Subscribe

Forum

Please don't do this on your job applications

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby K.T. » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:12 pm

There probably would be a more positive phrase than that to start this thread. But I am hopping that will have some people pay attention. Apologies if this comes across as patronizing.

A little background on myself
I quietly read this forum since I came to the US for grad school almost seven years back. Much of what I learned about applying for jobs came from here. I used it to good effect when I was looking for jobs two years back. I got extremely useful advice from here when I was interviewing and then negotiating my starting salary. I will always be grateful to Dave, other moderators, and participants.

I have been working for a year and half now in a job I love which keeps me looking forward to Mondays on weekends.

Why I am posting now is I have been looking at job applications particularly those from new PhDs and it pains me to see otherwise very qualified applicants not get that interview call/email because of avoidable missteps in their cover letters or resumes. This is more prevalent in people originally from developing countries, like myself, where there is no structured career mentoring in college. Lucky for me I had this forum. You have it too! Now to my list.

1. Send form letters

Yes you may be applying to a lot of jobs and you are trying to save time but by sending form letters to 100 vacancies you are only guaranteeing 100 declines. It is like a bachelor going to a crowded street and shouting that he needs a wife. Yes a thousand ladies will hear him but they will all go "eh loser". Any hiring manager worth her/his salary can tell a form letter and may not even proceed to read your resume unless the company is desperate as well. You are better off using that time to write fewer well targeted letters.

2. Try to get hired by the company

Now that you are not sending form letters, do not stop by putting the address of the company in your letter. Although you are going to be an employee of the company and once you are hired there can be possibilities of changing groups, at first it is that one job you will be hired for. Craft your letter so that the hiring manager can see how you will be useful for her/his group. This is particularly true with medium or large companies. If you have other skills the company can use, mention them somewhere in your application but do not let those skills which at this point are secondary overshadow what the person who put that ad out is looking for. See if a hiring manager gets the vibe from your letter that you are better off in another division of the company, why should she spend time training you only to see you go? Put yourself in her shoes. If the hiring manager is kind and you are a very good candidate otherwise, your resume may be passed to another group. But mostly you will just be passed as "not suitable for me".

I understand this can be hard especially for PhDs and postdocs who spent years on a research topic and are too eager to talk about what they did and learned. But what a company cares for is not what you did but what you can do for it. Highlight parts of your story which you think will convince the hiring manager that you are the one to cure their pain.

3. Be very abstract about your research

In grad school you are used to visitors, conference attendees, reviewers of your papers etc being familiar with your work. You get used to speaking in very high level terms and getting understood. Not every one who reads your application in a company is that familiar with your tiny corner in the universe of science.

In addition to what you did, the need for what you did and the broader implications of your solution are equally important if not more important. If you are not convinced about the importance of the question asked and the significance of the solution would you care about the procedures used? You can use the interview to talk more about the details of your procedures and experiments.

In my humble opinion, it helps if someone with a masters degree in your area can understand what you are talking about. Unless you are a big shot in your specialization the default reaction of someone reading and not understanding a description of your work is not "wow this guy is too smart I can't understand him". It is usually "he does not know how to explain himself". And being able to explain technical ideas to non-specialists is a critical skill in industry.

4. Come across uninterested

Yes people need to pay the bills but no one want to think that is why you are responding to their ad or sending a resume through a connection.

People can be trained for skills they are missing. But they can rarely be taught to love a career. So show some enthusiasm. Let people feel you would come with a bright face on Monday mornings. Fake it if needed.

5. Do not list relevant graduate coursework

Yes you come from an environment where the currency is peer reviewed publications. But relevant graduate coursework, especially if you have done a class project to go with it, can give you that extra edge. This seems silly to bring up but I have seen so many resumes like that.

6. Copy and paste phrases from the job ad

This is the opposite of form letters. You so want to convince the company you read and understand the job description that you use their phrases in your letter.

That comes across as unimaginative and plagiaristic. Instead tell your original story in such a way that the reader subconsciously checks on items from the job ad. For example if the job description contained "will give product demonstrations to customers", never write you "like to give product demonstrations". Instead plug in the story of that one semester you were a TA and enjoyed showing kids laboratory procedures. If the ad said "needs to be interdisciplinary", write about the one time you collaborated with a history major to make a presentation on the evolution of flask shapes. You get the drift.

This seems like embarrassingly straight forward but I have seen so many candidates whose publications and work wow me be skipped by hiring managers for less impressive (in the publication/research metric). The culprit seems to be the a poor application. All of the above have probably been mentioned in one way or another in this forum but it would not hurt to reinforce.

Cheers
K.T.
 
Posts: 35
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:31 pm

Re: Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:29 am

K.T.

I apologize for my lack of an immediate response to your post. My wedding anniversary took place on the day you posted, and we've been with family and so on.

What a great post, and such a compliment to all of us who spend time on the Forum. Thank you for not only commenting on the forum's usefulness, but for posting such great reminders and advice for other readers. You are correct on each and every one of them!

I hope your career continues to go well and that the forum remains on your list of frequent sites to visit!

Best regards,

Dave Jensen, Moderator
"One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action." - Lewis Howes
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7875
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby Dick Woodward » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:03 am

KT:

An excellent and very useful post - thank you for sharing your experience with us. Please keep it up.

I think that I speak for all of the advisers and frequent posters when I say that success stories like yours are why we spend our time with the Forum. Thanks again.

Dick
User avatar
Dick Woodward
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby Saranneman » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:09 am

Hi K.T.,

thanks for the very useful post.
I'm also one of the quiet followers of the forum but do feel it's such an interesting source of information.

Your advice indeed seems all very logical and we all might have read it somewhere sometime, but it's good to have it packed together and once refreshed.
I will soon move to the US and will start job applications over there, so your advice will be of great value!

KR
Saranneman
Saranneman
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:03 am

Re: Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby WG » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:40 pm

5. Do not list relevant graduate coursework

Yes you come from an environment where the currency is peer reviewed publications. But relevant graduate coursework, especially if you have done a class project to go with it, can give you that extra edge. This seems silly to bring up but I have seen so many resumes like that.


Thank you this is great advice. I assume you meant
"Do list relevant graduate coursework" for this section above.
WG
 
Posts: 75
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:47 pm

Re: Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby Dick Woodward » Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:42 pm

WG:

This is what is called "tongue in cheek" in the US idiom (not sure if you are US or not) - basically sarcasm. When he says "don't lost relevant coursework" that is something not to do. He means the opposite.

Dick
User avatar
Dick Woodward
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Please don't do this on your job applications

Postby BMK » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:26 am

Dick Woodward wrote:WG:

This is what is called "tongue in cheek" in the US idiom (not sure if you are US or not) - basically sarcasm. When he says "don't lost relevant coursework" that is something not to do. He means the opposite.

Dick


Actually, I just think it's a double-negative; a more tongue in cheek post would have given an exemplar as a joking way of demonstrating what not to do.
BMK
 
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:40 pm


Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: David Lathbury, Teresa and 12 guests