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NEB Podcast Episode #13 –
Interview with Hiring Experts: Tips for Landing Your New Science Career



Transcript

Interviewer: Lydia Morrison, Marketing Communications Writer & Podcast Host, New England Biolabs, Inc. 
Interviewees: Melonie Dodaro, CEO, Top Dog Social Media; Regina Naboshek, Human Resource Manager, New England Biolabs; Fiona Stewart, Product Portfolio Manager, New England Biolabs


Hi everyone, welcome to the Lessons From Lab and Life podcast. I'm your host, Lydia Morrison, and I hope this episode offers you some new perspective. Today we're talking about how to look your best to a new potential employer. Job hunting can be stressful, and there's a lot of competition out there, so how are you going to stand out to PIs, to recruiters, or to any potential employer? I spoke to LinkedIn expert, Melonie Dodaro, about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile, so that potential employers can find you. Thanks so much for being here today, Melonie.

Thanks for having me, Lydia.

I was hoping that you could share with us a few tips for our recent graduates of graduate school, recent PhDs or Masters students, or post-docs who are looking to move on with their science career. What sort of tips and tricks can you offer to help them really stand out on LinkedIn?

Great question. LinkedIn's definitely the place that they want to be if they're looking to find their new opportunity, and it's really important to stand out. There's well over half a billion people using LinkedIn. The good news, most of them use it really poorly. So outstanding isn't actually as much work as one might think. You start off with had a really great profile picture. A nice clean photo, just of your face, headshots essentially.

So no favorite pets?

No pets, no family photos, no action shots, just a nice, clean headshot. You can also take advantage of the prime real estate that's available right at the top of your profile, which is where you can add a custom cover photo. This might be sharing a little bit about yourself personally or professionally. It visually enhances your profile. And then the next thing the people are going to see is the headline, so your headline lets ... you want to capture people's attention with that, so share a little bit about who you are, what you do, what you're looking for. It could be keyword optimized.

I think if you're looking for a new position, a lot of times, recruiters and employers are going to be looking for things based on keywords, so looking at all opportunities that you have to get found for the specific role that you're looking to find, and your headline is an important place to insert those specific keywords that you want to be found for.

Absolutely. What about using humor in your headline?

I strongly recommend against humor. Just because it doesn't always translate well in the written word. And not everybody has a sense of humor, so we want to make sure that it's going to resonate with everybody.

Okay, we talked about profile photo, cover photo, and headline, what's next?

Next is the summary section. When somebody's in your profile and really wanting to learn more about you, they're going to click that summary section. The first three lines are going to be visible, and then they're going to click show more, so it's really important that you capture attention in the first three lines. But essentially the summary section allows you to share a story. Why did you follow the path that you followed? Was this something that was always ... that you're interested in, or did something happened to shift that desire. Really highlight accomplishments in that section. Any kind of volunteer experience, any kind of experience that you have at all, and really showcase it. Also showcase what it is you're looking to do.

Maybe, for each person it might be different. You're looking to obviously land a science job, but for what reason? Something bigger than that. What's the purpose behind it? Is there a mission? Is there something driving you to really make a difference, and really outline what that specific job looks like for you, so that ideal job and what you're looking to achieve and accomplish. Also remember that this is a great section to include those keywords that you want to be found for. Wouldn't it be nice if your ideal employers were able to just easily find you on LinkedIn when they were looking for a position that you would fit? That's what you want to take advantage of.

Having said that, you can't just sit around and wait, but sometimes that might happen. A lot of times it might happen. So take advantage of that, and then of course, be proactive once you've got a really great profile to start you. Connect with people that could essentially help you in your career development, and your career pursuits.

If you are feeling like you're starting to sit around and wait, are there some proactive things that you could do? Should you be doing your own research in LinkedIn, thinking about labs that you might want to join, or maybe making connections with people who you know are members of those labs?

You should absolutely be doing that. I think that one of the best ways to do that is come up with a wish list of employers. You write down, maybe it's the top 10 employers, and then look at who works at those companies. You don't necessarily need to go right to the hiring decision maker. You actually start in some other areas and start to get to know people a little bit. Maybe have some conversations with them, watch what they're sharing on LinkedIn, spark up conversations and just get your foot in the door with some of the people within an organization.

That could then also potentially put in a good word for you, even if it's maybe a week or a month down the line. Connect with several people within an organization that you're interested in to look at ... like I said, created that wish list, that top 10, or top 20, or top 50. It depends on where you are and what you're looking for.

How to List Education on a Scientific Resume

And what sort of details do people want to make sure they include in their educational section?

The education section is important, especially with the specific role that you're looking for. Highlight everything that you possibly can in terms of education, including the accomplishments within the education themselves. Certifications and so forth, and then there's another section that you want to add, which is the accomplishments section. Within the accomplishments section, there's subsections. There's publications, certifications, awards and accolades, a number of different other sections. So incorporate as much as you can, and really have a complete, robust profile highlighting every single achievement that you've done.

