Define yourself

One of the most common mistakes we see in resumes is not identifying your expertise. While trying to be relevant to the widest number of positons, early career scientists often fail to define themselves. 

Understand that companies will hire you because of your expertise and ability to be productive in that area. A position opens because there are too few (or no) scientists who bring the background or skills needed on a project.  

Start by defining your expertise using a well-written profile. In essence, this should describe you as the employee you want to be. Think of the profile like the abstract of a scientific paper. It gives the reader a summary of what they will read in more detail later in the document. It also acts as a framework in which the details can be assimilated. 

An example would be, “A research immunologist with experience applying in vitro and in vivo techniques to elucidating signaling mechanisms in the innate immune system.”


“Experienced computational chemist with expertise in structure-based drug design, complemented by strong experience in developing and applying computational tools to advance discovery projects.”

If you cannot identify your expertise and complementary skills, you cannot expect anyone else to be able to do so. It is frustrating to a hiring manager to look at a resume and not being able to easily understand what the candidate’s expertise or knowledge base is within the first few seconds.

Typically, as scientists our expertise is either in 

  1. A discipline (such as neuroscience, virology, oncology, etc.) and we use a variety of techniques (such as cell-based assays, protein chemistry, etc.) to investigate questions in that field, OR
  2. A technical approach (such as analytical chemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, etc.) which we apply to answer questions in different fields or disciplines.

Don’t be afraid to define yourself. When a hiring manager reads a resume, they are not thinking, “Can this person learn to do the job?” They want to know that you have the knowledge necessary to do the job. You show that in your profile and by communicating your specific contributions to projects in the rest of you resume. 

You might think it will sound like bragging. It shouldn’t. And done properly, it won’t. Remember that you should provide the evidence for what you have claimed in your profile with your bullet points. They should communicate your contributions using active, past-tense verbs. 

If part of your background is completely different than your main expertise, consider having it listed in the skills section but not highlighted in the main part of the resume. It is okay to have experience in multiple disciplines or skillsets. Maybe you have both microscopy and biochemistry skills. Try and show that these techniques provided continuity in your research approach, or how one built upon the knowledge of the other.

Your best bet to transition into industry is to be proactive rather than re-active. Start by identifying companies working in your area of expertise. Focusing on them as employers, whether or not they have positions advertised, will increase your odds of hire and decrease your frustration from applying to less suitable positions.

Are you ready to identify your expertise
with a powerful profile but don’t know
how to start?

Are you ready to talk about your specific
contributions but unsure how to
identify or present them?

The files at can help you do this. We were founded by industry scientists, recruiters, and hiring managers to help scientists like yourself transition into industry more smoothly. We can help you make your resume stand out and be of interest to a hiring manager. 

I’m sure you have seen that resume template websites and online resume advice sites generally are not applicable for most scientific researchers. At you will get the tools you need to write a results-oriented, industry-friendly resume that is relevant to industry hiring managers. There is even an option to have your resume professionally reviewed and returned with comments. This is a small investment that can yield a big return for your future. Let the experts at help you jump start your career today!

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