Tips for Science Majors

Posted on March 26th, 2013 by

By E.W.,  3/26/13

For all of you who are science majors, there are some helpful hints just for you that will help you in obtaining job after college. According to some of the most well-known science companies in the nation including PACE Analytical Services, Kelly Scientific Resources, and Aerotek, the form in which resumes and cover letters should be set up and the an interview conducted differs slightly, but still notably, from a regular job hunt. And knowing these things might be the difference between finding yourself in the “yes” pile or the recycle bin.

First, let’s talk about the resume. Before actually meeting you, this is the only thing that many employers in scientific companies are going to actually pay attention to. And even then, they will probably look at it for about five seconds. According to the companies, if you are applying with only a Bachelor’s degree, you can keep it simple with just a resume; you don’t need to worry about preparing a CV (curriculum vitae). If you maintained a high GPA throughout college (over 3.0), go ahead and list it, otherwise just stick to other accomplishments. Scientific-based companies also prefer to see the tools and instruments you were trained to use. At this point it would be very easy to lie about your experience; however, remember that in an interview it will become obvious as to whether or not you know your stuff. Furthermore, make sure to list any research projects and internships you have done. Lastly, while it is good to put down leadership roles that you have taken, refrain from going into detail; you don’t want your resume to exceed one page. If the employer wants more information, they can contact you or ask you during an interview.

While it seems that almost all of your effort is going into perfecting a resume, make sure to save some for your cover letter. Interestingly, though, some companies, such as Kelly Scientific, are moving away from the traditional cover letters. Nevertheless, it is better safe than sorry when it comes to job searching. Cynthia Favre, Associate Director in the Center for Servant-Leadership, says, “In this case, the letter is a demonstration that you know how to write a business letter, it can be much shorter.” She recommends using the first and last paragraphs as described in the Career Developments resume/cover letter booklet. Make sure to have your letter looked over by someone at the CSL and ready to send with your resume.

When you finally land an interview, make sure that you go into details about what you know or can do. This is not the time to use blanket terms; show your potential employer that you truly know what you are talking about. Another tip is to study up on behavioral based questions. This means that you need to be ready for questions like: Tell me about a time when you were stressed? How did you handle it? Give me an example of a time when you had to persuade team members to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have done? Provide an example in which you have had to bend or break rules. These questions clearly require some thought, and while you can never be sure of exactly what an interviewer might ask, having some done some prep will be very helpful. Lastly, make sure to send thank you note. This point cannot be stressed enough! A representative from PACE said that when he needed to fill a position, he only went back to those who had sent thank you letters. Clearly this is a big deal.

Finally, like any job hunter, you need to make sure that your online presence is going to help you. If you haven’t done so already, make a LinkedIn profile. On LinkedIn, you can upload your current resume, cover letter, and other documents such as publications. Furthermore, you can follow organizations such as American Chemical Society and LifeScience Alley. Also, make sure your Facebook and Twitter accounts are clean (see the Facewash blog for help with cleaning up Facebook).


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