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Six Common Resume Mistakes To Avoid

Six Common Resume Mistakes To Avoid

Author: Cliff Mintz

While a resume is required for all jobs, writing one that ultimately leads to a job interview and new job remains elusive to many. In many respects, resume writing is more of an art than a science and it can take many attempts to uncover a format/style that works for you. Below are six common mistakes to avoid when writing a resume.

  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); three to five sentences that highlight your skill sets, experience and personal attributes that will help to distinguish you from other job applicants. The SOQ ought to be constructed as a “30-second elevator pitch” that describes who you are and the value that you will bring to employers if they hire you. Don’t be afraid to pepper the SOQ with laudatory adjectives and action verbs to grab the hiring manager’s attention and distinguish you from other applicants. Put simply, don’t be humble!
  2. 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 detailed resume that clearly demonstrates how and why they are the right candidate to fill a particular job opening. First, identify the technical skills, educational background and responsibilities for a job and then craft/build a “unique and personalized” resume that showcases why you are the right fit candidate to fill it.
  3. Make sure to include keywords in your resume. Increasingly, many companies are using AST software and keyword searches to screen the large number of resumes that are received for job openings. A good way to identify what keywords to include in your resume is by carefully studying descriptions of the job opportunities that interest you. Once you identify key words from the job descriptions, liberally sprinkle them throughout your resumes, and most importantly, in the SOQ because this is what is read (scanned) first.
  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. Not surprisingly, resumes rife with typos and misspelled words indicate a lack of attention to detail; something that is vitally important for jobs in the biotechnology and life sciences industries. For example, a hiring manager I know who was seeking to hire a Senior Clinical Research Manager summarily rejected any job applicants whose resumes contained any typos! This is because typos in clinical documents may lead to regulatory delays for new drug approvals. Nevertheless, resumes should be spell-checked for typos and grammatical errors before they are submitted to prospective employers for consideration.
  5. Keep it simple. There is no need to use special fonts or color for a 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. The resume should have an “open” feel and not be filled with long dense blocks of text. Be certain to highlight your accomplishments rather than simply listing duties for different jobs. Prospective employers are much more interested in what was accomplished for a previous employer rather than what your job responsibilities were.
  6. Size does not matter. Urban legend suggests that a resume ought to 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 you are qualified for a specific position. While in some cases, a one or two page resume may be sufficient, don’t be afraid to craft longer resumes if additional space is necessary to present yourself in the best possible light to prospective employers.

 

Why Are Employers Ignoring Me?

Why Are Employers Ignoring Me?

It’s the million-dollar question among job applicants everywhere…. “I have good qualifications and work history. I think I meet the minimum requirements… Why haven’t I gotten a response to my application?” Or worse, “Why haven’t I heard back after my interview?”

The silent treatment after an application or interview isn’t all that uncommon. Some sources cite that up to 75% of applicants never hear back from employers after applying; even if it’s actually less than that, it seems there’s still a lot of applicants getting no response. So why exactly does this happen? And is there a way to prevent it?

The Application Black Hole

As it turns out, there may not be an easy answer to this. There may not be one specific reason you haven’t heard back; it could be a mix of factors, some within your control and some not. And there’s a good chance it’s nothing personal.

According to research conducted by both Glassdoor and FlexJobs, there are a variety of reasons for non-response to an application. Some of the more common include:

Sheer Volume

Most online job postings generate a considerable response with a substantial number of applicants submitting their qualifications. The larger and more well-known the company, and the larger the radius from which they are recruiting (think remote vs. geography-specific), that response could multiply exponentially. But even smaller companies with a more limited recruiting radius could be overwhelmed by applicants depending on the appeal of the role and the resources available to screen applications. It just may not be possible to respond to each applicant who expresses interest. “Ideally,” explains Sci.bio’s Director of HR Allison Ellsworth, “the ATS (applicant tracking system) used by a company will at least send a confirmation email that your application has been received so you know it successfully went through. Beyond that, the volume of candidates does not usually allow for personal follow up unless you have moved along in the interview process.” The volume of applications is not something that you as a candidate can control.

Recruiters/Hiring Managers Are Recruiting for More than One Role

It’s one thing to be focused on filling one role, but most recruiters are juggling multiple requisitions simultaneously. If the number of applicants for one opening can be overwhelming, imagine multiplying that by numerous openings that need to be filled as soon as possible. Add to that a full interview schedule and other recruiting-related tasks, and it quickly becomes very difficult to respond, even when recruiters/hiring managers have the best of intentions to do so.

