Career Network for student Scientists and Postdocs at Yale

Creating a platform for discussion of scientific careers

Author: Victoria Schulman (page 2 of 7)

“Why Should We Hire You?”

In any job interview, there are inevitably going to be questions that will stump you. They’ll stump you not because you don’t know the answer or because you’re not knowledgeable, but because they seem like obvious questions that don’t even need to be asked. It’s like asking a race athlete, “Why do you want to win?” Um…? Why WOULDN’T they want to win? Why would they train and prepare for so long if their goal was to lose? It seems obvious, so why bother even asking the question?

However, in an interview, you can’t be so blunt when a similar question arises, such as “Why do you want this job?” Well, you’re unemployed and on the job market – why on earth WOULDN’T you want the job??? Another common question that gets asked in interviews is, “Why should we hire you?” Well, buddy, you invited me to this interview, so you’re obviously interested in hiring me – why don’t you tell me what’s so appealing about me instead?

Clearly, these responses are not what you want to say out loud even though you’re probably thinking them in your head. Regardless, we still have to answer the question, so what should we actually say in response to these types of seemingly obvious questions?

To give an amazing answer to “Why should we hire you,” there are two main things you want to accomplish in your answer:

  1. Address the “we,” not the “me”
  2. Solve their problems

and here’s why…


Address the “We,” not the “Me”

Our natural tendency when asked, “Why should we hire you,” is to start talking about what makes us so great. This seems appropriate since the question emphasizes YOU. However, shifting the focus from ourselves to a team-centered vision that merely includes ourselves is the way to go.

Remember that the company is less concerned about you and much more concerned about the company, so what they’re really asking with this question is, “How can you help us?” and more importantly, “What it is that you can bring to our company that no one else can?”

When you think about the question rephrased in this manner, it becomes easier to answer because it’s not as vague. It’s clear that they want you to articulate your assets in the context of their company.

So when you formulate your answer to the question, highlight your strengths and how they align with the company. For example, let’s say you’re an RNA biochemist interviewing for a pharmaceutical company who has burgeoning interests in RNA therapeutics – and you know this because you’ve done your homework on them – but they haven’t yet launched this research division yet.

Rather than highlighting how skilled you are at the bench and stating that you’re a hard worker who would bring your superior intellect to the company’s research and development (R&D) team, which is a very “me” centric answer, instead focus on how you’ve developed a keen sense of new and emerging trends in RNA biology in recent years and you’re very interested in the company’s vision to move in that direction for future projects. Then highlight how your knowledge base and background would be a good fit for the existing R&D team as the company transitions into this new field of therapeutics.

This is a much more “we” focused answer that is sure to make the interviewer think you are indeed the best candidate for the position over other applicants because you can help the company expand and become more lucrative.

By answering in such a way that demonstrates the match would be beneficial for both parties, you are much more likely to seal the deal. So, although the question seemingly asks about you, assume that it’s asking about them and how they would be better if you joined their team.


Solve Their Problem(s)

Similar to highlighting the “we,” not the “me,” in your answer to the question, “Why should we hire you,” you should also focus on how you can solve any existing problems for the company. This is different from the above-mentioned example in which you could help the pharmaceutical company pave a new path into RNA therapeutics. What this perspective gets at is how you can fix something that is currently amiss, not something that has yet to occur, in the company.

For example, let’s say the same pharmaceutical company is experiencing a high rate of turnover for their R&D scientists, which is inherently slowing down the team’s overall progress. Additionally, let’s say that throughout the course of your interview day, you’ve gathered that there aren’t a lot of career development or enrichment programs in place for the scientists at this company.

Given your background working with CNSPY and/or other campus organizations at Yale that work to provide career development opportunities for scientists, you could highlight that, in addition to the skills you’d bring to the bench, you’d be interested in taking the initiative to form a similar organization at this company to provide enrichment programs for the R&D scientists to improve job satisfaction and overall team morale, which should decrease the rate of employee turnover.

This response is sure to catch the attention of the interviewer for reasons other than your technical skills. As a result, you will become a much more desirable candidate over others who merely have the ability to help the company’s R&D team at the benchtop.

So, when asked, “Why should we hire you,” take this as an opportunity to address how you can solve any existing problems the company may be experiencing. Doing so is selfless and puts the company first and you second. Again, keep in mind that the company has one goal – to improve itself.

Thus, by focusing on how your skills and your background can help the company move forward, either by solving their existing problems or paving the way for them to accomplish their desired future goals, you will have given the interviewer very little reason why they shouldn’t hire you.

This is why it’s so important to 1) Address the “we,” not “me,” and 2) Solve problems for the company. Leave no doubt in their minds that you are THE best candidate for the position, and THAT is why they should hire you!


** Refocus your answer to this common interview question and let us know how your next job interview goes! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

How to Handle Criticism at Work

Guest blogger, Supriya Kulkarni, a member of CNSPY’s Communications Team, shares more of her advice this week about how to accept and handle criticism in a professional manner. She provides some great advice that can be used everyday! Here’s Supriya…


“I am my biggest/worst critic!” We have all either said or thought of ourselves as our strictest critics. Yet, why is it so difficult to swallow criticism from others? We have all had it from our bosses, co-workers, peer reviewers, funding agencies, or job applications. It is difficult NOT to get disappointed at criticism. Negative reviews and critiques can have a significant effect on our professional attitude, and they can impinge on our personal lives as well.

You cannot avoid criticism. However, as amateur and beginner professionals in a research environment, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers need to understand how to face, handle, and convert criticism into a learning experience.

Here are a few tips to help you constructively handle ANY criticism:


1. Take the time to really listen and understand “what” the criticism is about-

It is very natural to become emotional when we hear or read a negative comment about our work or our behavior. However, the more emotional we are, the more convoluted our thinking becomes and our reactions become unprofessional, to say the least. Remember, the critique is about your approach to a specific problem or a response to a specific issue and not ALL of that makes you, YOU. Also, it is a professional critique, NOT a PERSONAL one. Hence, we should not take it personally. Instead, we should listen carefully to the comment and be objective about the point of the criticism.


2. Stay Calm-

Sometimes it’s not the criticism in itself, but the manner in which it is said/written/delivered that appears offensive. Getting riled up and emotional when you hear negative comments/criticism is a part of being human. But remember, in a professional setting, such emotional outbursts (even though silent) reflects negatively on you. Don’t be brusque and offensive, KEEP CALM and STAY STRONG.


3. Ask questions-

Clarify what seems ambiguous to you; it is VERY easy to misinterpret negative comments. By asking for clarity and being objective, you also project a positive attitude and an eagerness to solve the issue at hand rather than just being emotional. Remember, as a young professional, you have a lot to learn! 🙂


4. Determine the accuracy-

The way that the criticism was presented might have been striking or unprofessional. However, try to determine if the criticism (although presented to you in the wrong manner) has value in it. Ensure that the source of the criticism has all the information and is not unaware of important facts related to the issue at hand. If needed, speak with your mentors, friends, and/or family members to assess whether the criticism is valid and get their input on how you can resolve the issue.


5. Do not be hasty in your response-

Again, when criticized, it is a natural and protective reaction to respond and address the comment ASAP, but do NOT rush to explain, clarify, and/or demonstrate that the criticism was incorrect. Instead, digest the comment thoroughly, understand it completely, calm your emotions, and then address the comment. Hasty decisions are many a times incomplete decisions.


