How to Improve Your Laboratory Resume

Leave hiring managers with the best resume and impression so you can get the laboratory job you want.

A quick Google search for “how to write a resume” will return thousands of results, but should all resumes be written the same way? The laboratory environment demands a certain specialized skill set. So, is it any surprise that the ideal laboratory resume needs to be just as specialized?

Preparation is Key

Many professionals in and outside of the lab industry sit down to start writing their resume before they’ve even had a chance to reflect on their own professional past. Remember, a resume tells your story. How can you start writing that story if you haven’t taken a minute to think about the plot points? Before putting proverbial pen to paper, take a moment to perform a self-assessment as follows:

  • What are your specific in-lab skills and abilities? For example, are you a blood bank wizard or a microbiology guru?
  • How much experience do you have? Are you a new graduate or a seasoned veteran? Is your experience relevant to the position you are seeking?
  • Do you have any special achievements or certifications? Did you spend valuable time and resources obtaining extra credentials or training? Were you named employee of the month, year or decade?
  • Why you? What sets you apart from the crowd or makes you more appealing than a fellow applicant? It might be one of the things listed above, or it can be something else.

Obviously, you want these elements to be communicated clearly and concisely in your resume. Taking the time to think about all of the things that might make you attractive to a future employer will ensure that all of that valuable information finds its way onto your resume.

Remember the Ten Second Rule

In today’s fast-paced world, hiring managers and recruiters alike are often under pressure to review dozens if not hundreds of resumes for a particular position. As unfair as it may seem, the individual reading your resume will likely take just 5-10 seconds to determine whether your application is worth further review. Don’t despair—this just means you need to craft your resume with this dynamic in mind. So, what are these hiring managers looking for, and how can you make sure that you are catching their eye?

  • Industry. Does your resume clearly communicate in the first few lines that you possess a strong laboratory background? Consider listing your lab certifications after your name (i.e., Joe Smith, MLS(ASCP)) or add a subheading under your name (i.e., Joe Smith, experienced medical laboratory scientist seeking new opportunities).
  • Sub-specialty. Are you applying for a generalist testing role, but your resume screams molecular testing and nothing else? Make sure that your experience reflects the position for which you are applying. If you feel your current (or most recent) title(s) do not adequately reflect your experience or responsibilities, try to find creative ways to demonstrate that you have the specific expertise requested. This may mean highlighting your specialty-specific experience in a “summary of qualifications” placed above your professional experience.
  • Education and Certification. Education level and specific certifications are convenient means by which hiring managers and recruiters weed-out candidates who are missing fundamental requirements for the position. I am always shocked to see otherwise qualified candidates leave out this basic information. Make sure your education and certifications are easily found in the top half of the first page of your resume. For your educational background, remember to include your specific degree (BS, MS, PhD, etc.), your major and the name of the institution. For your certifications (ASCP, AMT, etc.) or state licensures, it never hurts to have the specific license or certification number listed.
  • Job Stability. Obviously, employers will be drawn to candidates who have shown loyalty and longevity in their previous roles, as this bodes well for their ability to stick with a job over the long-term. However, for travelers or locum tenens lab professionals, it can be tough to list all previous roles without resembling the dreaded “job-hopper.” If this applies to you, consider adding a heading above all of your traveler or contract positions, with sub-headings or bullet points for each particular institution at which you worked during this time. Suddenly, what once appeared as a scattered or shaky work history to a harried hiring manager now clearly reflects your dedication and tenure as a traveler. If you take this approach, make sure to list the traveler agency for which you worked, as well as the total date range for this work.

If you are a good fit for a particular position and take the time to craft your resume as such, chances are you will pass the “eye test” and get a more thorough review from the hiring manager.

Focus on Professionalism and Attention to Detail

Think about what attributes you value most in your laboratory co-workers. I am betting that professionalism and attention to detail rank high on your list. Obviously, this is the same view that will be held by the recruiter or hiring manager reviewing your application. So, how can you make sure that your resume oozes professionalism?

  • Contact information. Consider creating an email account for your job searching activities, and make sure that the email address itself is professional and age-appropriate. No one wants to hire a candidate whose email address is
  • Spelling and Grammar. There are plenty of free spellcheck programs you can use to police your resume, but there will always be scientific terms (or other words) that the dictionary won’t recognize. Make sure to double-check all your writing, or ask a detail-oriented friend to help you review the finished product.
  • Formatting. There are many ways to format a resume, but some general rules typically apply. Document size should be 8.5 x 11 inches with margins between a half inch and one inch. Font size (besides the candidate name at the top) should be 10-14 points, and some acceptable font types include Times New Roman, Garamond and Helvetica. Try to make sure the resume does not appear too sparse or too cluttered. Tons of white space on the page may mean you missed opportunities to include relevant information about yourself. Finally, make sure the formatting used throughout the resume is consistent, including use of punctuation, capitalization and special characters.
  • Search Terms. Particularly if you are posting your resume on a job board, make sure you are using key search terms to help employers find you. These could include technologist, technician, clinical laboratory, ASCP, AMT, MLS, generalist, etc.

Remember, your resume’s intended audience is a hiring manager who will be trying to judge your potential as a future employee. Be sure to leave them with the best possible impression!

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