Position Isn’t Actually Available

In some cases, it’s possible the position to which you applied isn’t available anymore, or something has shifted internally and the hiring team is reevaluating their needs. Maybe the role has already been filled, but the new hire hasn’t started yet and they don’t want to take the posting down prematurely in case it doesn’t work out, or maybe something budgetary changed and the position isn’t going to be filled, or maybe there is a new project taking priority and recruiting is on hold for now.

While all of these are out of a candidate’s control, they are still worth noting as they very well could be the reason for no response. But what about the things that candidates can control? Some of the most common in this category include:

Applying for Too Many Openings

Job searching is a numbers game to some extent; the more applications you put out into the world, the greater the chance you’ll hear back. But if you’re indiscriminate about what and where you apply, if you apply to jobs where your qualifications don’t really match, chances are you’re not going to hear back.

Resume Could Be To Blame

If you consistently don’t hear back but are fairly certain your background is a fit, it could be how your resume is crafted. Maybe it doesn’t effectively highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments, or isn’t using the right keywords and industry specific language.

How Do I Ensure I Get Noticed?

So, what can you do to increase your chances of being noticed and making it through the initial screening process? It comes down to three categories – your application/resume, your social media presence, and your networking efforts.

Application/Resume Hacks

There are a number of things you can do to make sure your applications are more targeted and put you in the best possible light. As previously mentioned, although you want to get some volume of applications out, spend a little extra time at this phase and be selective and thoughtful about the applications you submit.

  • Try to limit your applications to jobs that are truly a good fit for your background; it’s not necessary to meet all minimum qualifications, but make sure you meet some or most.
  • Research the companies you’re considering applying to and make sure their goals and values align with your own. Then try to convey that through examples on your resume or in a cover letter.
  • Craft your resume so that it’s not just a timeline of job titles and responsibilities, but also highlights specific projects and accomplishments, especially those that are relevant to the position. A good practice is to tweak your resume for each job you apply to.
  • Include links to your online presence (more on that next).

Social Media Hacks

In today’s world, your job application incorporates more than just the resume you submit. Most people have some kind of online presence, and many employers will check into it. Make sure you’re using your online presence to your advantage.

  • Although a professional headshot isn’t necessary, ensure any photos you use present you in a professional light.
  • Similarly, do a scan of any photo tags that are publicly viewable and remove any that could be controversial or present you in a less than ideal light.
  • Just like your resume, ensure that the language and keywords you’re using reflect the jobs and industries you are seeking and highlight any relevant projects or content; for instance, LinkedIn has a specific profile section where you can include information about projects, publications, or other work that may not be reflected on a resume.
  • Ensure your social media bios are succinct, relevant, and targeted to the jobs you’re seeking.

Networking Hacks

This may be the most understated yet most important piece of advice: don’t necessarily rely only on applying for a digital posting without human contact. We live in a world driven by relationships; who you know can often make a difference, or at least give you an edge. Often available jobs aren’t even posted publicly; the only way to hear about them is by knowing someone involved. Some estimates cite that 70% of available jobs are never posted and up to 80% are filled through networking.

When recruiters or hiring managers are overwhelmed with applicants, those they have a connection with will often rise to the top. When looking at equally qualified candidates, being a “known entity” could be the deciding factor in who moves on; minimally it may help guarantee your resume moves to the top of the pile and gets a second look.

So where do you start networking? How can you best leverage your network? Here are a few ideas:

  • Research the company and see who you might already know that works there. Ask those contacts for an introduction or at least a mention to those involved in the hiring process. Remind them to check the company’s employee referral policy–they may even get rewarded if you turn out to be a good fit!
  • If you don’t directly know someone who works there, look for the mutual connection. Use your social media profiles to dig a little deeper; LinkedIn company pages will show you who works there and whether or not you have mutual connections. Then reach out to those mutual contacts that you already have a rapport with and ask for an intro, a mention, or ask to have your resume directly passed along.
  • If you don’t have direct connections at a company or mutual connections that can facilitate an introduction, do your best to engage with recruiters. Seek them out on social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter, and engage with or comment on their posts. By making yourself noticed, you’re more likely to be remembered when it comes to reviewing resumes. And if you engage enough and build an online relationship with them, you may even be able to ask them directly about available roles.

The key with networking is to be proactive. Build your networks before you need them and then they’ll be there to tap into when the opportunities arise.

But What If I Interviewed and Got “Ghosted?”

Let’s say you made it through the initial screening and interviewed for a role, but now you haven’t heard back from the employer. Or you were informed that you aren’t moving forward without any details about why. What’s a candidate to do in this situation?

Again, there could be a variety of reasons, many of which may be nothing personal. In the case of providing specific feedback, there could be legal implications in being too specific with candidates. Or maybe one person on the hiring team wanted you to move on, but someone else with more pull wanted someone else. Maybe the employer doesn’t have the time or resources to potentially open up a prolonged back-and-forth dialogue that providing feedback may initiate.

