[Biocareers Seminar] Looking Your Best on Paper: Building a Resume and Cover Letter for Industry

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During this webinar hosted by BioCareers, Lauren Celano, founder of Propel Careers, covered tips on how to build an effective resume for industry. Click through to find out more!


– Differences and similarities between resume and CV
– Content Advice
– Formatting Advice
– Resume examples
– What happens to your resume, CV and cover letter after you submit an application

– Differences and similarities between resume and CV

  Be succinct, include big picture summaries of your research
– Want to include a personal email address so that your email doesn’t bounce if you move institutions
– Important to tailor your research for each role as people may not be as familiar with the science

Resumes: Do not include:

– Picture
– Personal Information (DOB, family or relationship status)
– Be careful with hobbies: interesting hobbies are okay if they are inline with company culture (e.g. the whole office goes rock climbing) 

– Academic CVs do not show what you did and what techniques you did…  


– A resume provides more details that the reader can take away vs. a CV which does not provide a lot of clarity around what you have done. 
– In a resume, you get to choose to highlight what you choose to share among your experiences and should be really tailored to the position/industry you are applying for.   

What should you highlight?

 It depends on where you are applying!

Think about what you have done and how it can align with a future job!


10 seconds is the average time a HR person looks at your resume or CV!

How do you format your documents so that your application gets through the initial screening process?

– Number of pages depends on the field, finance etc, may be 1 page

Contact Info:
– Your name with credential (e.g. PhD), have a professional email, if you are international and have US citizenship/green card, PUT THIS ON YOUR RESUME otherwise they may assume you cannot legally work in the US. 

– Summary of Qualifications (vs. Objective – as this may change)
– What are the top 3 things you want people to know about your qualifications? Science skills, leadership, management etc.

Example for industry R&D scientists:

* tailored to the job ad! If they use specific abbreviations, you should use them, otherwise spell everything out. 
Experience section: 
– Paid Experience
– Undergrad/Postgrad/Postdoc Experience
– One sentence description of your research which includes your PI’s name, as this may be a point of connection. 

Wording matters – e.g. “Research studies the role of XXY with an emphasis on key proteins such as A and B”. — vs. “Research studies chronic X disease and the role of key proteins in XX environment”.  Make it easier to understand!! 

– Sub headings can be useful!! Different strategies:



Resume Examples:

– Small company biotech
 Values grants and appreciates entrepreneurial mindset
 Highlight project leads, business-orientated competitions and diagnosis

– Non-bench application:
 Collaborations, not highlighting techniques 

– Business Development Roles:
 Highlights business experience over research experience

For bench roles:

– List your experience and what you want  to do. If you don’t want to do animal work etc, don’t list it!

For non-bench roles:
– List other skills, i.e. imaging software, statistical software etc


Additional Selections:

Resume formatting:

– Have someone else review your resume, outside your field for several reasons:
   1. Wording is okay and understandable to outsiders
2. Details!!! Formatting is correct: bullet points are aligned, etc 

If using 2 pages, use a full second page. i.e. try not to squish sections, add other sections if you need to overflow. Use all the space you have! 
– Use bullet points and formatting to help focus attention! Rolls of text is hard to read and focus on. 

Writing a cover letter:

Often cover letters get separated from resumes, so make sure you list contact info!
Indicate you have read the job description, so tailor the cover letter! It’s okay to reiterate job requirements from the job ad.
Focus on the items mentioned that you KNOW they want and don’t waste space talking about irrelevant items.



What happens to your job application?
– Not everyone gets both cover letter and resume (or reads them).

1. HR Person – gets both resume and cover letter, reads cover letter
2. Hiring Manager – maybe gets both, reads resume
3. Interviewers – resume, perhaps very late. Don’t usually get the cover letter.

 Thus, its okay to repeat/reiterate what is in the cover letter and ensure you cover the important points of how you fit the job in both!


 Question: How often do people looked at LinkedIn?
Answer: ALL THE TIME! If you are on LinkedIn, you want to have a professional photo that makes you look approachable, a good summary of your background and if you can, mention what you are looking for, career wise.

Question: How do you design your resume if you are switching fields where you may not have a lot of existing skills?
Answer: Focus on the transferrable skills!

