The Internet is full of advice on writing resumes. You will often read that resumes should only be one page, especially for early career candidates, or you may see that two pages are the maximum length of a resume. Most resume writing sites give tips and instructions that are applicable to any industry. But as a scientist, they likely won’t help you create scientific resume.
Generally, you will read that a page per ten years experience is the rule. That might work for accounting, marketing, or office administration, but not so much for scientists. You may have more productivity to communicate during graduate school alone than comfortably fits on one page.
Scientific resumes occupy a rather unique niche–especially if you are a graduate student or postdoctoral scientist. Though we may not have much employment experience, we often do have significant research experience. So what IS the right length?
The answer: it depends. A good scientific resume can be 1 page or 10+ pages. The key is what information you choose to present and how you put it forward.
In terms of length, you may notice that curriculum vitae (CV) seem to go on forever. Yet, looking at a stranger’s CV, you might be hard pressed to identify their specific skills and unique contributions. Writing a scientific resume requires abandoning your professor’s academic CV style and including relevant information about your studies, your research, and your contributions.
One problem is that we are trained, through grant writing and application essays, to write descriptive paragraphs of what we’ve done or plan to do. Our resumes often reflect that training and become laborious to read.
The challenge is converting descriptive writing into results that matter to a hiring manager. Those results are more than just your experimental results. It’s not just what you discovered that matters to a hiring manager. Many scientists get hired into industry even when their projects do not make it into high profile journals like Science or Nature–or even get published at all.
“Doesn’t it take space to help the reader understand the context of my research or experiments?” you ask.
Truth is, the hiring manager does not need to know the whole history of what you did and why you did it. Plus, they usually don’t care. They want to know what came out of your time spent, why it mattered, and perhaps what approach you used to get the result. Using a bulleted format will help shorten the time needed to find that information, on your resume.
What you want is to have the relevant information (profile, results, education, training, technical skills) showcased in the first two pages. If you have additional pages of publications, awards, patents, invited talks, etc., it can go on for many more pages. And that’s OK. It will still be appropriate. Those pages serve as evidence of what you claimed you accomplished earlier in your resume.
As industry scientists, hiring managers, and recruiters, we have found that two pages usually suffice for grad students and postdocs, though sometimes proof of your claims can acceptably spill onto three pages.
If you are asking such questions as, “How do I convert my descriptive paragraph writing, or my academic CV, into a document that is result-oriented and industry friendly? What kind of results matter? How do I get a hiring manager’s attention and show that I am a productive scientist?” then you should visit www.ScientificResumes.com and get the tools that will help you answer these questions. ScientificResumes.com was created by scientists for scientists; here you will get files such as the P.R.E. Resume Worksheet designed to help you identify results you have not considered or included. You will find questions specifically designed for you as a scientist that will make you rethink how you state your research experience. PLUS, you will get instructions and examples. You even have the option to have your resume professionally reviewed and returned with comments if you desire.
Chances are, you will only get one chance to grab a hiring manager’s attention. And studies show that a yes or no decision on a resume is made within 5-7 seconds. Make sure they see the “best you” with an appropriately written, industry-friendly resume that speaks to your productivity.