How to Write a Strong Biotechnology Resumé

Industry Advice STEM

There is good news for job seekers in the biotechnology industry: The market is booming, and there is no end in sight. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biotechnology jobs are expected to grow an additional 10 percent by 2026, meaning the time is right for skilled professionals to break into or advance in the field.

No matter how technically savvy you are, however, if you can’t sell your strengths to prospective employers, you’ll be job searching far longer than you’d like. Your first chance to make a favorable impression with a hiring manager starts with your resumé. Keep in mind, too, an average recruiter only spends six seconds reviewing your qualifications before deciding whether or not to continue. It’s important to spend time crafting a resumé that will stand out to make those seconds count.

While your resumé may differ slightly when applying for a role in academia, for those looking for a role in the industry, here are some tips to develop an impactful biotechnology resumé that will catch the eyes of hiring managers and help you land your next position.


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Getting Started: Should You Submit a CV or Resumé?

There are three major differences between a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a resumé: length, purpose, and format. It’s important to understand these nuances to know which is appropriate to use when applying for a job.

A Curriculum Vitae, which means “course of life” in Latin, is generally several pages in length, and chronicles work experience and lifetime achievements in great detail. It is intended to be a full, chronological record of your working career. CVs remain static across job applications; any differences would appear in your cover letter.

A resumé, however, is typically a customizable, concise document (one to two pages) intended to help a candidate stand out from the competition at a quick glance. It is meant to serve as a targeted list of skills and achievements and is tailored for each application, in order to show a candidate’s fit for that particular role. With resumés, there is no particular format required; they can be structured chronologically or by relevant work experience.

In general, a resumé is the preferred application document in the U.S. and Canada. A CV is appropriate to use when applying for a job outside of North America, or if searching for an academic or research-oriented position. For those looking for a biotechnology role in the industry, a resumé will likely be the right format for you.

Steps for Writing A Biotechnology Resumé

If you’ve decided that a biotechnology resumé is right for you, start out by making a list of all that you’ve done. Include paid work, volunteer experience, research, internships, publications—everything counts.  If you already have a resumé, check to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, and that you’ve added any recent accomplishments. Don’t worry about making the language sound perfect just yet—there will be time for this later.

Tailor Your Resumé to Each Job

Once you have your master list, it’s time to tailor your resumé to each role you are applying to. Rather than hand the hiring manager your laundry list of accomplishments, you want to make sure the achievements that directly relate to the skills they need are highlighted front and center.

For each application, start by reading the job description carefully, noting important industry keywords and prerequisites. Now, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. What types of skills and experiences would you want to see in a candidate if you were the one doing the hiring?

Next, comb through each section on your resume—summary, work experience, research, skills, and publications—and edit the supporting details, highlighting the most relevant experience you have to the job at hand. The goal is to make it instantly clear to whoever is reading your resumé why you’re the perfect fit for the role. As much as you have so much great work to highlight, ONLY include items that will help convince the reader you are a fit for the job at hand.

Include Your Education First

For many roles outside of biotechnology, it’s common practice to bury educational information toward the bottom of your resumé, unless you are a recent graduate. In the biotechnology and related industries, however, education and training are critical for success and highly important in the eyes of the hiring manager. Make sure to include your education, professional training, and any additional industry credentials toward the top of your document.

Highlight Hands-On Experience

In the biotechnology industry, having hands-on experience gives you a huge competitive advantage. Make sure to call out any and all experiential opportunities you’ve been a part of, including research, teaching, mentoring, leadership, and community or industry service.

Also, list any relevant presentations, publications, or patents you’re involved in. Don’t forget to highlight any major industry engagements you’ve participated in as speaker or chair as well. Depending on your level of experience, you may want to dedicate entire sections to research, teaching, publications, etc. Your experience is as unique as you are, so experiment with different formats to find which one highlights your expertise and history the best. 

