties, there is no need to list (individually) every type of meeting you attended. It is critical for a company to understand your previous positions, but if your resume is running on for 16 pages by listing everything you’ve accomplished since college…well, it would probably be skimmed over at best. A standard rule for resume length is as follows: for 1-3 years of experience use one page, for 3-5 years use two pages, and for 5+ years it’s ok to use three pages. As we stated in our previous article, if you have information you feel is critical for the company to know…include it. But be sure that the information is relevant and highlights only the major skills or duties of that position.
Another very common reason resumes may get thrown out is if they contain too many grammar or spelling errors. There are few things more damaging than mentioning that you “have strong attention to detail,” only to have multiple errors in your resume. Most scientific positions will involve state or federal regulations that must be followed to a T. If you can’t or won’t double check your own work in your resume, it doesn’t leave the employer with a great impression of how well you would pay attention to small details on the job!
One of the most critical errors you can make when sending in your resume for a position in sending in a generic resume. In other words, the same resume for every position you are applying for. Even if you are applying for very similar positions, it is best to tailor your resume for the specific position to which you are applying. Each company may be looking for slightly different qualifications, skills, or previous work history. By taking a few minutes to edit your resume before sending it in, you get the chance to review each position or experience you may have and look for the skills and experience that best fit that individual role.
The final piece of the puzzle we’ll discuss in this article are the dates of employment on your resume. Dates that are missing, unclear, or out of date entirely will look at best like messy work on your part, and at worst like you are trying to hide something. Your dates of employment should be clear (month and year), and any large gaps between employment should be addressed (ie. If you were not working for a few months in order to travel, or tend to a family emergency, a short sentence on your resume can explain this). As a final piece of advice regarding dates, remember to keep your resume updated not only on your computer, but any job boards you may have your resume on as well. For example, if you have your resume on a job board, but do not update it in a year, it sends a few messages to recruiters or companies looking at your resume. First, you may have missed some new role or job you have recently assumed, so they have no idea if you are still at the company listed as your most recent employer. And second, if you are not updating on a regular basis you may look like an uninterested job seeker who can’t be bothered too much with the search.
The most important piece of advice to take away from this article, is that your resume is a reflection of you as a candidate. Whether your resume if professional, up-to-date, and relevant leaves a recruiter or company with a much more positive view of you as a candidate. A resume that is colorful, outdated, and generic won’t leave nearly such a good impression. Remember that as a job seeker, your primary job is getting the job! Let recruiters and companies see you as a quality candidate by putting effort and polish into your resume. Good luck!
Stay tuned for our next article on 07/17/14 that will take a look at how you can go about finding that scientific job through advertisements, staffing agencies, career fairs, and more! Until then, feel free to catch up on our previous articles, and be sure to check out our pages on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ for the latest news and opportunities available through Verum Staffing! If you are interested in speaking with us further regarding positions we have available, future opportunities, or interview/resume help, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an informational interview.