6. Address the criticism-

Once you have calmly thought about, understood, and systematically devised a solution to improve based on the critique, ACT on it. When you bring your solution into action, the source/person from whom the negative comment originated will witness the changes you have made and your improved professional approach will be acknowledged tremendously!


7. Do not be afraid to challenge the criticism-

If you go through the process of understanding, evaluating, and re-evaluating the criticism and realize that the person did not have all the information needed, or you genuinely believe that your approach/behavior was correct, or you conclude that the criticism was inaccurate, state your view of the situation assertively, but be respectful and professional while stating it.


Try to apply these tips the next time you hear a negative comment on your professional approach!

** Let us know if these tips were useful in helping you turn a criticism into a stepping stone to success in the professional world, and let us know if you have any additional tips that will help in these situations. Comment below! **


Decoding the Job Description

This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Supriya Kulkarni, who recently joined CNSPY’s Communications Team. Though she hasn’t been with us for very long yet, she is already making a big impact on CNSPY! Join us as we welcome her to the team and launch her first CNSPY Blog Post, which spotlights a recent article on how to decode the job descriptions of job postings. Here’s Supriya…


It is a universally recognized fact that “decoding” a job description and then profiling your skillset against the requirements is probably the most important step when applying for a position. But knowing “how” to decode the job description can be a challenge. It gets more complicated when assessing most important versus the less important requisites (both technical and soft skills included) from a given laundry list (which according to me is a common feature across the cross section of all listings 🙂 ).

David Jensen in his column “Tooling up” in Science Careers, recently published an article entitled, “Learn to read between the lines of a job ad,” that tackles this exact question. Not only does he talk of different variations in the job-ad posting “language” that we see, but also, he speaks of the reasons behind the language thus used. In this blogpost we highlight the components he writes about in his article that applicants routinely come across.

With his first example, he speaks of the most common reason some of us cross out a particular job listing: “PRIOR INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE.” He explains…

A minimum 2 years of industry experience is required. Read as, ‘We’ve been burned in the past by academics thinking that a move to our company would simply be like going on to the next postdoc.’ Why would employers put a minimum experience level like this into their job qualifications? They aren’t interested in helping an academic make the adjustment to industry; they want some other company to have taken that risk. Not everyone is a sure-fire success in industry; that’s why [Tooling Up] exists….”

He further states that as long as you can make a case for your candidacy for such a position by the way of a GOOD cover letter, you should apply for the position, also mentioning that, “Hiring managers will be receptive as long as you appear to understand the differences in culture between academia and industry and have a few industry buzzwords at your command.

He emphasizes that industry is looking for problem solvers and whether you have prior industrial experience won’t affect your standing as long as you can prove with examples that you can and have solved problems before!

The second point he decodes is that of the laundry list of TECHNICAL QUALIFICATIONS many of the job postings have. He writes…

Seeking a Discipline A Ph.D. Scientist with experience in Disciplines B, C, and D, as well as hands-on experience with Techniques X and Y and a thorough knowledge of Technique Z. Read as, ‘We’re tossing in everything but the kitchen sink because we’re in no big rush, and we might as well reach for the moon because we haven’t really figured out the job yet.’ This happens frequently: A company that hasn’t completely thought through what it is looking for throws together an impossible-to-fill profile to test the market. This is all the more common these days, because companies can experiment with ads on various online boards for so little cost. These laundry lists of skills result in what I call ‘pinpoint hiring.’ Back when I got into the recruiting business, seeing an ad that said, ‘Ph.D. cell biologist needed for growing biotech company’ (or ‘microbiologist,’ ‘biochemist,’ etc. …) would be fairly common. But in the years that have passed, employers have added skill after skill to their requirements so that the opening now exists on the head of a pin. Increasingly, there are no more broad areas of need in the sciences; there are only pinpoints.

In this case, David Jensen bids us to identify “the core area of expertise” and establish our competency through our CV and cover letter, but he does not discount the fact that the employer might be seeking an individual with all the mentioned skills who can begin contributing ASAP. He also indirectly alludes that a 60% technical skills match is good enough to apply to a position with such an exhaustive list.

Third, he points out that the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS for a job can be equally confusing, especially when accompanied by prior work (industry vs. academic) experience.

Requirements include a Ph.D. with 5+ years experience in cell biology or biochemistry, or a M.S. degree with equivalent experience.” He explains, “Read as, ‘We’ve got a Ph.D. opening here, and that’s the way we’d like to fill it, but we’re required by human resources to show respect to those few Master of Science-level employees who have reached the scientist ranks at our company.’ I’m sorry to be sarcastic, but every time a client company sends me a Ph.D. scientist assignment that says ‘A master’s is OK, too,’ I find out later—after hours of interviewing a few M.S.-level candidates—that this isn’t the case. Despite what those ads say, for an R&D leadership position, the Master’s degree holder has to work her or his way up in the company, a process that differs at every employer but one that takes years and numerous hurdles. (Note that this is not the case in manufacturing operations, quality control and assurance, and other technical positions where M.S. degree holders go right to the top.) Now, with what may first appear like a slight change of wording, this ad can mean a great deal more opportunity for the Master’s graduate. For example, consider ‘M.S. or Ph.D. required, with emphasis on cell biology and biochemistry.’ By rearranging the order of the preferred degrees, employers show that their intent to consider M.S. candidates is indeed serious. In fact, the ‘or’ part of the statement says to me that the M.S.-level applicant is exactly what’s at the core of this need and that Ph.D. holders applying for this job could easily be seen as overqualified.”

Lastly, he points out issues with RECRUITING FIRMS job ads. He writes…

ABC Recruiting Company has a position to fill for a $50 billion market cap client in the pharmaceutical sector. Please forward your CV to us at … Read as, ‘We’re using a blind ad in hopes that referencing a company without name will allow our Internet trolling effort to pick up leads for our candidate database.’ This is a common ploy used by some recruiting firms to expand their universe. Think about it—why would employers not want to use their names in ads? I suppose some ultra-secret plans for research might require confidentiality, but those odds are low. Most of the time, employers want people to know that they are hiring—it is good PR!”

He suggests sending a one-page bio-sketch instead of complete resume into what he calls “the black hole of blind ad,” which will compel the hiring company to communicate with you directly in case they are seriously interested and hence you would retain control over the whole process.

Interestingly, he mentions that job ads have shown “declining value to employers“ and hence companies now rely on talent acquisition teams that “identify and recruit candidates directly within the social media platforms that we use every day, in almost every aspect of our lives.” Hence, make sure your LinkedIn and ResearchGate profiles are updated regularly!

However, he says, “the business of finding a job requires attention to be paid to every single element in the process, and job ads will remain one of these elements for some time to come.”

To read the full, original article, click here.

We hope these guidelines will help improve your job description decoding skills and allow you to highlight your eligibility for any given job posting in the best way possible!


** Use these strategies in your next job search and let us know how it goes! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

Think Outside the Box

Throughout life we are taught that there are certain ways of doing things. This is how you tie your shoes. This is how you treat others. This is how you apply to graduate school. This is how you write a resume and submit a job application. Etc.

However, sometimes these standard methods of accomplishing goals have to be challenged because they don’t work anymore. While there may still only be one way to apply to graduate school – i.e., submit an application via the website – this is not necessarily the case for job hunting.

