This Is What They Said
By Megan Daniel, PharmaLogics Project Specialist
If eyes are the window to the soul, resumes are the window to you and all you have to offer professionally. Rest assured, bad resumes sink great candidates every day. While many resume recommendations are subjective, there are certain CV tips that are tried and true. I spoke with 10 life science recruiters who all work with different clients in the pharmaceutical and biotech space to find out exactly what to include and how to present yourself on that special piece of paper.
Resume Content…The Do’s
Tailor to the job you want
Most of the recruiters I talked to said they love when a candidate tailors their resume to a specific job using the job description. This includes highlighting any current projects that are relevant to the role they are applying for. Recruiters are experts in recruiting, but usually not experts in the field they’re recruiting for. Recruiters might not know exactly what assay development involves, but they can recognize it on your resume as something that was mentioned in the job description. Make it easy for them to identify your skill set and match you with the position.
Keywords are your friend
Several companies use an applicant tracking system which flags keywords. By not mentioning some of the basic skills you use every day, your resume may get tossed out. One recruiter recommended including multiple versions of these keywords to increase the chances your CV or profile is flagged. For example, use both the acronym and the full phrase, like “NGS” in one place and “next gen sequencing” in another.
It can be helpful to include a summary of your career or list of accomplishments at the top of your resume. Another option is to include a skills section. This would be a great place to list out techniques you have used throughout your career. For example, if you’re a clinical trial manager, it would be great to include a list of therapeutic areas you have worked in. Of course, stick to skills and techniques you use on a semi-regular or regular basis. Don’t list anything that you would not feel comfortable doing independently or after a quick refresher.
Specificity lands jobs
Be specific wherever possible. Instead of simply writing you have leadership or management experience, tell us you’ve managed a team of four at your last company, or are currently mentoring six immunology Research Associates. If you’ve used one instrument or have a skill set that you’ve put to use in multiple positions, highlight how this use or skill set has grown over the years. If you learned how to use PCR during your postdoc, but now teach RAs how to use it as Senior Scientist, distinguish your involvement with this skill in the bullet points under each position.
Resume Content…The Don’ts
Keep length in the Goldilocks zone
Content is king but the length of your resume matters, too. Do not just list the title for each job and assume that will be enough. Recruiters hate resumes that have little or no information about what you do during your workday. Each job should have a list of responsibilities that clearly highlight your experience. It can also be tempting to try to cram in every accomplishment of yours since undergrad. The truth is, if it’s too long, no one will want to read it. Conversely, if it’s too short, many hiring managers and recruiters will pass on taking the time to ask you for more information. Think Goldilocks here – something in the middle (roughly four bullet points per job) is just right.
Location still matters
Don’t leave out your location. Recruiters want to know before calling you if you’re within commutable distance or whether you would have to relocate. If you are afraid that you will be taken out of consideration for out-of-state roles, feel free to include “open to relocation” on your LinkedIn profile and in your resume header beside your location. You should include the town and state you live in, but don’t feel the need to provide your full address. These days, recruiters just need a phone number and email to reach you. Nobody is going to send you anything via snail mail.
Speaking of phone and email, you do not want to leave out detailed contact information. Make it as easy as possible for recruiters to reach you. This means including your cell phone number and a current email address that you check regularly – not just one or the other. It can also be nice to include a link to your LinkedIn page so recruiters don’t have to find it themselves.
Don’t be shy about getting published
Don’t leave out your publications. Two recruiters I talked to said they loved when candidates included a list of their publications. It shows real accomplishment and passion in someone’s work! If you are worried about it making your resume too long, make a separate document (formatted to match your resume) and send it alongside your CV.
Order of information
Structuring your resume should be deliberate and organized. The order you present your information can differ slightly, but make sure that your name and contact info is listed at the very top of your resume. Next, you should list education or professional experience. Save your awards and publications section for the bottom. Recruiters will always look at your professional experience and skill set before anything else you include.