If you've done presentations for example, you can include those. You can also include multimedia in your profile. So rich media. Within your summary section, within your experience section, you can have those. You can share videos, so if you done presentation, you've got some clips of that. You can put that in there. You've got some posters, you can add those.

Perfect. A PDF of your poster would be easy to add, sort of some additional meat to your educational section, and give some really specific examples of the kind of work that you've done.

Absolutely, and one of the things that you could do is if you've done a lot of talks, or you've got a lot of posters from different events and so forth, you can actually assemble them in a PowerPoint and make it a SlideShare presentation. And then upload that.

That would be really neat. That would allow someone a more multimedia communication than just looking at your CV.

Right, it's more like a portfolio.

Oh, fantastic. Thanks so much for being here today. There are certainly some tips that you shared that I will going back and implementing in my own profile.

Now you know how to make your LinkedIn profile look professional, and reflect your experience. And by doing those things, you'll also be maximizing the probability that employers or recruiters will find you when they're looking for the perfect candidate to fill a position. Now let's move on and talk about how to make your application stand out. I also spoke to Gina Naboshek, a member of the NEB Human Resources team, about what our HR teams looks for in applicants.

Hi Gina, thanks so much for being here today.

Thanks Lydia, I'm excited to be here.

How to Craft a Resume for Science Jobs

I was wondering if you have any tips that you could share with our listeners about how best to put their resume together, or how they can really make their application stand out to HR and to the hiring manager.

Great question. The idea of updating a resume or potentially starting from scratch can be an intimidating and daunting process for most candidates. The biggest tip that I can recommend to someone looking for a change in their careers, or perhaps to start a new one, is to think of your resume as a story-telling document. Your resume should clearly and concisely tell the story of you. This will help hiring managers understand why you're the right person for the job.

Think about what makes you stand out. It's extremely important to be yourself during the application process. Don't hesitate to show who you are, your likes and interests, what makes you unique. While this requires some professional discretion, it could ultimately be the thing that sets you apart from other candidates. To pull that all together, I would recommend that candidates think about the specific job that they're applying for, and really tailor each resume to that role. It's not uncommon to meet a candidate and find out that they have more relevant experience that they just forgot to list on their resume. This is really your opportunity to tell the hiring manager why you are the best candidate and fit for their role.

Do you have any quick tips that you could offer our listeners about how to set up their scientist resume?

Sure. There's really some nuts and bolts that go into a resume. That would be keeping it to one page. I know that doesn't always apply, so specifically scientific resumes, they include various publications, and they often exceed one page. Also, try to avoid spelling and grammar errors. I cannot encourage enough that proofreading, have a friend read that before you submit it in, watch your tense, and avoid first person pronouns. From a formatting standpoint, it's really important to stay consistent. Keep it organized and visually appealing.

There should be a logical structure to your resume. You should keep context where you can regarding your experience. When sending your resume in to an employer, you should probably save it as a PDF. Make sure you clearly label the document. This saves time for the recruiter as well as the hiring manager when they're forwarding along your resume.

Plus it maintains the format of your resume, so if they're opening say, your Word document in another program or something like that, things can shift, but saving it as a PDF will really save the look and the formatting that you worked so hard on.

That's correct.

Scientist Cover Letter Tips

Let's talk now about the cover letter. Are scientist cover letters still important, are people still providing cover letters with their applications?

You know, there are so many different opinions on cover letters, and I suppose that in some instances, cover letters may not be expected or needed, but I wouldn't say that's necessarily the case here at New England Biolabs, or for my personal experience or opinion. While cover letters includes some extra work from an application standpoint, this is really a candidate's opportunity to stand out to the hiring manager.

It's your opportunity to formally introduce yourself to the hiring manager, to highlight your relevant skills and experiences, and it's really that opportunity to in narrative form, to tell the hiring manager why you instead of numerous other candidates, are a good decision for that role. Cover letters also provide the candidate an opportunity to explain away any possible concerns seen on the resume, such as gaps in employment, or the need to relocate. I would say that not including a cover letter would be a missed opportunity for a candidate.

STEM Career Websites

What STEM career websites would you recommend that scientists look at when they are seeking a new position?

More often, we're seeing candidates apply for our roles through sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn. We often post roles to MassBio, Genome Web, Science, as well as other niche sites, depending on the role. I would encourage applicants to look for the companies they are most interested in working for, and go straight to their sites. You'll find a lot of information about the company and their benefits, in addition to seeing current open roles.

So if someone's looking for a job at New England Biolabs, where should they look?

You should go to the career section of our website at NEB.com to locate our current opportunities with full job descriptions. You can apply directly online to any of our open positions, and I would encourage potential candidates to take a look and apply.