Yes, there is still a website or a link from which you can submit a job application, but as we’ve discussed countless times here on the CNSPY blog, submitting a resume into the black hole of online job application sites is truly a shot in the dark. Networking, however, can greatly increase the chances of having your resume make it to the top of the pile of the hundreds submitted. This is one way to beat the system.

This is precisely why networking is so important. If you simply applied for the job as per protocol, you’d never get seen amidst the pile of many, many, many equally qualified candidates. In this regard, networking is a way of thinking outside the box. It’s a way to get around the system and directly get in touch with the people you are trying to reach.

However, networking is a very simplistic example of “thinking outside the box,” and sometimes networking isn’t enough. Despite our best efforts, we may still fall short of reaching our desired contacts. So what do we do? Sometimes we have to think further outside the box.

The further outside the box our efforts are, the more likely they are to get noticed and thereby get us noticed.

This week’s blog post features a girl named Nina Mufleh who used a very non-traditional route to secure a position at her target company. She wanted to work for Airbnb, but her countless job applications to the company were all met with silence or rejection. Considering that she had moved from the Middle East to San Francisco and gave up a great job working for the Queen of Jordan to come work at Airbnb, she wasn’t going to give up so easily.

So she got creative.

She created a website where she posted not only her resume, but also what she saw as the company’s strengths and weaknesses, highlighting areas that she felt the company could grow substantially. In building her website, she mimicked the style and formatting of the Airbnb website to “speak their language” and organized all of her thoughts for growth and improvement in a series of Powerpoint slides that she posted directly on the front page of the website. The conclusion slides to her website presentation identified why she belonged at Airbnb and exactly how she could help move the company forward in these new directions given her background.

Once the website was completed, she then used Twitter and social media to put this website presentation right in front of the CEO’s face. She tweeted the link at him, and his curiosity got the better of him. He clicked on the link, started reading, and was very impressed!

She was later called in for an interview.

See her creative resume on her website and read the Twitter conversation that got her the interview she was after here.

Although her resume and presentation looks as though it took her a long time to put together, she admits that it only took her about a week to gather all the research and make the short 12-slide presentation. Then she had a friend and former colleague help her set up the website itself. So it really wasn’t THAT much additional work – she would have done that same research anyway prior to a job interview to make sure she was prepared.

Her creative attempts to think outside the box caught the attention of not only the people she was trying to reach, but also those at other companies. Uber and LinkedIn also noticed this stunning resume and report and called her in for interviews to join their marketing departments. Read more about this here.

This highly innovative strategy showcased her abilities and put her resume in front of countless people. Less than two weeks after her tweet, her website had over half a million hits and the resume itself had been viewed 14,000+ times. This is insane when we think about how we’re usually hoping one person sees our resume once when we submit a job application online!

Clearly her unique strategy worked, and not only did she land the interview she wanted, she also received a number of other interviews with competing companies, which turned the tables. She was no longer seeking out one company; many companies were now seeking out one person – her! Talk about negotiation power! As a result, she ended up getting a much better job than she had ever bargained for with Upwork.

This story is obviously one in a million, but it highlights that thinking outside the box and using the tools at your disposal can help you beat the system. The goal in any job search is to stand out. Nina clearly stood out amongst the rest not only for her unique approach, but also because she clearly displayed talents that others likely didn’t have, which made her a very desirable hire.

The goal of today’s post isn’t to encourage you to launch a similar campaign in order to secure your next position – although you could certainly go that route if you wish. The point we’re making here today is that you shouldn’t be afraid to think – and then step – outside the box to get your application materials in front of the right people. Following protocols may work for your Western blots, but it won’t necessarily work for your job search because the online application process is largely a broken and dysfunctional system.

As a scientist, you are inherently creative and think of news ways to achieve goals all the time. All you need to do is learn how to apply this creativity to your job search strategy to help you stand out as the best candidate and get noticed by the people who make the hiring decisions at your desired company. So start thinking!


** Share your thoughts on other creative ways to get noticed! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

How to Cold Connect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great resource for job seekers because it can be used to expand your network without actually attending a networking event. LinkedIn allows you to connect with total strangers and begin a dialogue that may lead to a great job opportunity. However, as great a tool as LinkedIn is, if it is not used properly, your efforts can completely backfire on you.

When you’re searching on LinkedIn and find someone at your target company, some may reactively hit “Connect” in efforts to begin a dialogue. However, this rarely, if ever, works. Why? Because it is a completely cold connection with no context. The person receiving the connection request not only has no idea who you are, but also no idea why you are contacting them. Thus, they are more than likely going to ignore the request altogether.

To avoid getting dismissed, it’s important to customize your connection request.

Similar to the way in which you would customize a cover letter for a job application, a LinkedIn connection request should be equally customized. To do this, take advantage of the optional message box that accompanies a connection request prior to sending it.

DO NOT use the standard message that LinkedIn automatically provides: “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” This is the equivalent of not saying anything at all and just clicking the “Connect” button.

Instead, compose your own message stating that you’d like to connect despite never meeting. More importantly, explain WHY you’d like to connect, and, as usual, a little flattery goes a long way, so include a brief note of admiration in your message, too. Finally, keep it short. There isn’t much space allotted for this message, so you’ll need to be as concise and direct as possible.

In terms of message content, depending on what your goal is, there are many different approaches you should consider taking when deciding exactly how to customize your connection request. Here are some examples below:


1) The Experience Approach

One way to customize a connection request is to highlight that the person’s background is what caught your attention and that you’d like to learn more from their experience.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for top editors at Science. I’m really impressed with your background and would love to learn what drew you to the company. They are very innovative in their editorial content! Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

This is a great way to highlight Jack’s accomplishments without obviously trying to flatter him with fluff words (i.e., “your work is amazing,” “I really admire your work,” etc.). This message also acknowledges that you do not know each other and later gently asks for permission to connect instead of just sending a request with the assumption of connecting. Finally, the most important aspect of this connection request message is that, instead of overtly stating that you are looking for a job at Science, you are simply requesting to learn more about the company.

This should put Jack more at ease, thinking that he can help by providing genuine information, instead of feeling pressured to help you find a job. No one likes to feel used, but more often than not, people are willing to offer thoughts and advice if you ask nicely. 🙂


2) The Project Approach

With this type of connection request, you fixate on a certain item or project in their LinkedIn profile that is related to something you’re doing. In this way, you’ll be highlighting something the two of you have in common, which usually makes it easier for them to agree to the connection because connecting makes logical sense.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for people with successful experience managing projects that involve XYZ software. I just started using this technology and was hoping to get your thoughts on its usefulness. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

This message concisely highlights exactly why you’d like to connect, and it implies that you admire the person because you are seeking their expert advice on the topic. Moreover, if this software/technology is specific to a certain field, Jack may view the connection as mutually beneficial.

In other words, for example, if the technology in question is a new type of genome sequencing software that is only used by a particular scientific field of study, you’ve unintentionally highlighted that you and Jack work in a similar field and that you could potentially collaborate on future projects together; thus, Jack may be more willing to accept your connection request for his own reasons of personal gain.

Finally, notice the subtle hint of flattery included here with the use of the word “successful,” which will likely sit well with Jack when he considers connecting with you.


