How to Leverage the Right Resources to Craft an Effective Resume

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Pictured: Resume being graded and shredded/Nicole Bean for BioSpace

It would likely come as news to no one in biopharma that the industry’s job market is currently a difficult one for candidates. “We are in a saturated job market, and navigating the job search process requires strategic thinking,” said Krystal Hicks, a career strategist and founder of the career counseling service Jobtalk. “Candidates have to stand out from the volume and position themselves as a great candidate.”

Oftentimes, a resume is a candidate’s first introduction to a company and their best chance at making a strong first impression on the hiring team. Candidates can leverage the power of artificial intelligence and human expertise to create a well-written resume and improve their chances of securing an interview.

Getting the Right Resume Help

“There are AI tools that will provide a variety of templates [and] suggest ways to organize the text or improve wording,” said Melissa Lawrence, founder of Your Worthy Career, a career and leadership coaching firm for women in pharma and biotech. According to Hicks, TopResume is one such AI-powered resume generator that’s frequently used by job seekers.

“Common AI applications such as ChatGPT could also be used to build out a resume,” Hicks told BioSpace. Candidates who have a hard time wordsmithing can provide the AI system with prompts based on what they need, she added. As an example, when a candidate wants to draft a summary of their resume, they can develop prompts to represent specific skills such as people management and technical know-how. The AI system generates samples of summaries based on the input parameters given by the candidate. However, both Hicks and Lawrence cautioned that candidates need to review the output of such programs, proofread and edit to eliminate errors and excess verbiage.

AI applications are fast and can simplify the process of resume writing. However, the recommendations provided by AI technology are generic and do not capture the unique experiences of an individual candidate, both experts said. Alternatively, candidates can seek the help of professionals whose knowledge and experience of the job market can guide them from resume creation to job search and interview preparation.

For fresh graduates or other candidates in early career stages, university career services provide free resources to help build the foundation of a resume, Hicks noted. For people with five to ten years of experience who are looking for new roles, including those aiming to transition into leadership positions, Hicks and Lawrence suggested that working with a career coach could elevate an application and offer the strategic framework needed to maximize job search success.

According to both Hicks and Lawrence, one advantage of working with a professional is the human ability to leverage intuition and problem-solving skills. This is apparent in cases where candidates want to pivot in a new career direction. The guidance of a seasoned career coach can help candidates to assimilate their professional experiences and aspirations and develop an individualized plan for their job search process, Hicks said.

“While there are real benefits to working with a person, their background is going to make a huge difference,” she emphasized. The coach’s experiences and perspective will inform their approach, and if someone is providing help with building or editing resumes, they must have experience in recruiting, talent acquisition or HR management, she advised.

The Nuts and Bolts of Good Resumes

“A resume is a compelling sales document, where and who we send it to matters, and we need to tailor it accordingly,” Hicks said. A resume is not simply a record of a candidate’s work history, and an effective resume reflects the position applied for and highlights the candidate’s accomplishments and the impact of their work in their previous roles, both Hicks and Lawrence said. “This includes listing out transferable skills, especially if you don’t have the exact requirements listed on the job description,” Lawrence added.

Job titles can differ from company to company, and Lawrence advised that candidates applying for a job whose title differs from their current one should use the resume to demonstrate how the responsibilities of the two positions are aligned. For example, when a candidate is applying for a managerial position and their previous job title was team lead, they can list out their accomplishments and contributions and align them with the position they are applying for.

Lastly, when candidates use AI technology to build or edit their resume, they should remove fuzzy phrases such as “passionate scientist” or “leader of a high-performing team,” Lawrence noted. “Focus instead on impact and results and back up every claim with concrete examples of how these skills were used in previous roles,” she said.

Don’t Neglect Human Connection

Searching through job portals and companies’ websites for open positions and applying with a well-crafted resume is just one way to go about the job search. According to both experts who spoke with BioSpace, candidates maximize their chances of finding the perfect position when they leverage the power of their professional network. “The biotech and pharma industries are well connected, and 80% of the positions are filled from referrals or relationships,” Lawrence said. Strategic relationship building is an important strategy for finding opportunities in these industries.

Candidates who don’t have a robust network may benefit from joining professional associations such as Women in Bio, Lawrence said. LinkedIn is a great resource to find contacts and build a professional network, both consultants said. Both noted that while using LinkedIn for networking, it is important to align your profile with your resume.

“When you submit an application . . . you are taking responsibility for the truth of everything you have put down in your resume and application,” Hicks concluded. Irrespective of whether candidates used technology or the help of a professional to create their resume, the onus is on candidates to ensure that they present a clear, succinct and accurate document that maximizes their chances of advancing through the hiring process.

Sunitha Chari is a freelance science writer and academic editor based in Toronto. See more of her work at sunithachari.contently.com and reach her at sunithachari.02@gmail.com.

Clarification (March 7): This article has been changed to specify the name of Melissa Lawrence’s company.

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