The Cover Letter Makes a Comeback

The Cover Letter Makes a Comeback

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The advent of online job board and e-applications in the early to mid 2000s all but killed the cover letter. The impersonal nature of applying online for pharmaceutical or biopharma positions led many to believe that cover letters did not improve or enhance a person’s hireability or them an edge in landing a job. However, the cover letter is making something of a comeback in today’s highly competitive job market.

Pharmaceutical recruiters and biotech headhunters have begun to read cover letters again because in today’s fast -paced business environment. Hiring decisions must be made carefully and quickly. To that point, job applicants who actually take time to carefully read job descriptions and craft cover letters to introduce themselves to biotech & pharmaceutical recruiters are likely to be more qualified and interested in the jobs that they are applying than those those who simply attach a resume to an e-mail message and hit the send button. Also, cover letters offer candidates opportunities to make a strong first impression but injecting some of their personality into a job application.cover letter

So, what should a strong cover letter contain? Besides including keywords (taken from the job descriptions) and action rather than verbs, job candidates ought to infuse cover letters with engaging and memorable dialog. Also, applicants must include descriptions of their skill sets, career goals and previous experience that may help to differentiate them from the hundreds of other people who may have applied for a  particular job. For example, rather than writing “I’m writing to apply for the open position at your company” try offering something like ”  My name is ____ and I’m looking for a change. After that opening, then explain why your background, skill sets and career focus are in line with the company’s needs that were outlined in the job description. Biopharma head hunters pore over hundreds of job applications and tend to remember the ones that stand out.

There is no doubt that writing new cover letters time consuming and often difficult. It is much easier to just hit the send button because you may believe that volume will trump quality. That said, pharmaceutical recruiting firms and biotech head hunters no longer have the job to carefully evaluate potentially qualified job applicants. These days they are looking for any edge to quickly identify and separate right fit candidate from the thousands of job applications that they receive. Remember: taking time at the front end of the job application process will often pay off with success on the backend!

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!

Common Resume Mistakes To Avoid

Common Resume Mistakes To Avoid

job searchWhile a resume is a mandatory requirement for all job seekers, writing one that ultimately may lead to a job interview remains elusive to many job applicants in the biotech and biopharma industry.

To that point, resume writing is more of an art than a science and it can take many attempts to discover a format that works. Nevertheless, there are several common mistakes to avoid when writing a resume to improve the likelihood of success.

1. Don’t forget to include a “Summary of Qualifications.” Instead of an objective statement at the beginning of a resume, replace it with a “Summary of Qualifications” (SOQ); 3 to 5 sentences that highlight an applicant’s skill sets, experience and personal attributes that help to distinguish her/him from other job candidates. The SOQ ought to be constructed as a “30-second elevator pitch” that cogently describes who you are and the value that you will bring to prospective employers if they hire you.  Don’t be afraid to pepper the SOQ with laudatory adjectives and action verbs.  The purpose of the SOQ is to grab the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager to continue reading your resume. To that point, it has been reported that hiring managers take between 6 to 30 seconds to review a resume and determine whether or not to move forward with job applicant.

2.  Make sure to include keywords in your pharmaceutical resumeIncreasingly, many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are using software and keyword searches to screen the large number of resumes received for individual job openings.  Because of this, it is vital that jobseekers sprinkle keywords throughout their resumes (including the SOQ).  A good way to determine which keywords to use is by reading job descriptions for opportunities that interest you.  After identifying the keywords, make sure to insert them into your resume where appropriate.

3.  One size DOES NOT fit all! It is very tempting to craft a single resume and then submit it for all jobs that interest you.  Unfortunately, this approach is certain to increase the likelihood that your resume will land in the recycle bin. Prospective employers want job applicants to take the time to write a resume that clearly demonstrates how and why they are the right candidate to fill a position in a specific organization. Again, a good way to craft job-specific resumed is to read job descriptions for individual opportunities. Identify the technical skills, educational background and job responsibilities and then create a resume for the pharmaceutical job that shows that you meet all of the job specifications and requirements. While this may seem like a lot of work, it is necessary to ensure the likelihood of a successful job search.

4.  Typos and spelling errors are forbidden. Given the fierce competition for jobs in today’s global economy, a single typo can land your resume in the “not interested” pile.  Resumes should be spell-checked for typos and grammatical errors before they are submitted to prospective employers for consideration. It is vitally important to proof read a resume and it is a good idea to allow friends and colleagues to review it as well. A biopharma resume is the first exposure of a job applicant to prospective employers and it should be perfect.  Resumes fraught with typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors signal to employers that a job applicant may be careless, not thoughtful and does not take pride in his/her work product.