3) The Perspective Approach

Similar to the Project Approach, asking for someone’s perspective on a new innovation or a novel finding is another way to highlight that you share mutual interests.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for top scientists in the field of structural biology. I was interested in getting your perspective on the new methods of X-ray crystallography that were recently published in XYZ journal. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

Alternatively, you could ask about the changing market trends if you are seeking a connection from someone in a non-academic position.

“Hi Jack, 

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for scientists at top pharmaceutical companies. I was interested in getting your perspective on how the newly imposed FDA regulations affect Research & Development efforts at companies like yours. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

In either situation, you’ve clearly stated that you are merely seeking their expert opinion. Whether or not you actually have ulterior motives in requesting to connect (like inquiring about a job later), asking for someone’s advice does not actually convey “I want a job at your company,” or “I want to do my postdoc with you.”

Of course, after the initial contact and some dialogue, you can certainly move the conversation in that direction, but up front, you’ve simply flattered them by seeking their expert opinion. Not to mention the use of the word, “top,” also adds a bit of flattery to your message as well.


4) The Respect Approach

This is the type of angle to use when the person you are trying to connect with is MUCH further ahead of you in their career (or much higher ranking than you) and the connection would seem odd or out of place at first glance.

“Hi Jack, 

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was trying to find experts in clinical research. Given that you’ve been conducting clinical trials and writing on the subject for 25+ years, I was hoping we could connect so that I could learn more through your work.

~ [Your Name]”

Clearly there is a significant age disparity here if you are a graduate student or a young postdoc, so emphasizing that you appreciate Jack’s career’s worth of work is not only respectful, but also flattering in itself because it indicates that you’ve done a little homework on him.

Given that your target connection is much older and likely much busier than you, it may be more difficult to connect with them and seek their advice, but it’s always worth a shot, and you can’t go wrong with the Respect Approach.


5) The Mentor Approach

This connection request is a form of “thank you” because you first explain how the person’s work has taught you something valuable for your career and/or professional development. In essence, you are appreciating them for what they’ve done for you, whether or not they realize the impact, if any, they’ve had on you.

“Hi Jack, 

We’ve never met, but I’ve been following you on LinkedIn, and your advice has really helped me understand the business aspects of scientific consulting and develop an interest for this career path. Your recent piece on sustaining client relations was the best yet! Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

This message conveys admiration and appreciation for Jack and highlights that you’re interested in learning from him, not necessarily asking him for a job. Again, that could be your ultimate goal, but don’t start with that at the forefront of your professional relationship. People are much more willing to offer advice and help than they are to bend over backwards to help someone they don’t know get a job, and simply making the connection is more important in the beginning – you can always steer the conversation in a particular direction later. Thus, always go the route of asking to learn rather than asking for a job or a connection to a hiring manager.

Additionally, taking the Mentor Approach is a humble way of acknowledging that you have a lot to learn before you can even dream of asking about potential job opportunities. It tells the other that you know your limitations but that you are eager to learn and improve.


6) The Interview Approach

This type of connection request is posed as more of an opportunity for the person you’re trying to connect with. Asking for a quote from the person for a blog post or an article you are writing is a great way to begin a dialogue with someone. However, you must then actually write the piece! You can’t just say you will and not follow through on that promise – that would look very bad for you!

This may constitute more work for you, especially if you were really trying to connect for different reasons, but this is a great way to make it easier to connect up front. From there, you can nurture the relationship and later turn it into a viable lead for job prospects.

For example, after writing the piece, you’ll undoubtedly want to write to them again to give them a copy of the article or give them the link to your final piece. This gives you a great excuse to rekindle the connection and strike up more dialogue with the person that possibly doesn’t pertain to the article or blog post at all. And given that you did something nice for them, perhaps this next conversation could, in fact, lead to a new opportunity or job prospect for you.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but I’m writing an article for the CNSPY blog/Newsletter, and I wanted to get a quote from you regarding careers in Pharma. I’ve been following your work, and I think our readers would really appreciate your perspective. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

First of all, this message poses as a completely selfless act. It’s as though you are not searching for any personal gain whatsoever: A) you’re reaching out to Jack to benefit your readers, not you (at least not necessarily), and B) you’re doing Jack a favor by featuring him in your article. At face value, there appears to be no gain for you, which makes others, like Jack, feel less used.

Additionally, being asked to provide a quote or be featured in an article is flattering in itself. You could have picked a number of other people at a number of different companies from whom to seek a perspective, but you chose him. How flattering! By asking him to provide insight, you’ve implied that, of all the options, he is the one you admire most and view as THE expert. Who wouldn’t want to accept that kind of flattery and recognition? Very few… very few. That’s why this approach is so successful.

So, if you’re stuck or feeling intimidated about the idea of cold connecting with someone, consider writing a piece for a student organization or your own blog to be able to start making connections in this way. It’s a very strategic move that works really well! Trust me, I would know! 🙂


Overall, cold connecting with someone on LinkedIn is not easy, but taking any one of these approaches will make you much more successful at securing a new connection than simply clicking the “Connect” button on someone’s profile page. Depending on why you are contacting the person, one approach may be more successful than another, so it will take some thought on your part to figure out which method will be best for a given individual.

However you decide to connect though, just make sure you include a few key points in your message:

  1. State that you’ve never met. This addresses the figurative elephant in the room and makes the connection less awkward, even though it is inherently a bit awkward by nature.
  1. State WHY you want to connect. Without a reason, you will get nowhere fast.
  1. Add a subtle touch of flattery – it goes a long way! But the emphasis is on ‘subtle’ here. Don’t be overly obnoxious with flattery, as this tends to come off as disingenuous.
  1. Ask to connect. Don’t assume the connection will simply come just because you reached out. Asking for permission is always a gentler way of getting what you want.
  1. Be concise! You don’t want to flood your message with too many words or details. Not to mention, LinkedIn won’t allow long connection request messages, so choose your words carefully and be concise!

Take these tips to heart and apply some of the approaches described above and you’ll be able to grow your professional network quickly by cold connecting with people on LinkedIn without ever leaving your desk! No networking events required!


** Customize your cold connection requests on LinkedIn and let us know how it goes! **

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Hate Networking? Give the Speech

The main reason so many people hate networking is because small talk can be exhausting. Before you can make any progress on what you’re really after, you undoubtedly have to start with the simple “hello’s” and “what do you do’s.”

It’s a form of professional etiquette that must be adhered to. Imagine someone walking up to you and starting with their main objective… “Hi, can I have your card so I can talk to you about a job at your company?” If you were the company representative, this opening line would immediately shock you, and you’d be left thinking, ‘wow, that’s bold, and I totally feel like I’m being used.’ Newsflash, you are being used.

This is why the small talk is essential. It creates a soft opening and introduction and gives the two people a chance to learn more about each other before either party dives in to help the other. Importantly, the small talk portion of the networking conversation gives each person the chance to assess the other and decide whether or not they WANT to help the other person. This is why small talk cannot be skipped.

However, the small talk is often the most exhausting part of networking. This makes sense because it’s much easier and quicker to shoot off an email and ask direct questions, whereas nurturing a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship face-to-face with someone you barely know is far more difficult and taxing.

But what if there was a way to avoid the small talk altogether? This would certainly make networking less challenging. Well, while you may not be able to completely avoid small talk, there IS indeed a way to significantly cut down on the amount of small talk you’ll need to do at a networking event…

Give a Speech at the Event

This may seem counterintuitive – i.e., if you shy away from the one-on-one small talk, why would you want to address the entire room all at once? – but by giving a speech (or the speech) at an event, you do yourself a huge favor, and here’s why:

1) Everyone in the room already knows who you are by the time the networking portion of the event begins if you speak earlier at the event. Thus, you can avoid repeatedly introducing yourself to everyone you meet, which saves time and mental energy.