Outline Your Scientific & Technical Expertise

Make sure that somewhere in your resumé, whether in your previous work experience or in a dedicated “skills” section, you mention your specific areas of industry expertise. Include specific knowledge of techniques, tools, applications, and any technical skills relevant to the position.

When writing a biotechnology resumé, try to strategically add keywords mentioned in the job listing and generally used in the industry. If you are using acronyms, use the full name at least once, to make sure the reader knows exactly what technical keyword you are referring to.

It also helps to do a little research to know what’s most important to the company. For instance, if a company recently shared that they are focused on increased regulatory compliance, including your regulatory skills may serve as an added bonus in the mind of the hiring manager.

Don’t Forget Your Soft Skills

If you are a career changer, this section is critical, in order to highlight your transferable skills. For all others, soft skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration, are still equally important to show you can succeed in the biotechnology industry.

According to a report by MassBioEd, life science companies are becoming increasingly concerned with finding individuals who possess not only the technical knowledge, but the business skills to help implement strategies, develop industry partnerships, and lead a product and/or organization to success.

According to Burning Glass Labor Insight, these non-science specific competencies are considered the most in-demand soft skills by biotechnology employer:

  • Communication
  • Research
  • Organizational Skills
  • Detail-Oriented
  • Problem Solving/Troubleshooting
  • Time Management
  • Business Strategy
  • Project Management
  • People Management
  • Budget Management

Employers are looking for these softer skills as much as technical skills and scientific knowledge to help bring their products to market. On your resumé, try to illustrate how your mastery of these soft skills has benefitted your past organizations in terms of growth, efficiency, and productivity, adding data as “proof” wherever possible.

Highlight Your Achievements

Now, review your work experience section of your resumé. Avoid simply listing your daily duties; instead, focus on your achievements. Start by identifying the major contributions you’ve made in your past roles and develop additional statements to highlight how the contributions benefitted your organization.

To help you get started, think about times in your previous roles when you:

  • Exhibited skills valued in the industry, such as problem-solving, effective communication, or strategic thinking
  • Made a difficult or important business decision
  • Completed tasks without clear instruction or boundaries
  • Trained a co-worker or managed a team
  • Demonstrated leadership
  • Helped an organization improve productivity, cut costs, or increase revenue

Include context with data, wherever possible. For instance, instead of saying “responsible for product development” try “collaborated with sales and marketing team to launch $M product, increasing revenue by XX%.”

Mirror the Language in the Job Description

When possible, use similar wording used in the job description to quickly demonstrate your match between the position requirements and your qualifications. This will be especially helpful if the first person reading your resumé is an HR representative or someone not intimately familiar with the role who may not understand how the words on your resumé relate to the position at hand. Don’t dumb down your resumé, but also don’t assume all readers will understand your technical lingo. It can help to have a non-scientist peer proofread your document to be sure it is readable by a layperson as well as a scientific hiring manager.

Proofread and Review

While English might not be your forte, it’s still important to make sure you double and triple check your spelling and grammar. Even though you may find this an obvious tip, spelling errors, inconsistent tenses, and grammar mistakes are a surefire way to get your resumé tossed aside. Seventy-six percent of executives say even one or two typos will eliminate a candidate from consideration. Careless mistakes like these give the impression that you lack attention to detail—a vital skill for biotechnology professionals. If you’re in doubt, have a friend proofread before hitting send.

Lastly, reread your resumé as a whole, to make sure it tells the story you want it to. Ensure that it clearly demonstrates your ability to effectively apply current research, write reports, evaluate tests, maintain business relationships, and whatever other skills are required for the prospective role. Once again, consider the document from the hiring manager’s perspective, and read through your resumé to see how your “story” flows. Does it make it obvious why you should be a shoo-in for this role? If not, how can you adjust your language so it does?

By following these tips for writing a biotechnology resumé, you can be sure to wow the next hiring manager. You have the skills, now it’s time to market them. To learn more about advancing your career in the biotechnology field, download our guide below.


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