5.   Keep it simple. There is no need to use special fonts or color in a biopharma resume.  It is best to stick to black and white color and use basic fonts like Arial, Tahoma or Calibri with sizes of 11 or 12 pt. Also, it is important not to incorporate long or dense blocks of text into a resume. Dense blocks of text are difficult to read and increase the time hiring managers want to spend reviewing resumes. Instead, concisely describe achievements in 2 to 5 bulleted points per job. Also, be certain to highlight your accomplishments rather than simply listing duties for different jobs. Prospective employers are much more interested in what was accomplished rather than what your responsibilities were. Finally, white space is known to draw readers’ eyes to important points.  Therefore, it is vital that your resume is not cluttered, formatted correctly and contains sufficient white space to invite the reader to read it.

6.  Size does not matter! Urban legend tells us that a resume should be two pages or less in length. In reality, there are no absolutely no rules governing resume length!  The goal of a well crafted resume is to allow prospective employers to determine whether or not a job applicant is qualified for a specific position. While in some cases, a one or two page resume may be sufficient; in others a longer one may be required. That said, generally speaking, shorter is preferred by hiring managers/recruiters (because of the thousands of resumes that they review daily).  However, do not be afraid to craft longer resumes if additional space is necessary to present yourself in the best light to potential employers.

Although, the items mentioned in this post are common resume mistakes, it is by no means a complete list.  However, they are easy to fix.  A good way to test resume effectiveness is to revise an old resume (to fix the above mentioned mistakes) and then apply for different jobs using the old and revised resumes.  If there is an uptick in employer response rates to the revised resume as compared with old one then you are likely on the right track. If not, you may want to seek additional help with your resume writing.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

Publish or Perish: Dealing With the Pressure

Publish or Perish: Dealing With the Pressure

by Clifford Mintz

Career PressureThe “publish or perish” principle of academia is certainly not a new one and is likely as old as scientific research itself. And, while persons who choose scientific research as a career are often motivated by curiosity and the desire to improve the human condition, they soon find out that academic research is highly competitive and oftentimes dominated by overly ambitious and egocentric individuals. I’m sure that most of you have been told that in order to excel your research must be published in the highest impact journal possible.  This, coupled with diminishing research funding can place enormous pressure on individual researchers to gain a competitive edge via less than ethical (and possibly illegal) behavior.

To that point, there was an article in this Sunday’s NY Times that described a postdoc who intentionally sabotaged the efforts of a rising star in a cancer research laboratory at the University of Michigan. While this is only one incident, I do not think that it is the only example of intentional sabotage taking place in academic research laboratories. In fact, this recent incident brings to mind a candid discussion that I had with a prominent academic researcher many years ago.  He confided to me and a colleague that he intentionally sabotaged a fellow postdoc’s work because he did not like his competitor and did not want him to get recognition for a discovery (BTW, this discovery led to a patent that made the researcher a very wealthy person).

There is no doubt that in present times, working in an academic lab can feel like working in a pressure cooker that is about to explode. That said, it is important to realize that you are not alone and that learning coping skills can be helpful in relieving stress and anxiety about future career opportunities and employment.  However, there is never an instance, when cheating, fabricating data or intentionally sabotaging a competitor’s experiments is acceptable.  In fact, any researcher who behaves in this manner ought to be called out, censored and disciplined for their actions.

We are living in uncertain times in which hypocrisy, lies and alternate facts are acceptable to large numbers of people. As scientists, we are responsible for facts and  “the truth.” Any deviation from this obligation is unacceptable. In the end, people always look to scientists and researchers for answers, solutions and hints of the truth. It is important that we do not succumb to today’s economic and political pressures and continue to be the purveyors of facts and “the truth.”

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

Life Scientists:Looking for a Job? Why Not Consider the Cannabis Industry?

Life Scientists:Looking for a Job? Why Not Consider the Cannabis Industry?

by Clifford Mintz

According to a recent article, the 2013 to 2014 US market for legal Cannabis (medical and recreational) grew 74% from $1.3 billion to $2.7 billion. Industry analysts predict that the legal marijuana industry is (and will continue to be) the fastest-growing industry in the US over the next 5 years with annual revenues topping $11 billion by 2020.  And, as the industry grows so will employment opportunities. At present, salaries associated with various job functions in the Cannabis industry range from $50,000 to $90,000. As many businesses that support the Cannabis industry continue to grow, the competition for qualified employed will intensify and salaries will concomitantly rise. Currently,, there aren’t enough trained job candidates to fill the many job openings at Cannabis companies. I am sure that many of you who hold graduate degrees in the life sciences are wondering why I am pitching jobs in the Cannabis industry.