2) You can get to the meat of the conversation much faster since you no longer have to introduce yourself. Skipping the introductions and a bit of the background small talk lets you get to the heart of the conversation more efficiently. In this situation – when the other person already knows who you are – it is much easier to dive right in and ask more direct questions about what it is that you really want to get out of the conversation. This is beneficial for both parties.

3) You won’t have to repeat yourself all night because, again, everyone already knows who you are and little bit about you, so you can skip the “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I work on XYZ [and proceed to explain XYZ].” Repetitiveness leads to mental exhaustion, which is one of the reasons why so many people hate networking, so decreasing this mental exhaustion, by not having to repeat yourself as much, will make networking less taxing.

4) People will seek you out, so there is less searching to do on your part. Think about it… if you’re at a networking event and a speaker inspires you or sparks some interest for you, you’re specifically going to target them in the networking portion of the event. Thus, if YOU are the speaker, or one of the speakers, the attendees will naturally come to you. In this case, you may not have to go far – or move at all! – during the networking event to meet the people you’re interested in meeting.

5) You inherently showcase your personality and demeanor when you give a speech; thus, recruiters and other potential network connections know before they officially meet you whether or not you’d be a good fit for what they are looking for. One goal of small talk is to get a sense of someone’s personality to check for good compatibility, but if you’ve already demonstrated your personality before you meet someone, you will be able to get to the heart of the conversation faster because there is less need for small talk and personality assessments.

6) You naturally set yourself apart from the others in the room by putting yourself in the spotlight and speaking. With a level playing field of intelligence in the room (i.e., everyone has, or is getting, a PhD), anything you can do to set yourself apart will serve you well when it comes to networking and finding a lead for your next position. By stepping into the spotlight, recruiters and other potential network connections will inherently view you as slightly more important than the rest of the attendees who may have the same, or similar, credentials as you.


Regarding networking and small talk, these are some of the key benefits of speaking at an event.

Although it can be overwhelming to think about speaking at an event, keep in mind that you don’t have to give the keynote speech. In fact, doing so probably wouldn’t draw a great crowd especially if you’re a graduate student or postdoc amongst a sea of similarly qualified jobseekers.

However, you don’t have to give the keynote speech to accomplish the goals stated above; you can simply give a short speech at the event. For example, volunteer to introduce the keynote speaker or the panel of distinguished guests, provide a 5-minute overview of the event’s agenda, give a short presentation on behalf of a student group, or advertise upcoming events, initiatives, and opportunities for eligible attendees.

Any way that you can get in front of the audience, briefly introduce yourself, and speak about something is a great way to cut down on the amount of small talk you’ll need to do in the networking sessions that follow the feature presentation. So don’t shy away from the opportunity to address the audience, and, in fact, you should try to find ways to create that opportunity for yourself!


** Don’t be shy – speak at the event and let us know how the networking portion goes for you! **

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The One Skill You Need: Ambiguity Tolerance

With a PhD, it’s understood that you’re smart enough to handle any job you face. What sets you apart from the competition are your “soft” skills – i.e., people management, self-directed discipline, communication skills, etc. Often it’s these soft skills, not your intelligence, that will make you successful in your next position. This is true for both academic and non-academic positions, although soft skills are certainly weighed much more heavily for non-academic positions.

Amongst these soft skills, there is one skill that is rarely discussed that is arguably THE most important skill you’ll need in ANY job. What is it? Ambiguity Tolerance.

Ambiguity tolerance is the ability to accomplish a goal when that goal is completely undefined and vague.

You may be wondering how on earth you could possibly complete a task successfully when you don’t know what that task is, however… as a scientist, you already have this skill. 🙂

When you join a lab, you know you need to find a research project, discover something new, and ultimately publish your findings, but at the start of that journey, many scientists have no idea what that project will be or where it’ll take them; yet, they are often successful in completing this task. Sure, your PI may want you to investigate a certain pathway or follow up on a lead from some preliminary data, but there is very little direction involved, especially if you’re a postdoc. Being successful when the task is vague and unclear is exactly what ambiguity tolerance is.

Here’s an example of ambiguity tolerance in a non-scientific scenario:

Jeff Selingo, award-winning columnist and best-selling author of College (Un)Bound and There is Life After College: Navigating Your Time in School So You Are Prepared for the Jobs of Tomorrow, shares the story of his first job interview after graduating from college. He had applied for a job as a journalist for a local newspaper in Wilmington, NC, and the interview did not go as he had expected… Here’s Jeff:

“The managing editor of the newspaper picked me up at the airport, and after a quick lunch, he dropped me off on Front Street, the historic main thoroughfare along the banks of the Cape Fear River. He told me to go find a story.

It was a Friday afternoon in late August, and I had to report and write the story by 5 pm. I had never been to Wilmington before, I didn’t know anyone else in town, and I didn’t have a car. All I had was the notepad and pen the editor kindly gave me. For the next several hours, I roamed the streets talking to business owners, local residents, and tourists. I eventually found a story – about a tourism campaign the state was undertaking after a close call with a hurricane – and filed it on time.

But as the editor later told me, the article itself was not the test. It was my reaction when he dropped me off – he wanted to see what I would do in an unfamiliar situation. Other job candidates, he said, either panicked and asked for a specific assignment or they figured out how to get the job done. He wanted employees who could cope with the unknown on a daily basis.

As artificial intelligence increasingly makes many jobs obsolete, success in the future will belong to those able to tolerate ambiguity in their work. Too many recent graduates, however, approach their job descriptions the way they did a syllabus in college – as a recipe for winning in a career. They want concrete, well-defined tasks, as if they were preparing for an exam in college, but ‘Excelling at any job is about doing the things you weren’t asked to do,’ said Mary Egan, founder of Gathered Table, a Seattle-based start-up and former senior vice president for strategy and corporate development at Starbucks. ‘This generation is not as comfortable with figuring out what to do.’” (Original Article)

Jeff highlights a very important point – that, unlike standard classes, there is rarely a syllabus for each semester, season, or quarter of the year for a given job. There may be certain overarching goals the company or institution wishes to achieve, but the way to get there is rarely, if ever, defined. However, employees are still expected to accomplish these monumental tasks.

Ambiguity tolerance and seeing these tasks as challenges, not obstacles, is what will set one employee, or job candidate, apart from the next. As a professional, you are given the job so that you will be the one to figure out how to accomplish these goals for the company/institution. If the path were clearly defined, as Jeff alludes to, a computer or a monkey could do the job. Thus, the ability to embrace ambiguity and achieve goals without knowing the steps involved to get there is the most important skill that you can bring to the table in any job interview.

Work to hone this skill by accepting new challenges with gusto and volunteering to help with new projects, specifically those that are new and different to you. For example, your range of “projects” could include taking on a brand new research project or starting a new project based purely on a literature search to something as diverse as offering to plan a meeting/small conference or host a seminar speaker without having ever reserved a meeting space, booked a caterer, or organized an event requiring pre-registration before.

Any task/goal that would require you to step outside of your comfort zone will be valuable practice in tolerating ambiguity. You will then be able to speak to this skill in the future and perform under pressure if your next job interview takes on an interesting and unexpected format.