Question: How long it take from submission to job offer.
Answer: 1.5 – 3 months typically. Once you submit it can take 1 day to 2 weeks to contact you initially (and may contact you up to 6 months later!).

Ania’s guide to moving to the U S of A!

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Feel free to use this document to guide your way around the USA. Currently this document is curated from experiences that I have had, and will hopefully help you when you come to explore the great United States of America! Given my background, it is more tailored to Australian visitors, but all of the advice is applicable to other nationalities as well. 

Note: links are subject to change and may not work and this information may become dated.  
Updated: July 2016

I would highly recommend opening up a bank that is global which exists in both your home country and the USA. A good example for Aussies is a Citibank account. Their everyday account let you take out cash from any Citibank ATM in the world with no surcharge or fee and their exchange rates are very reasonable (some of the best I have seen… and I spent months looking and comparing! See here. You can also easily transfer money almost instantaneously between AUS and USA citi accounts using their inter-citi system online for free (much cheaper then using a currency broker). 
Credit Rating:
Your credit rating in the USA is extremely important and may be used to determine whether you can rent an apartment, buy a car or take out a loan of any sort. Unfortunately, when you move to the USA, you cannot transfer your credit rate and start at zero. Luckily, you also don’t move any of your debt to the USA so often can build a good credit rating within a few years. The best way to start to do so, is to open a credit card, use it often and pay back the total sum within the due time-frame. 
Other things that matter is:
(From Consumer
  • Pay your bills on time, every time. One way to make sure your payments are on time is to set up automatic payments, or set up electronic reminders. If you’ve missed payments, get current and stay current.
  • Don’t get close to your credit limit. Credit scoring models look at how close you are to being “maxed out,” so try to keep your balances low in proportion to your overall credit limit. Experts advise keeping your use of credit at no more than 30 percent of your total credit limit.
    Note: You don’t need to revolve on credit cards to get a good score. Paying off the balance each month helps get you the best scores.
  • A long credit history will help your score. Credit scores are based on experience over time. The more experience you have with getting credit and paying your bills on time, the more information there is to determine whether you are a good credit risk. Ania’s note: This tends to hurt international scholars the most, as you need a few years of good credit for it to be usable, even if you have a great score.
  • Only apply for credit that you need. Credit scores look at your recent credit activity as an indicator of your need for credit. If you apply for a lot of credit over a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively.
 Don’t forget to check your credit score regularly to ensure nothing has been falsely reported against you. You are eligible to check your score for free, once a year.

Mobile Phones:
The USA is a bit weird with mobile phones and doesn’t seem to have as much competition and therefore worse prices in Australia (apart from decent coffee and mobile phone services, everything else is cheaper!). If you have an iPhone, the problem is compounded because Apple controls all of the vendors to some degree so you won’t be able to get internet with any prepaid plan with AT&T or Verizon. The only place you can get internet prepaid is at t-mobile (which I recommend). If you are going to be staying about a month, I would suggest their prepaid deals, some of which gives you unlimited internet, phone and texts and for $10 extra you can call international landlines and text internationally as much as you want (which includes many countries). You just charge as you go and is much much cheaper than getting an international sim card. As a comparison – this is actually cheaper than going on a 24 month contract with a company – you would be paying about twice that for the same thing. Weird huh?

Goods and Services Taxes
In many states the taxes DO NOT need to be included in the displayed price on the item. To make it even more confusing, each state taxes at different rates and for different things (e.g. clothes and shoes less then $175 are not taxes in Massachusetts, otherwise its 6.25%). So just be aware that the price on the tag or shelf may not reflect the actual price at the counter!

I admit, I had very little clue about tipping but when you realise wait staff make as little as $5 (or less) an hour, you can appreciate why you need to tip! TripAdvisor has a good guide, but here is a quick reference (all is calculated prior to taxes):

– Sit down food (anywhere; diner or formal dinner): 15% minimum, if very good, 20%
– Taxis: 15%
– Bars (drinks): $1-2 per drink or 10-15% of bill. A lot easier to set up a tab.
– Concierge/Bell boys/Cleaning staff at hotels: $1-2
– Any personal services (makeup/hair/massage): 15-20%
Postdoc Scholar – Kuperwasser Lab, 2012-2016