First, traditional jobs for PhD-trained life scientist are getting scarcer and the election of Donald Trump suggests that this trend will not be reversed anytime soon.

Second, consider that growing and cultivating marijuana and extracting cannabinoids (the pharmaceutically active molecules in Cannabis buds) require a background in laboratory methods, chemistry, biology and in some cases plant science. For those of you who may not know, the medical Cannabis market is focusing almost exclusively on cannabis extracts and vaporization of these extracts (rather than smoking) is the preferred delivery methods. This suggests that those of you with backgrounds in biomedical engineering and medical devices can leverage your expertise and skills to obtain jobs in the delivery side of the cannabis industry.  

Third, the expansive growth and sheer economic size of the Cannabis industry suggests that other jobs that require a life science background are likely to emerge. These include quality control/assurance jobs for strain identification, diagnostic jobs to determine THC levels/intoxication, molecular biology and bioinformatic jobs to continue to explore and unlike therapeutically relevant molecules from the Cannabis genome and synthetic biology jobs to increase cannabinoid yields and reduce production costs. Finally, there is currently a dearth of qualified job candidates with scientific backgrounds to fill entry level grow and extraction jobs in the Cannabis industry.

At present, the industry is mainly dominated by long time Cannabis growers, people who use marijuana on a regular basis and some moxy business people/investors who see an an enormous upside for the Cannabis industry. Put simply, now is the time to get in on the ground floor of an industry that is exploding and will ultimately become a legal multibillion dollar a year industry. While I’m sure that neither you nor your parents/family envisioned a career in Cannabis, the jobs are there and ripe for the picking (pun intended).

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!

Publish or Perish: Dealing With the Pressure

Is A PhD Degree Worth It?

By Cliff Mintz

There is no longer any question that it is becoming increasingly difficult for PhD life scientists to find jobs. Further, there is no longer any doubt that the academic system responsible for the current glut of PhD life scientists on the market is broken and needs to be fixed. However, it is important to point out that the decision the get a PhD degree is a very personal one and, in most cases, is not based on the prospect of future long term employment.  In fact, most graduate students and postdoctoral scientists that I have talked to over the past 10 years, don’t think about the need to find a job until they learn that their funding is running out.  The point  is, that just because you have a PhD degree it does not entitle you to a job. Further, looking for a job takes commitment, time and a lot of work and unfortunately some PhD scientists mistakenly  think that the “jobs will/should come to them.”  Put simply, if you aren’t willing to put in the work to find a job, which may mean additional training or a possible career change, then you have nobody to blame but yourself.

In 1974, shortly after I was admitted to the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I received a congratulatory letter from my soon-to-be PhD adviser. In the letter he made a comment about “the blood, sweat and tears” that are required to earn a PhD degree.  At the time, I was a youthful, ambitious 21 year-old, who thought he could do anything and I had no idea what he was talking about!  Seven painful and often tearful years later, I finally understood what he meant by those words; because I had lived them!  I  have no doubt that many who are reading this post have had similar experiences. However, earning your  PhD degree is only the very beginning of your journey. And, like it or not,  the only thing that a PhD guarantees is that others will call you “doctor”and that you can add the letters “PhD” after your name!

For the past several months I have been following a question on a LinkedIn group that asked:

“If you had to do it all over again, would you have still chosen to get your PhD degree”.

For me, the answer is an unequivocal YES!  And, like the first time, that decision would not have been based on the notion that there would or should be a job waiting for me at the end of my training.  My decision was a personal one based on my “love of microbiology” not the guarantee of future employment.

So,  to those of you who feel like the system has let you down and that you have been abused, I feel your pain but offer the following. If you wanted a guaranteed job at the end of your training than you ought to have considered a career in medicine, nursing, law, engineering, physical therapy, carpentry, plumbing or any other profession where a license is required to practice. These professionals offer a “service” to people and, in exchange for services rendered, they get paid for their efforts.  Like it or not, laboratory research is a not a service or fee-based industry and consequently has minimal short term personal value to people. And, not surprisingly, the demand for PhD life scientists, well trained or not, is not high.

In closing, nobody said getting a PhD degree was going to be easy. And, as somebody once said to me, “if getting a PhD degree was easy, then everybody would have one!”  That said, be proud that you earned your degree; but the hard work has only just begun!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!