** Learn to tolerate ambiguity. Take on new challenges and let us know how it goes! **

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Make Every Meeting Count

We’ve all attended boring, seemingly useless meetings before and, yes, many meetings are a colossal waste of time, but some bosses feel more productive when they schedule meetings. Even if the meeting is circular and truly doesn’t accomplish anything, some managers still swear by them.

This can be incredibly frustrating at any stage in your career. Whether you are just starting out and have to attend a number of meetings to “learn the ropes” and “get your feet wet” or if you’re more advanced in your career in a more senior role and have to attend a number of meetings with subordinates to oversee their progress. Even as a graduate student, some meetings you have to attend can be a waste of time.

In all of these situations, we’re left feeling drained and stressed because the meetings can be mentally exhausting AND they keep you from getting your other work done during the day. Often, we feel that we’d be MORE productive if we just skipped the meeting and focused on the day’s tasks.

However, meetings should be viewed as a chance to advance your career.

Meetings are a great place to present fresh new ideas, respectfully question a broken system, suggest ways to improve efficiency or save money, volunteer for tasks and projects that give you the opportunity to showcase your talents to your higher-ups, get involved in new initiatives, and actively demonstrate that you’re a team player.

Particularly if you are new to an organization or are a lower-ranking employee in a large group of coworkers, actively participating in meetings that the boss attends is the quickest way to get noticed.

So don’t approach meetings with a “just get through it” attitude. Instead, find ways to perk up a stale or boring meeting that accomplishes nothing. This will go a long way with your bosses and higher-ups, which facilitates a chance for you to move up in the company or the ranks, and if you’re still in graduate school or your postdoctoral fellowship, active participation in meetings can improve your boss/PI’s opinion of you. This also goes a long way when other PI’s are present at these meetings, too.

Bottom line: If there are people at your meetings that you rarely get to interact with one-on-one, use these meetings to showcase your strengths and intellect to these individuals because you never know when they might be able to put in a good word for you (or write you a recommendation letter in academia), and if they ever have the opportunity to recommend someone for a promotion or an award, you definitely want to be the first person who pops into their minds.

So, how do you become more involved in meetings, especially boring meetings? You have to chime in and speak up. Figuring out what to say and when to say it can be tricky, and this can take some practice. So, to start participating more, begin by trying to speak up once or twice in a meeting – just say anything! Once you get comfortable speaking at all, then try to strategize your thoughts and inputs to accomplish a certain goal within a meeting.

As you become more comfortable participating in meetings, work to become a major influencer at a meeting, not merely a participant. After each meeting, assess your performance and identify areas in which you could improve. Start by asking yourself these 10 questions:


1) Was my attitude energizing or deflating?

2) Was my body language positive or negative? (See our previous blog post that discusses how body language can get you noticed in a meeting.)

3) Did I ask great questions?

4) Did I generate new ideas?

5) Did I use data to back up my points?

6) Did I encourage or engage others with my suggestions?

7) Did I listen to other people’s thoughts effectively and build on them?

8) Did I successfully influence the group to come to a key decision?

9) Did I successfully help the group identify action items necessary to move forward?

10) Did I truly contribute in a positive way and leave everyone in the meeting feeling good about my participation and my attitude?


These questions will help you identify specific ways in which you can become a more active meeting attendee and shift your status from mere participant to influencer. As an influencer, you will be more highly regarded and respected within your place of work, which can certainly work in your favor when it comes time for promotions and/or awards or recommendations for other opportunities.

So don’t be a passive attendee at a meeting who simply occupies a seat in the room. If you were invited to the meeting (or told to attend), be an active part of the meeting. Don’t let it be a time-waster. Use the time efficiently and use it to your advantage. Recognize that sometimes it’s the simplest of things – like speaking up in a meeting – that can make the biggest difference in your career.


** Start participating and speaking up in meetings and share your success stories with us! **

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Revitalize Your Job Search

After a while, we all get into a bit of a rut. It’s inevitable, especially when months of job searching and application submissions leave you empty-handed and jobless. Job hunting can be a draining and mentally exhausting task, and if you are about to graduate or about to run out of funding for your fellowship, it can be stressful to have nothing to show for months of work and searching while the clock is quickly ticking down.

But it’s a fresh new year, and with that comes resolutions. Resolve to revitalize your job search by taking on a completely new strategy this year!

When most people begin a job search, they start by searching databases of job postings – i.e., Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, Nature Jobs, Science Careers, etc. Once they find a few listings that seem applicable or interesting, they write a cover letter and submit a resume or CV. And then they wait…. And wait…. And wait…. And probably NEVER hear back.

This can be demoralizing, and sometimes very intelligent people can internalize this rejection and feel as though they aren’t good enough or aren’t skilled enough to get a job. Then more panic and desperation ensues…

Recognize that the problem isn’t you – It’s the system.

Although this sounds like the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” excuse that people use to end dating relationships without hurting the other person, in this case, it’s true. It’s really NOT you, it’s the system – it’s broken, and arguably unfixable at the moment.

The black hole that is the online hiring funnel is intense and only about 25 people out of every 1,000 people who see the job posting will ever get connected to a hiring manager. The remaining 975 people will hear nothing but silence in return.

A report by Talent Function Group and Ere Media shows that out of every 1,000 individuals who see a job post, 200 will begin the application process, 100 will complete the application, 75 of those 100 resumes will be screened out by either Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) or a recruiter so only 25 resumes will be seen by the hiring manager, 4-6 will be invited for an interview, 1-3 of them will be invited back for a final interview, and 1 will be offered the job.

And also note that there are hundreds of applications submitted for each job posting.

With these numbers, you might have better luck winning the lottery than getting a job by submitting online applications, especially when you consider that ATS – a computer program that looks for specific keywords in your resume – throws out a number of well qualified candidates simply because of the way their skills are worded on their application materials.

Thus, if you want to get a job, you have to beat the system. You have to get around it because playing the numbers game is a shot in the dark in most cases.

So, how do you do this? How do you get around this ineffective system?

Instead of playing the numbers game, you need to play the people game.

With so many applications that are merely words and names on paper, no one stands out and it’s mostly an even playing field. So how is a recruiter supposed to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of seemingly identical applications to pick the best candidate? Plain and simple, they can’t. It’s an impossible task, and because it’s an impossible task, anything or anyone that stands out automatically gets the upperhand.

So how do you stand out? You meet them. You talk to them. You make sure that you’re more than just words and a name on paper. In other words… you network.

If a recruiter or a hiring manager can meet the person on the piece of paper and get to know their personality and interests, they are better able to make an informed assessment of whether or not that candidate would be a good fit for the team. This is the most critical part of the application process, but this is never stated in the job listing.

ATS will automatically screen out resumes that don’t fit the job description (and also some that do fit unfortunately) based on whether or not the words found in the application materials match the words found in the job posting. Although this software eliminates a large number of applications, the recruiters still have hundreds to sift through, but the ones they must sift through are all equally skilled as per the job criteria. Once that playing field is equal, it comes down to personality and who will be a good fit for the team, but you can’t gauge personality from a resume. This is why networking is so important.

In addition to personality, recruiters also want to gauge your commitment to the team. Are you specifically looking to join THEIR team or do you just want a job – any job for that matter? But again, you can’t gauge commitment and desire in a resume, so once again networking is key because interacting and communicating with recruiters is how you become a person, instead of just an applicant on paper.

