When you apply to a job, the details listed on your resume provide your “future employer” with information about the type of job you are looking for. The key words you include, the way you phrase your accomplishments and experiences, how you order your bullet points, all of this matters. These details build your brand.
I have been asked numerous times for guidance on what should be included in a resume. Below are a few thoughts on this important topic.
If you are looking for a “bench research-based” role, make sure you include major research techniques used during each of your roles, as well as a separate section listing all of the research techniques you have ever used and know well. An HR person and hiring manager will want to see both the current techniques and previous ones since this indicates how you have developed over time. Whether you are a postdoc, or an industry professional, listing these details is important to show growth.
Many companies use resume-parsing systems to input a candidate’s resume details into their database. Companies then scan resumes against job descriptions to see which candidates could be a fit. Resumes without details listed won’t come up as matches when scans are done. Therefore, even if you have the relevant experience, companies won’t be able to tell. You will be passed over in favor of candidates who have listed the relevant skills.
Include research techniques on your resume from the job description, when applying to a job only if you have experience with them. Customize the resume for each job. Don’t just list a general term like molecular biology techniques. Elaborate on exactly which technique you have experience with, such as molecular cloning, recombinant DNA methods, PCR, site directed mutagenesis, DNA isolation, purification, and sequencing, Southern blotting, and Northern blotting. Don’t rely on a hiring manager to guess that you have the right experience. Clearly indicate what you do and have done. Don’t be afraid to take too much space when listing skills; you can recover some of the space through clever formatting: by using a smaller font for the list, as well as going from a vertical bullet point list to a horizontal one. The important part is to be thorough and specific in listing your skills.
Resumes for non-research roles should not include significant details about research techniques, since these are not typically relevant to these types of roles. Usually, disease and/or therapeutically-relevant experience is important to highlight, especially if you are considering a role in clinical research, or as a medical science liaison.
You can include high-level information about techniques you know under each of your experiences, but it is not needed to include an entire research techniques section. Sending a “research-focused” resume to a non-research role will indicate to the potential employer that you are not sufficiently interested in the role that you are applying to because you didn’t bother to tailor your resume to the job. Non-research based roles prefer to see more transferrable skills and experiences such as: leading teams, managing collaborations, working with clients, managing projects, strong communication and writing experience, and mentoring, rather than specific laboratory skills and techniques.
For a non-research role, extra-curricular (i.e. blog writer or teaching assistant) and community service activities (i.e. president of a particular charity) should also gain more prominence on your resume. These activities highlight your transferrable skills, especially if your previous job/academic experiences are heavy on the laboratory research exposure and not much else.
What you decide to include on your resume is important. The details tell a story and indicate what type of position you are looking for. Be focused and strategic. The effort will pay off!