How to write a cover letter and CV for science jobs in the US.

If you are applying for a science job in the US, you should follow certain conventions employers expect from applicants. Although I usually give advice on writing scientific manuscripts, I have been getting queries lately on resumes and cover letters. I am not familiar with conventions for applying for jobs in other countries, but I have seen people applying for jobs in the US without using a cover letter. If you simply send a resume for a job without a cover letter, it is highly unlikely that an employer will respond to you. Introducing yourself with a cover letter is standard practice in the US. If you are not sure about the form of the cover letter, you will need to write a letter in which you point out 2-3 things in your resume that are relevant to the job you are applying to. Also, point out 2-3 things in your personality or educational history that is relevant to this job. You can use phrases like, "As can be seen in my resume, I worked for 2 years as a....".  The cover letter serves as a bridge to connect your general lists of skills and experience found on your resume by pointing out how you are particularly suited for a certain job. 

While it's critical to use a cover letter to point out your skills, work history and expertise, I also believe it is critical to mention personality features that make you suitable for the job. You may be surprised to know that many companies and HR directors are very interested in your personality and whether it will fit in with their team. While it's common for all applicants to have impressive technical skills, not everyone has the right personality for particular companies. Most companies can train you on the job if your skills don't fully match, but changing a personality is much trickier. So if you have the right personality, point this out too. Companies are fearful of hiring someone who is difficult, someone who may make others dread coming to work, so you should reassure them of how your personality is right for the job. Phrases like "I work well in teams", "I am considerate of others", "I am a good team player", "I work hard to be respectful and get along with my colleagues", etc., can be helpful. 

I should also mention that errors in cover letters or CVs, no matter how minor they may seem, are considered unprofessional; consequently, I would polish and improve your CV as much as possible.For expert advice on writing a cover letter for a job in science, I recommend Writing a Winning Cover Letter by John K Borchardt  on Science Careers from Science Magazine. Below is an excerpt: 

The Match
"An effective cover letter doesn't just emphasize your best qualities; it also shows how well those qualities are likely to mesh with the open position. “Applicants should begin by reading advertisements for faculty positions carefully and be sure that their background and goals are appropriate for the position in question. You lose credibility if you can't make a case that you fit the ad,” says Whitmire.“If the cover letter is to be effective, it must definitely be tailored to the particular institution.”
“There's no excuse for not writing a cover letter that shows how your education, experience, and interests fit with what the institution is seeking,” warns Julia Miller Vick, co-author of the Academic Job Search Handbook(University of Pennsylvania Press, July 2001). “Not doing this would reflect laziness,” observes Horvitz. At best, adds Vick, “a form letter or one that is generic doesn't accomplish much and leaves how the application is reviewed completely up to the reviewing committee." At worst, a generic cover letter can make you seem undesirable.
“While many people applying for academic positions tend to think that the review process is an evaluation of their previous work--how good is it?--the issue that is as important is the match," says Whitmire. "How will this person fit in here? The former is necessary, but the decision to interview will often be made upon research area or some other measure of fit to the department's needs at that moment in time.”

For the complete article click on the link below:

For writing resumes (CVs) consider Tips for a Successful CV by Sarah A. Webb, (October 27, 2006) also from Science Careers from Science Magazine:

Here is an excerpt:

Basic CV do's and don'ts (for U.S. audiences)*

  • Include all relevant contact information: address, e-mail address, phone number, cell phone number.
  • Include a comprehensive listing of professional experiences.
  • Proofread for correct spelling and grammar.
  • Use relatively simple and consistent formatting.
  • Organize the document so that a reader can find important information quickly.
  • Use reverse chronological order throughout the document.
  • List all publications in the same reference style.
  • Be sure references are up-to-date and that your references know about jobs you're applying for.
  • Get feedback from colleagues, mentors, and career advisers.
  • Use complicated formatting.
  • Include certain personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, marital status, or number of children.
  • Include information about unrelated hobbies or interests that doesn't show professional experience or qualifications.
  • Pad your CV with extra words or spacing to make it appear longer.
*Standards vary elsewhere, so get local advice.

For the complete story click on the link below:

Also simply do a search online for "form of cover letter" for more information on this topic.

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