So take an (inter)active approach to online job searching so that your application gets pulled to the top of the pile of hundreds of equally skilled applicants. Here’s how to do this in 10 steps:

1) First, define a list of employers you want to work for.

Instead of using the “spray and pray” method in which you submit your resume to as many job applications as possible and just hope for the best, do your homework and identify a list of companies that you genuinely want to work for. Then focus your energy on these companies only. A deeper investment in a few companies will go a lot further than a surface-level investment in numerous companies.

2) Research the company and identify what impresses you about the products/services/business model they have.

Continue to do more homework and dig deeper. Find out as much as you can about your selected companies and identify exactly WHY you want to work for them. Is it because you like their products? Is it because you like their mission? Perhaps you like their goals but think there is a better way to achieve those goals – make a note of this and be ready to discuss it (respectfully!) when you finally meet a recruiter in the firm. Whatever the reason, know exactly WHY you want to work for these companies. This will be very important during your interactions with those who currently work for the company.

3) Determine why you think their product/service/business model is worthy of respect.

After you identify what you like about the company, reflect on why you believe it has a worthy mission or business plan. In other words, now that you know why YOU like the company, identify why you think OTHERS (i.e., customers, clients, etc.) would like the company. Sometimes this aspect of “why people like something” seems obvious, but often, it’s hard to verbalize and articulate this part of the ‘why,’ so take a moment and really think about it to come up with an intelligent answer that shows you did your homework.

For example, if you want to work for the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) for Parkinson’s Research because you have a relative who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and the mission of the MJFF is important to you, it may seem obvious that others might feel similarly, so why should you have to think about this so much?

Well, every company, foundation, and institution has a different philosophy. If they didn’t, there’d be no need for different groups. They could all just work as one giant conglomerate if that were the case. Thus, what this point is really getting at is why the APPROACH is appealing. Why would others choose this company over its competitors.

In the MJFF example, benefactors may choose to donate to MJFF because their granting awards business model doesn’t merely give a research group the full amount of the award up front. Instead, after earning a $1,000,000 award, MJFF only gives the group $250,000 (let’s say) and withholds the rest until the group reaches certain research milestones. If the group doesn’t reach those milestones, the rest of the funds are funneled back into the grants budget and awarded to another, possibly more productive research group. With this business model, donors may feel that there is greater accountability and that their donations will be spent more wisely. This is a key distinction that sets this foundation apart from others, which may encourage donors to donate to MJFF over other Parkinson’s Research non-profit organizations.

Explaining to a recruiter that you think this is a wise and respectable approach will go a long way in your pursuit of securing a job with MJFF. Giving this type of rationale, instead of saying that the mission is close to your heart, shows a much greater commitment to and investment in the particular company in question.

4) Reach out and connect with people who work at these companies and start a discussion around their products/services/business model (NOT a discussion about job opportunities!).

After you’ve done a sufficient amount of homework, start talking to those who work at your target company. Importantly, DO NOT talk about job opportunities!!!! Instead, start showcasing your investment and dedication to the company by asking about their products, mission, business model, etc. Ask for clarification about the way they operate or how they acquire new clients. Talk about the direction of the company: where it came from and where it’s going in the future. Be genuinely interested in the company, not a job opening at the company. Showing interest in the company first will encourage current employees to begin a dialogue with you. If you simply start by asking for or about a job at the company, the employee may feel as though they are merely being used to get a foot in the door – which in most cases would be true. But before you do that, ask about the company first to earn their trust… see point #5.

5) Earn their trust first so you can seek their insights later on what it takes to get hired by this company.

With every dialogue you begin, the goal should be to earn the employee’s trust, not ask about a job opening. As mentioned in the previous point, if you start out with questions about employment, they may feel as though they are just being used (which they are!). Instead, if you build a rapport with them and get to know them and their company better, it is much easier to segue into a conversation about future employment with the company, and in some cases, they may even start that conversation for you! It’s not uncommon for someone at a company to mention that, “you know, if you’re interested, there may be an opportunity for you,” if they feel that you have the right skills and personality fit for the team. However, they won’t know this without first getting to know you.

So earn their trust first. Begin a dialogue about the company, ask intelligent questions, showcase your interest and your personality, and THEN move the conversation towards possible job openings. And note that this last step won’t be accomplished in a matter of minutes – it could take weeks or more after your initial contact. Be patient and don’t rush it, or you might ruin your chances. Nurturing a relationship takes time.

6) Get referred into the company directly by someone who works there or is connected to someone who works there.

As mentioned in point #5, you may get to a point in your discussion where the current employee brings up job opportunities. This is great! In fact, this would be the ideal situation because it means that they are basically recommending you for a certain position, and 80% of jobs are filled via referrals. After they get to know you, having them refer their hiring manager to you and your application is a much better way to get noticed by a company. As stated earlier, this gives you an edge over other candidates because you are not merely a name and some words on a piece of paper. You are a person with genuine interest in the company and a great personality. In essence you are the package deal, so work those initial conversations such that the person with whom you’re speaking ultimately refers you for a position.

7) Get fast-tracked to an interview.

After getting recommended for a position, speak to the recruiter or hiring manager and work the conversation so that you land yourself an interview. Keep in mind that you don’t have to play hardball or be overly aggressive here because you have already gotten around the online application system and ATS. You are one of the golden 25 out of 1,000 who is in contact with a hiring manager, so your chances of getting the job have skyrocketed! Since you haven’t yet met this person and all they are going off of is the recommendation from their colleague, be sure to showcase your personality and your interest in the company for the reasons stated above. This will demonstrate to yet another person at the company – and one with hiring power! – that you are a great candidate for the position.

8) Nail the interview because you can share how you feel connected to the company’s products/services/business model (see how important point #2 above is?).

Next, you want to nail the interview, but because you have done so much homework on the company, both on your own and by talking to current employees, the interview should be a breeze. It should merely be a confirmation to the higher-ups that you are a true reflection of the recommendations they’ve heard about you from their colleagues. Just be yourself, be engaging, ask great questions, show genuine interest, and smile throughout the day, and you should do amazingly well. For more on mastering your job interview, see our previous blog post series on Interviewing: Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3.

9) Follow-up and say your “Thank You’s.”

THE most important thing about the interview is the follow-up. After you’ve spent the day with potential future coworkers, thank them for their time, appreciate them for the insights they gave you, and wish them well for the rest of the week, weekend, or at their next big event – yes, reference something specific if it came up! This could be a meeting they’re about to attend, a son’s weekend football game, or a family trip coming up. Mention it and give your follow-up email a personalized touch.

Additionally, make sure you follow-up with EVERYONE: the people you met that day, the recruiter who set up the day, and the employees with whom you initially began your dialogue way back when you were just “asking questions” about the company. (This aspect of following up is also discussed in the Interviewing series, Post 2).

10) Get the job offer and start a new, better job with a company you essentially CHOSE to work for!