As for hearing nothing at all? That’s simply an unfortunate outcome of some hiring processes, and there’s not much you can do to control this. The best you can do is keep focused on the fact that it’s not you, it’s them. Many companies are now more focused on the candidate experience than in the past, and doing their best to ensure that even if it’s not specific feedback, candidates who interview at least receive a status update. However, the hard truth is that some companies just don’t or won’t do it for a variety of their own reasons. If a few weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard back, it is probably a safe assumption that you should move on to new possibilities.

The moral of the story here? There’s much that you can’t control, so focus your efforts on the parts you can. Revise and target your resume to the jobs you are seeking. Optimize your online presence to your advantage. Shore up your networking skills. And most of all… don’t give up!

The Most Important Tool for Landing a Biotech Job? Your Personal Brand

The Most Important Tool for Landing a Biotech Job? Your Personal Brand

Searching for your first biotech job? Much of the career advice for aspiring scientists focuses on creating and polishing tangible documents: CV, cover letters and a LinkedIn profile. Less discussed, but perhaps more important than anything else when it comes to job hunting success, is the creation of your personal brand.

What is a personal brand?

Your personal brand is composed of the qualities, values and strengths other people associate with you. It is both the image you actively promote, and the impressions of you people get from your online and in-person presence. The author Cynthia Johnson identifies “personal proof, social proof, recognition, and association” as the four pillars of a personal brand.

Why does my personal brand matter?

The biotech job market is competitive. A biotech company may receive hundreds of applications for every entry level scientist position advertised. Not only will a clear personal brand help your job application stand out, but it will give time-pressed hiring managers and recruiters an immediate sense of who you are as a candidate and what you can bring to the role.

How do I cultivate and market my personal brand?

 

1. Be authentic

Although it might take time to discover your personal brand, you should never pretend to be something you’re not, or misrepresent your accomplishments. A ‘strong’ personal brand is not a reflection of how impressive your accomplishments are, it’s about the consistency of your messaging, and whether the broad strokes of the brand you promote matches the evidence showcased in your CV, website, etc.

2. Identify your strengths and accomplishments

When starting their career, scientists are often taught to be modest about their achievements and present work experience in a ‘neutral’ fashion. In the world of personal branding, you are allowed to brag a little! Your wins and your talents should take center-stage on LinkedIn and your other professional websites and social media accounts. If you win a research award…post about it online. If you’re great at working in cross-functional teams…point that out in your job application.

Once you’ve written down your technical and personal strengths, it’s easy to translate the former into your area of expertise. Recruiters and hiring managers definitely want to see your achievements, but even more important is a demonstration of cohesive expertise in your research field. That expertise is what will get you an industry job.

3. Focus your brand

There are two meanings of the phrase ‘focused personal brand’ – and both are important. You want your personal brand to be concise: it should boil down to a couple of sentences and adjectives. An example might be “Creative microbiologist who specializes in E. Coli.” It shouldn’t take you five minutes to explain to a recruiter who you are and what you do.

In the other sense, your personal brand should be focused into a sub specialty, with a defined target audience. While it’s understandable that you don’t want to narrow your career opportunities down to nothing, your personal brand can’t be so broad that nothing about you stands out to recruiters and hiring managers. For instance, saying you’re “a medicinal chemist” may be true…but it’s less helpful than saying you’re “a medicinal chemist who specializes in oncology drug development and has experience using solid NMR.” Now you’ll attract the attention of recruiters seeking to fill oncology and solid NMR-based medicinal chemistry roles.

4. Build an online and in-person presence

Once you’ve decided upon your brand, it’s time to market yourself. Update your professional website, job application materials and LinkedIn profile to highlight your core skills, values and career objectives. When you aren’t posting about yourself on your professional social media profiles, you should be sharing and interacting with content that reflects your personal brand (e.g. breakthroughs in your area of expertise, news from the kinds of companies you wish to work for). You don’t have to produce a lot of content or be active on LinkedIn 24/7: but you should make a commitment to posting or sharing content on a regular basis, be it once a week or once a day.

Of course, you can also publicize your personal brand through in-person and virtual networking [insert link to networking blog]. When networking with recruiters and peers within your field, your elevator pitch should encapsulate the strengths and expertise already outlined in your personal brand. Once developed, consider engaging in professional activities that reinforce and publicize your personal brand, such as presenting at conferences or taking on leadership roles in professional societies.

When looking for your first industry role, the biotech job market can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Fortunately, the experienced specialist recruiters at Sci.Bio are here to help. Get in touch with us to discuss your career goals today.