Monday, May 6, 2013

What to avoid when writing the resume for a job application in science

Not enough time to continue the series on species at the moment. But apropos of nothing in particular, it might be helpful for somebody who searches the web for advice on job applications in science to read what irritates me when going through resumes. Just my own opinion, of course, but it can reasonably be assumed that I am not alone.

So when somebody writes their application for a job as a scientist and compose their CV or resume, they may want to consider the following:

Do not mix your publication list with conference posters or talks. A poster at a conference is not a peer-reviewed journal publication. At best, the recipient of your application will resent having to figure out what is what, at worst they will assume that you are trying to inflate your perceived publication record by deliberately confusing the reader. Keep the two in separate sections.

Do not include submitted manuscripts or manuscripts in preparation as part of your publication list. The word publication kind of implies that the manuscript in question has actually, you know, been published. If it is still in preparation, it may never be. One can have six papers in preparation and then never finish three of them because there is just no time for it at the new job or now that the baby is born, and even submitted manuscripts may be rejected by three journals in a row and then the authors give up on them. That happens. The same applies as in the above item: Make separate lists titled "publications", "submitted manuscripts" and "manuscripts in preparation".

List your publications in a logical sequence, preferably from youngest to oldest, alternatively the other way round; "in press" obviously counts as youngest. Jumbling them up randomly in a non-chronological order makes it harder to see what you have done the last few years and will only annoy the reader.

If you do not quite fulfill one of the criteria or do not have one of the skills for the job, the best strategy is to honestly admit it. It may not be a fatal weakness of your application because there is a chance that no other candidate has all the skills that would make them perfect either. It is not a good strategy to write nothing whatsoever on the topic. Instead you should try to make the case that it would be easy for you to obtain those skills because you are good at learning, that you always wanted to do it anyway but never had the resources to try it, that it is sufficiently similar to something else you have done, something like that. The worst strategy is to write a long and rambling but completely unrelated text block that patently tries to confuse the reader and distract from the fact that you do not have that skill, especially by deliberately misunderstanding the question. People will see through it and they will not necessarily interpret it in your favor.

Apart from that, a reader who found this helpful might also want to check out my old post on job applications in three different scientific communities.

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