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Postdoc Appreciation Week: Speed Networking & Career Panel

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Speed Networking & Career Panel


Come and meet a variety of PhDs and Tufts alums that have successful careers in Industry! Ask questions and network with those who have successfully made the transition out of Academia!

Tuesday, September 20th
5:30-7:30 PM
Sackler 114
145 Harrison Avenue, Boston MA




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Surviving the HR Screen from job posting to interview – advice from industry experts

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Learn about what happens on the other side when you submit your application for a job posting from seasoned industry experts! What is the best way to format your résumé so that it doesn’t get trashed?




Invited recruiters:


Alicia Rethage – Consults for biotech companies. Director of human resources.
Sean Conneely – Responsible for all recruitment in the US for Abcam. Also works as a freelance writer in his spare time.
  • What does Alicia consider is the purpose of the résumé?  Present yourself without the other person knowing. It has 3 parts to it:
    • Summary (objective) – the highlight, the advertisement of the Super Bowl. Has to be impacting. Catchy. Relevant to the job or what you’re looking for. It has to be clean, clear and have an impact to it.
      • Practice it. Give it to other people to critique.
    • Experience – in chronological order.
      • What is it that you’ve done? Write using active verbs. What was the problem, how did you approached it and what was the solution. How did you get there by doing that part?
  • What does Sean consider is the purpose of the résumé?
    • Lose the Objective section! He doesn’t want it to say what is your career goal down the road.
    • The Summary is key!
    • A résumé with more than 2 pages is a no no.
    • If you can’t get the attention from HR within the first 1-2 minutes they won’t go through it.
  • Sean: Accuracy on our résumé is important. Abcam uses Indeed, Glassdoor, Biospace, MassBio and even Craigslist!
    • They don’t have a keyword filter! He goes through every résumé, so make sure it is relevant and catchy because he doesn’t have time to go through all of them.
  • Alicia: Recruiters try to work as fast as they can. So the shorter that period is the more they make in terms of bonuses. The recruiter looks for quality. 
  • Submit your résumé the moment the job posting date is up, because that’s when the job is “hot”. If the job has been posted for too long it may be because they haven’t found a good person for it.
  • What is the window of time between posting and when someone should apply? 
    • Alicia: If you see the job today apply tonight, right away. Do not wait. You have to be the first one in line.
    • Sean: Do it quick, but you have to make sure your résumé is updated and your cover letter is perfect. If it’s ready to go, then apply as quick as you can.
  • How to format a résumé? How to take that job posting and how to market yourself well to what they’re looking for.
    • Sean: Filter out the first one or two tasks on the job posting that the company is looking for. Make that point in your summary or cover letter, and experience if possible. He’s not a big believer in buzzwords, but make sure to mention at least some keywords (i.e. skills/techniques) they’re asking for. 
      • Make sure to convey the fact that you can work well with others. 
      • If you don’t have a particular skill make sure that at least have some other skill that would show that you’re “trainable”.
    • Alicia: Spell out words that match the job description. Keywords/buzzwords have to be noticeable and repeat that one or two times so that the machine notices them (but no more than that because otherwise you would be wasting real estate in your résumé).
      • Résumé “real estate” is VERY valuable. Squeeze/shorten words to save space for other important things.
  • How many resumes are not qualified for the job?
    • Sean: 99% are not qualified.
      • For example: If there’s 8 bullet points for a job description, and you don’t feel confident covering the first 3 points then there’s a good chance you will not get the job. It would be a tough sell.
    • Alicia: Really read the requirements of the job posting. Otherwise you would be frustrated that you’re sending résumés out and you’re not being contacted.
  • What is the “affirmative action” plan?
    • Sean: Because they have government contracts they have to make sure they comply with covering diversity and equal opportunity for applicants.
  • General format of the résumé?
  • Alicia: Presentation is crucial. Make sure it doesn’t have different fonts. Has to have a consistent, organized format. No typos!
    • Make sure your skills are highlighted.
    • For her the general format of the résumé is:
      • Summary: Should be no more than 4-5 lines and very well-written.
      • Experience (no need to write “Research Experience”)
      • Education
  • Sean: Do not go crazy with attention-grabbing details. Keep the format traditional and make it consistent and formatted.
    • For him the general format of the résumé is:
      • Summary: Should be no more than 4-5 lines. Very well-written.
      • Experience (no need to write “Research Experience”)
      • Skills (if needed)
      • Education
  • How long does it take to screen a résumé?
    • Alicia: For a machine: 1 second. For a person: 15 seconds. Your résumé is your business card!
      • Have the important things highlighted at the very beginning of each section.
    • Sean: 15-20 seconds. For a low-level job: maybe 15 seconds. For a higher-level job: maybe 20 seconds or so.
  • Are volunteering opportunities important? Do they look at them?
    • Alicia: It has to be relevant for the job. Maybe include it under “Others” at the end of your résumé.
    • Sean: If it’s a “meaty” volunteer activity, like team-building, leadership, etc. then yes. This is not necessarily what’s going to get you the job.
  • Does it have to be written in short, snappy sentences since it’s given so little time to read it?
    • Alicia: Has to show that you know the words. 
      • Keep it relevant. Stay away from including citizenship, residency/visa status. Not that it’s not important, but no one’s asking (at least not yet).
    • Sean: For example, for the Summary section he wouldn’t make it choppy. He wants to see nice, fluid, coherent sentences. 
      • For PhD level job applicants: can you sell the experience you got out of your PhD? More important than just listing your publications. 2 pages is the norm when including your publications.
  • What about jobs that are not relevant to the job posting but that can spark the interviewers’ interest?
    • If it gets you “through the door”: yes!
  • First tense vs third tense?
    • Alicia: Third tense (i.e. “Recognized as …”). If you feel like you’re good at doing this then yes.
    • Sean: Use the one that sounds more like you or the one you think would best describe you. No right or wrong answer for this.
  • What should you NOT include in your résumé?
    • Sean: Personal information.
    • Alicia: Facebook (careful what you post! They can cross-reference your online presence. Your email address has to be professional. 
  • What should be included?
    • LinkedIn
  • Stemming from question above regarding citizenship status:
    • Sean: Citizenship status does not get asked about at first. Visas are an economic burden for companies, so maybe make clear in your application that you’re good with your application status if you don’t need it.
    • Alicia: Better don’t give that info on your application.
  • What about long-distance applicants?
    • There are some hiring managers that are reticent to hire someone from out of state. The hiring managers don’t care where you live, but they want to make sure you know that the job is not in some other place you would rather be. Make that point clear: establish on the cover letter why would you like to have this job.
  • What about a Scientist I position that requires 1-2 years experience?
    • Sean: Depends on the job description and the company.
    • Alicia: Having an internship counts as experience.
  • Inclusion of references on your résumé?
    • Sean: “Available upon request”
    • Alicia: “Available upon request”
  • Résumé critiquing
    • Sean: 
      • No need to put graduation dates because it tells them about your age. Companies are not required to ask this information.
      • Skills should not be too high up on the résumé. Abbreviate the ones that are relevant to the job posting.
      • If you include the name of a Professor make sure it’s someone that’s highly recognizable. Otherwise it doesn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary (saves you space if you take it out).
      • Avoid text-heavy résumés.
      • If having a significant postdoc experience then should be included above the Education section (as Experience).
      • Keep it on a legible font.
      • Recruiters don’t look at every single thing you’ve done, rather whether you can convey the important points.
      • If you’re sticking to a 2-page résumé and you have an extensive publication record, pick the 5 publications that are more recent. Can also highlight the fact that there are more.
      • Résumé doesn’t have to go that far back (i.e. if you’ve had many experiences). Keep it relevant and recent.
    • Alicia
      • You’re describing your job, but you should say what was your role (your contribution).
      • Start your résumé with your summary.
      • Computer skills are not necessary to include nowadays. Get rid of the numbering format on the Research Experience.
      • Professional summary should be a story, not bullet points.
      • Recognizable schools should be highlighted on the Education section.
      • The smallest font size should be a 9. She prefers a 10 or 11.
      • No need to distinguish between Experiences: Technical, Research or Work.
      • Do not include publications that are in preparation.
      • Pick the 5 most recent publications.
      • Don’t exaggerate something you don’t have. Don’t try to oversell it.
      • “Collaborated” is frequently used. She prefers “teamed up”.
      • Include name, address and phone number on every page of the résumé.
      • Every bullet point should be 1-2 lines only, 3+ bullet points.
      • “Interested” sounds like a hobby.