Resume Tips for Research Scientists

by Cathy Eng

Research Scientist

For researchers, working in a laboratory involves established methodologies and staunchly enforced processes. With so much uniformity, it is easy to see why scientific research professionals generally play it safe with dull, template resume formatting and even duller wording. However, there is no correct way to communicate your skills and accomplishments. Here are some out-of-the-box methods for conveying your great research experience and top-notch technical skills:

Go Beyond Responsibilities

By merely listing what you did in the lab, you tell future employers that you operate at the status quo. Tell them how you stood out by including improvements you made to processes, time or money you saved, or awards you earned.

Be Specific Without Getting Caught Up in Details

Communicating your achievements in the lab can get complex and wordy. The important thing to remember is that your resume should be readable to multiple, cross-functional audiences - from your future supervisor to an HR administrator. Therefore, try organizing your accomplishments into a challenge-action-result format with only 1-2 sentences for each category. This is a good way to keep each study or experiment you worked on separate and in its own spotlight.

Clearly Display Your Technical Skills

Researchers have a habit of listing their skills in a jumbled heap, which may include your expertise in lab processes, hardware and software, instrumentation, and methodologies. By spacing them out with a bullet between each one or arranging them into a categorized table, it becomes easier for hiring managers to reference your individual skill sets.

Use Exciting Verbs

After reading dozens of resumes with the same scientific mumbo-jumbo, the last thing a potential employer wants to see is another resume dotted with verbs like "Assisted with" or "Conducted". Instead, open your reader's eyes and intrigue them with engaging verbs like "Spearheaded" and "Orchestrated".

Take It Easy With the Bullets

More than any other profession, my lab research clients love to use bullets - and not much else. To retain the reader's interest, it is optimal to use a combination of single statements, paragraphs, and bullets. Also, limit your use of bullets within each job entry to six. Studies have shown that if there are more than six bullets in a row, readers typically do not read past #6.

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Other ways to add punch to a scientific resume is to change the font to one that is not as commonly used, but is still present on all operating systems. Snoozers like Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana may be replaced with Cambria or Candara. You may also choose to add a colorful border or fancy section headings. As long as your changes are tasteful, professional, and do not impede on your resume's message, you will only be adding to its appeal.

You don't need to be a graphic designer to employ aesthetically pleasing formatting or exciting wording to your resume. Employers will be glad to see your refreshingly leading-edge document midst a sea of dull scientific resumes.

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