With this approach to job searching, your chances of the securing the job are immensely improved. In fact, this type of targeted approach is proven to decrease the amount of time it takes to find a job according to a report by the Career Advisory Board of DeVry University. So once you get that job offer, CELEBRATE!! Great work!! Now go enjoy the beginning of your new career. 🙂


The Take-Home Message: Stop applying blindly to online job postings. Revitalize your job search by actively seeking out employers and getting to know their employees. Then get yourself referred for a job at your target company! 🙂


** Approach your job search with this new, targeted strategy and let us know how it goes! **

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What You Should Keep and Cut on Your Resume

One thing that academics have a hard time doing is converting their multi-page CVs into one-page resumes. Not only can it be upsetting to delete years of hard work from your impressive list of accomplishments, but it can also be very difficult to figure out which ones to keep and which ones to cut in the CV-to-Resume transition.

To help you create this shortened version of your accomplishments, ask yourself the following questions:


1) Does this experience/task/responsibility relate to the job description?

The cardinal rule when it comes to writing resumes is to ‘tailor your resume to a particular job.’ So, naturally, one question you should ask yourself is “does this item/experience/bullet point relate to the job description?”

Start by comparing your CV to the job description itself. Highlight everything on your CV that is directly relevant to the skills and requirements listed in the job posting. Then, take everything you just highlighted and add it to your resume, leaving the other items and bullet points behind.

It’s possible that this exercise will leave you with a multi-page resume. Even if it’s still shorter than your CV, you’ll need to cut it down further. Sorry :-/

Once you’ve transferred everything that’s relevant, start going through the list again and this time prioritize the activities that made the first cut. List the MOST relevant items and experiences at the top of your resume and continue to prioritize your way down the list to the least relevant (of the relevant) items. Whatever doesn’t fit on the page should ultimately get cut.


2) Could I potentially do something similar in this next role?

After you’ve identified the experiences you will include in your resume, you should then apply the same logic as before to the bullet points within a given role. Ask yourself if a certain task is – or is similar to – something that you could do in the role you’re applying for.

For example, if you’re applying for a position as a teacher, you should certainly keep the bullet points that highlight any guest lectures for undergraduate or graduate courses that you’ve given.

What may be less obvious is that, if you are applying for a position as a Safety and Compliance Officer at an institution, you should also list this teaching experience. Why? Because demonstrating that you can effectively teach something to a group a people – whether it’s an organic chemistry lesson to undergraduate students or a laboratory safety-training program to a group of new employees – is vital for this job application.


3) Was this a big responsibility within the role?

The other thing to consider when debating whether or not to keep a particular bullet point is the importance of a specific task within a role.

For example, if you’re applying for a position in Science Communications, you may opt to keep your role as the President of a student organization on your resume, but between the following two bullet points, one is obviously less important than the other:

~ Planned and produced monthly podcasts broadcasted to over 5000+ members of the Yale community

~ Organized and ran weekly board meetings

Clearly, the first bullet point is a big deal and certainly worth mentioning, especially on an application for a position in Science Communications, but the second bullet point really adds little to no value (for this job application). If you can plan and execute successful podcasts delivered to an entire campus, it’s pretty much understood that you can organize and run a weekly meeting with approximately 10 people. This second bullet point is merely a waste of space on your resume – cut it.


4) Do I state this elsewhere on my resume?

Speaking of how precious resume real estate is, the next thing you should ask yourself is whether or not things are duplicated on your resume. Since you only get one page, do not waste any space with redundancy.

This can be tricky to manage because perhaps you have two experiences that are very relevant to the job you’re applying for, but for the most part, your duties in those two experiences are essentially exactly the same. You certainly don’t want to eliminate an entire experience/previous employment from your resume if it’s relevant, but if all the bullet points beneath that experience would be the same as those stated elsewhere on your resume, those bullets are a waste of space. So what do you do?

A general rule of thumb is to include the most relevant tasks and responsibilities under the most recent experience. The thought here is that if you are currently doing (or have very recently done) that task, it is fresh in your mind and you are likely aware of any new trends and technologies associated with that task.

So then the question is what do you do about your other experience? Leave it blank with zero bullet points? No, certainly not. Instead, list other skills that are not duplicated in your most recent experience to demonstrate that you have a variety of skills. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you are a postdoc applying for a position in Industry R&D, and one of the criteria listed on the job posting is project management skills. Clearly, you’ll want to list your graduate career and your current postdoctoral work on your resume for this application, and as the ‘manager’ of your research project(s), you could potentially list this skill in both places, but you shouldn’t take up precious resume space with redundancy.

What you should do is list the project management skills under your postdoctoral experience because A) it’s the most recent, and B) the connotation is that postdocs have more independence than graduate students so listing project management skills under your graduate experience doesn’t carry as much weight as it would if it were listed under your postdoctoral experience. Then, for your graduate experience section, find and list another relevant skill that would not only be relevant for the job application, but also highlight a skill that would be desired in that new workplace. See below:


Postdoctoral Research Associate

Yale University School of Medicine

~ Successfully managed a highly collaborative inter/national team of scientists, clinicians, statisticians, and students to identify genes mutated in specific cancers; pivotal findings will be/are published in top-tier journals, including Nature.


Graduate Research Assistant

The University of Amazing Students

~ Developed novel methods of permeabilizing embryos to facilitate high-throughout screens of small molecules to identify potential therapeutic candidates for the treatment of XYZ disease.


In this example, the applicant maximized the space on his/her resume by not repeating similar accomplishments, even though there was most certainly a degree of project management that occurred during his/her graduate experience. Additionally, considering that the applicant is applying for a position in R&D, the bullet point included in the graduate career section is HIGHLY relevant and will likely make the candidate stand out amongst the competition.

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what to include or discuss when the obvious choices would be redundant or irrelevant. This exercise can take some brainstorming, but as a scientist, there are plenty of transferrable skills that you already have that would be perfect for this section as long as those tasks and responsibilities are phrased strategically. For more on this topic, see our previous blog post on how to Rethink and Reshape Your Skills.


5) Is this just really amazingly impressive?

The last thing you should ask yourself about something you’d like to include on your resume that may not be directly relevant to the job posting is whether or not something is just downright impressive. If it is, then it should be included; however, if you are the only person who finds it impressive (yes, take a poll!), then it should not be included.

This is clearly a very subjective question, which is why it’s important to make sure that other people find the accomplishment in question impressive. Unfortunately, as amazing as it is, publishing three Nature papers in three years and getting selected for an invite-only talk at the International Conference of Awesome Scientists isn’t going to cut it. Yes, those are impressive, but they are not what this question is getting at.

What this question refers to are the unique, impressive awards and accomplishments that VERY few people ever accomplish. For example, if a method you developed received a patent, or if you were named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” (30 amazing people under 30 years old), then regardless of what the application is for, these items belong on your resume because very, Very, VERY few people ever achieve these honors.



These five questions will help guide you as you convert your CV into a resume. Of course, keep in mind that every person and every situation is different, so what works for someone else may not apply to you. Additionally, you will likely have to repeat this exercise for each job application because, again, we want to tailor the resume to a specific job listing – a resume submitted to an application for a position at a biotech company should obviously contain different content than one submitted for a position as a high school science teacher.

Finally, once you have restructured your accomplishments into resume format, have others read it and provide feedback. Sometimes, what we view as impressive or relevant may not be perceived that way by outsiders. This could be because of the way it’s worded or perhaps it’s really not relevant at all. So, importantly, ask your proofreaders why they would cut something that you deemed essential for your resume. Based on their responses, either reword an experience or responsibility to make it fit the job description more closely or revisit these questions to further evaluate whether or not something should be included in your resume to make the next draft even better.


** Ask yourself these questions and share your job application success stories with us! **

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