Life Hack for Scientists: 9 Web-Savvy Tips to Get Your CV or Resume to the Top of an HR Search

Life Hack for Scientists: 9 Web-Savvy Tips to Get Your CV or Resume to the Top of a HR Search March 16, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Most of the time when a resume or CV is submitted to an employer online, it gets sorted by a computer system before it ever makes it to a human resources representative. The algorithms used to sort the resumes tend to be unique to the company or to the specific job title. Often they are connected to the job description and whatever key words from that job description the HR staff plugs into the sorting program.

Which means that if your resume doesn’t take into account key words, both general and specific, it may never make it out of the computer program to the HR representative, let alone on to the hiring manager. Here are 9 tips for improving your resume’s chances of getting past the screening algorithms.

9 Tips to Get Your Resume Past the Screening Algorithms
A mix of generic and specific.
State the obvious.
List specific skills.
Cover all variants.
Employer names.
Get to the point.
Include all your information.
Now do it on LinkedIn.

1. A mix of generic and specific.

Paramount Recruitment notes that, “If your employer gives your job a generic title such as ‘Research Scientist,’ make sure you state specifically what your job title/role is. That means you won’t miss out if the filter/search specifically asks for Analytical Chemists or Molecular Biologists.”

Some resume formats use a Career title in addition to subtitles or a one-sentence description beneath it.

For example:

Senior Research Scientist
Project Manager
• Analytical
Assay Developer


Senior Research Scientist
Project manager and analytical chemist focused on assay development in target validation.

2. State the obvious.

A common problem with technical positions is resumes that are extremely technical—which is fine for the department head who’s hiring, but not always that great for the human resources representative screening the resumes. Again, this can be a matter of including general terms and specific terms. For example, if you’re an analytical chemist, say so. But if you have specific experience and/or expertise in HPLC, LC/MS, method development, say so.

3. List specific skills.

Currently, a good resume format includes approximately nine to 12 bullet points typically under the career summary and under the heading, Key Skills. For a research scientist, those often include:


• Analytical Chemistry
• Team Management
• Project Planning & Execution
• Project Management
• Strategic Planning & Analysis
• Troubleshooting
• Assay Development
• Test Validation
• Communication

Hint: If the job description calls for specific skills such as Test Validation, Liquid Chromatography, and Team Management, and you have those skills, include them in the resume.

For technical positions—extremely common in IT-related fields, but also common in other scientific areas—another bulleted list (common at the bottom of the resume after the Education section) of Technical Skills is included. For examples:


• Next-Gen Sequencing
Illumina MiniSeq
Roche cobas 4800/6000
• Illumina NextSeq 550
• Orbitrap Fusion Lumos Tribrid Mass Spectrometer
• Electrophoresis
• E-Gel High-Throughput DNA Electrophoresis System

4. Cover all variants.

Although this section can get out of control, the point is that Next-Generation Sequencing is often referred to as NGS, LCMS, aside from being called liquid chromatography mass spectroscopy, it is also LC-MS, LC-MS/MS and a number of other variants. It’s probably sufficient to say Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy (LC/MS) and leave it at that.

5. Employer names.

The Paramount Recruitment blog notes to, “Make sure you list your employers’ full names (many employers will ask for candidates with experience of certain companies) and again, make sure you use all variants of that name (e.g. GSK or GlaxoSmithKline and, if the company has changed names, use both the name of the company when you worked there and what it is called now (e.g. Abbott Laboratories, now AbbVie.)

6. Get to the point.

In the U.S., a CV or curriculum vitae, refers to the kitchen sink— your full career history, full education, duties, grants, etc. If you’ve taught, it often includes the classes, the committees you’ve been on, and more. A resume is more of a highlight reel, typically two pages long that starts with a brief paragraph summary of your career, Key Skills bullet points, a professional history in chronological order with most recent jobs first, then education, and possibly awards and memberships. If you have a long list of publications or grant awards, it’s best to keep them to Select Publications and Grants and winnow them to a single page for a total of three pages, somewhat dependent on where you are in your career. If you’ve been knocking around for 25 years, your resume may go longer (or not). There’s a lot said about your resume being your “highlight reel.”

There are many excellent examples of resumes online if, like most people, you haven’t seen a lot of them. Or hiring a professional resume writer can be helpful as well.

7. Include all your information.

At least, that’s what the Paramount Recruitment blog says. They’re based in the UK (where they often refer to CVs interchangeably with resumes). They note that resumes should have visa status, contact numbers and appropriate contact times, addresses, locations you’re willing to work in, and salary details.

As a resume writer, I can say this is not typical in the U.S. And although my experience with international resumes is more limited, the salary details aren’t all that common either. (Visa status, however, often is).

A number of candidates prefer to have only their name, phone number and email on their resume, largely because of privacy issues. Some people have concerns about having their address on an online document. This does not seem to be a problem in the current marketplace, although an address will be required on the application.

One thing to remember is to include your name at the very least on every page of the resume.

One other point about international resumes. A headshot on the header is very common internationally—and very rare in the U.S., except on resumes for people in media positions.

8. Now do it on LinkedIn.

Paramount notes that, “Many recruiters are now searching LinkedIn for candidates—so make sure your employment history is complete with all the information stated above and that your profile has a list of your skills and keywords.”

A couple other notes about LinkedIn. The career summary tends to be a little more casual on LinkedIn than on resumes, although it doesn’t have to be. But it can be. Recruiters who are searching LinkedIn are often looking for specific skills, for example, LCMS (or LC/MS), so if that’s a specific skillset you have, make sure you’ve listed it on LinkedIn. And a headshot is typical on LinkedIn. Since this is essentially an online resume/CV, make sure it represents a professional image of yourself—not one of you at the beach or partying at the club.

9. Proofread!

The number of CVs and resumes that go out from extremely well-educated people with typos or grammar errors is amazing. Run spellcheck, re-read it, and have somebody else go over it before you send it out!

And good luck!

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