If you do decide to include a list of skills, make sure you place it within the resume in a way that doesn’t take up too much space. Some recruiters like it when you place this box of skills near the top of your resume under your contact information, while others prefer closer to the bottom near your awards and publications. Either way, make sure it doesn’t crowd the page. You want this section to augment what you’ve listed under your professional experience, not detract from it.
It’s always a good idea to keep your font sizes and choices consistent throughout your resume. It may seem a little boring, but it makes your resume so much easier to read. One recruiter said when choosing fonts and sizes, think of it this way: if you were the hiring manager, could you easily read this resume?
Be sure to format your resume in such a way that it’s clear when you’ve held multiple positions at one company. Otherwise, you risk looking job hoppy to hiring managers. It’s also great to highlight that you’ve been able to grow within one company.
Handling employment gaps
When it comes to gaps in employment, honesty is always the best policy. You don’t have to wait for the recruiter to ask you to provide an explanation. You don’t necessarily need to include it directly in your resume, but adding a note that you spent 6 months caring for a sick parent or two years at home after your child was born provides context for your gap. Being upfront and transparent about a gap can make it less of a red flag to hiring managers.
Keep your employment history in order
The only thing worse than a resume where the candidate’s professional experience is out of order, is a resume that does not list any dates at all. Present your career timeline in reverse chronological order, starting with what you are currently doing and working backwards. Even if your last job is more relevant to the job at hand, don’t confuse the hiring manager or recruiter by listing it first. It just makes you look like you’re trying to hide something and prolongs the inevitable conversation surrounding what type of work you’re doing now.
Details over design
Don’t assume creative resumes are always better. Actions speak louder than a cool font. Let your skills and experience speak for themselves. It’s okay to add some personality, but don’t let color choices, fonts or any other formatting choices detract from your valuable experience. Recruiters would much rather see a “plain Jane” resume that clearly outlines a candidate’s experience and skill set than a colorful resume that lacks detail or substance.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel when presenting your work responsibilities – stick to bullet points. I see resumes where candidates write their responsibilities in a paragraph summary and often have to eliminate them because of it. It can make your resume look messy and hard to read. It also can also make the description of your job too broad. It’s much harder to capture your skill set and specific experiences in a paragraph. Bullet points are the best way to outline your day-to-day in a clear and specific way. Believe me, both recruiters and hiring managers will thank you.
No headshot necessary
Resumes don’t need a photo. It takes up valuable space that could instead be highlighting your skills as a scientist. Save your professional headshots (or that really great photo taken during golden hour) for your LinkedIn profile, where you should absolutely include a picture of yourself.
Don’t forget to proofread
You do not want to be the person that relies on spell check to do all the heavy lifting. We should all know by now to read through our resumes multiple times, keeping an eye out for any spelling or grammatical errors. However, multiple recruiters told me they still see spelling and grammatical issues every day. I would recommend sending your resume to someone else to read over. Our mind can play tricks on us, correcting the mistakes in our head, not realizing we’ve misspelled immunohistochemistry or used the wrong version of “there.” Someone else’s eyes can catch what we don’t see.
Putting it all together
Some of these tips may seem like no-brainers, but one recruiter I spoke with mentioned that she archives about two candidates per week, solely based on their resume. Don’t let your resume take you out of the running before you’ve even been connected to a hiring manager. In the end, recruiters and hiring managers are going to ask the same three questions about every resume they lay eyes on:
- What has this person done in their career?
- Why might they be a fit for this role?
- How do I contact them?
If your resume can clearly answer these questions, you can confidently send your resume to recruiters and hiring managers alike.
About the Author:
Megan Daniel is a Project Specialist for PharmaLogics Recruiting. Before transitioning into talent acquisition, she performed in various musicals and plays for theater companies across the East Coast. She is thankful to be a part of an awesome cohort at PharmaLogics (Go Team Jared!) and loves finding new ways to utilize her creativity in the recruiting field. When not working, Megan is reading, rock-climbing or finding something new to write about.