The first self-appointed task of any applicant for any position is a stellar resume. A resume is often the first thing an employer sees and therefore serves as the first impression of you. This is true in any career field, whether industry, government or academia. Each resume must be modified to the target position and employer one is applying to, so it is imperative for the applicant to know the best approach for any situation. The same applies to careers in Academia. Prospective academics know that their field is very competitive and that a resume is an important presentation of their previous experience and qualifications.
There are various types of resumes you can choose from, depending on what you need to highlight and what position you are applying for. Most people who have written a resume have turned to the chronological type which lists one’s experience from the most recent position to the past. This is a great format for people applying for careers in science such as laboratory assistants and technicians, administration and teaching. It allows the employer to quickly assess the training and experience that the applicant has had in the past and to evaluate whether the applicant has the right skills for the position.
Other types include the curriculum vitae (CV), the electronic and the functional resumes. Functional resumes are used when the applicant has had large gaps in work experience and cannot provide specific qualifications based on previous employment or education. This form is rarely recommended since it largely only lists skills without any factual evidence for the employer to investigate. An electronic resume is used when applying to a position online. For more information on the functional and electronic resume check out some of the great resume websites listed in the resource section. For academics, however, we shall focus more on the CV which is most prevalently used in academia.
The CV is a detailed and structured listing of education, publications, projects, awards and work history. This is the most convenient format for academics who have had many such publications and projects to list. Academic institutions like universities and laboratories are primarily interested in an applicant’s record of publications and research because that is what the applicant is expected to contribute to the institution in the future as well. As one can expect, the CV’s for many educators and scientists can be very lengthy, especially if the applicant is a prolific writer and has many accomplishments to list. This seems to be the opposite from what employers outside of academia want. Outside of academia, long resumes are frowned upon and the winners are almost always concise and focused.
Focus is also important when applying to academia. An applicant should research the particular institution, understand its mission, and become knowledgeable about the resources that are available, as well as about what is expected from faculty and scientists. A great place to look is the institution’s website, which contains a plethora of information and contacts. One good idea is to talk to people who are already working there to get a feel for the environment and job requirements. This will prove priceless when putting together a stellar resume addressed specifically to that institution.
Employers want to see what you can contribute to their company or institution and how you can help fulfill their needs and goals. Therefore your resume must show enthusiasm and knowledge, but most importantly it must address the stated requirements. Most employers include requirements that they expect of all applicants when advertising an open position. The key is to stay focused on the job that you are actually applying for and to draw the most relevant points from your previous education and work experience.
Now this may be a hard task if you are applying for a position that has nothing to do with what you have done in the past, especially if you have just graduated and do not have significant work experience in the field. The secret to making this situation work is to emphasize any skills and duties that might be relevant to your new job. As a simple example, say that someone has worked at a fast food restaurant as a sales clerk but would like to apply to be an assistant in a prestigious beauty spa. Of course, that person may not have had experience in the beauty business, but he or she can point out his or her extensive customer service experience in a fast-paced environment. The same can be applied in many different situations when applying for a position out of your field of experience.
Lastly, do not forget a cover letter! This document is included in addition to the resume and is addressed (ideally) to the person doing the hiring. It is a more personal way to summarize the facts listed in your resume and to tell the employer why you are exactly what they want. This letter should also be concise but attention grabbing, while maintaining a high level of courtesy. Examples can be also be found in the websites listed below.
Think of your resume as a sales pitch and you (with your set of skills) are the product. This is the first, and possibly the last, impression the employer has of the applicant. Therefore, you must ensure your resume is of top quality and avoids employers’ pet peeves. For a more in depth look at what employers do not want to see, check out the Recruiter “Pet Peeve” Survey at ResumeDoctor.com. Remember that these people have to shift through piles of resumes, so make your resume grab their attention and hold it.
Great Websites for Resumes
A great website with tons of information on employment and applying.
Includes great samples of cover letters and CV’s for scientists.
CV sample from Harvard School of Public Health
Sample PhD-Level CV
Cover letter template
Tips on writing a masterpiece resume.
Find out more pet peeves from ResumeDoctor.com—Recruiter “Pet Peeve” Survey