Thanks so much for being here today, Gina.

Thanks Lydia, I really appreciate it.

So now you know how to make your application be the type that gets called in for an interview. Now you have another opportunity to impress your potential employer with your knowledge and skills firsthand. How are you going to do that? I talked to my colleague, Fiona Stewart, who has been part of a team interviewing potential hires here at NEB for over a decade. Hi Fiona, thanks so much for joining me today.

Hi Lydia, my pleasure.

Top Tips for Science Job Interview

I was hoping you could share with our listeners what it is that you're looking for when you're interviewing someone.

It's a mix of having the technical, the experiential requirements that we need for the particular role, and also having the right personality to be able to perform the job well and to, especially in customer facing roles, to be a good representative for the company, and to be somebody our customers would be happy to interact with on a regular basis.

New H3 Header: Common Science Interview Questions

What sort of questions do you ask when someone's interviewing with you for a science job?

In addition to questions that will probe about background, technical experience, scientific experience, marketing experience, I'll also ask a fundamental question about why did you apply for this role. What about this job interested you? I find the answers to that question generally quite enlightening. There's often a broad spectrum of responses to that question.

But what I'm looking for is somebody who really knows why they're there. Why they're in this interview. What led them to apply for the job and why they think they'd be well suited to it, but also why it's a good for them at this point in their career, whether that's early in their career or whether they're later in their career.

I think that's really important, thinking about whether you'd be a good fit for the company, and whether the company would be a good fit for you. I know when I've previously interviewed, I like to think of interviews as also an opportunity for me to interview a potential employer. Is it important that someone has done background research about the company, and knows some things, that has some questions prepared to ask?

Absolutely. I certainly wouldn't expect a candidate to know every single thing about the company and every single thing about every product in the product line that might be related to the role that they're interviewing for, but I do expect some reasonable level of knowledge about both.

How to Stand Out in a Science Interview

What makes somebody stand out in an science interview? Are there particular things that they can do during the interview that make them more memorable?

Again I would say having a very clear idea about why they're there, about why they think the role is a good fit for them, about why they're interested in the company, as well as why they think that they would be good for the company, an asset to the company, but especially in customer facing roles, I'm looking for somebody who I think our customers, our collaborators, would enjoy interacting with, and so for me that means I want to be essentially enjoying the interview situation. It's certainly not a normal situation, it's a somewhat artificial situation, but I want to be enjoying the interaction to some extent.

That makes sense. I can remember interviewing someone and asking him the question, what would you do if you felt overwhelmed in the position? And his response was, "well, I'm not really looking to be overwhelmed." Which is not the right answer to that question. There is a right answer to that question. Can you tell our listeners what the right answer to that question is?

I like to think on the spur of the moment, I'd be able to say that being good at prioritization is the key there. And also having a good manager to be able to help you with that prioritization.

I think that makes a lot of sense. Have you ever been in any scenarios where there's more than one interviewer, someone joining you to interview an applicant?

Yes, and I actually find that quite helpful. It can be very informative to see how the candidate interacts with more than one interviewer. It can highlight any biases that the candidate might have. That doesn't happen too often, but it has happened occasionally, so it's also helpful in terms of keeping the interview flowing when you've got two interviewers who can fill any gaps or ask follow up questions, bring in their different strengths and backgrounds to the questions that they're asking the candidate. So I actually find that extremely useful.

So, an interview candidate should be cognizant, to make sure that they're equally addressing questions from both of the interview parties.

Absolutely.

What to add to the Resume Experience Section

My next question is, do you ever ask someone to just walk you through their scientist resume and cover their accomplishments and experience that way?

I do. I find that very useful also, even though it's all written down in the resume, hearing a candidate speak themselves about their career to date, their different jobs, their career path to date, is really helpful. They will highlight what's been most important to them, what's been most helpful to them in career development, and again, thinking especially of customer facing roles, how somebody describes an experience with a former employer that maybe wasn't 100% positive, can be really useful to hear.

Again, there can be a range in how people will address a situation that was maybe perhaps difficult or didn't end as well as anybody might have hoped. So I do find it very useful to have candidates walk me through, essentially through their resume, but you can also think of it as walking me through their career to date.

I believe those are called learning experiences.

There you go.

Thanks so much for joining me today. I'm sorry to have flipped the interview questions on you for a little bit. But I really appreciate your insights.

Thank you.

Well, now you know how to stand out online, in print, and in person. I wish you every success if you're currently job seeking. You never know. The next great opportunity could be just around the corner. I hope you'll join us for the next episode, when we'll be talking to the founder of Reforest the Tropics, a non-profit organization providing carbon offset through the replanting of tropical forests in Costa Rica.

 

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About your host:

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Lydia Morrison
NEB Marketing Communications Writer

Lydia is a scientist by training and a communicator by nature, and has a knack for asking one too many questions.

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