Formatting a Scientific Resume

The first step to writing a good resume is to completely understand the skills and qualifications needed for the job. When describing your work experience, reference specific skills needed for the job or research that you have gained at other positions.nAs a general rule of thumb, start all sentences or bullet points with specific action verbs. For instance, "Chased fish to exhaustion" is better than "Used a bucket to chase fish."

When constructing your resume, include all of your education in the first section. Next add your work experience. Your most recent relevant position should come first, followed by the next most recent. Separate from work experience should be section for accomplishments, accolades and awards. This section should be used to showcase non- work related acheivements like scholarships and research grants, or any pertinent certifications you may need for the job you are applying for. You can use this section to tell the hiring supervisor anything you have accomplished that you are proud of, and gives you a leg up on the competition. 

When formatting your resume, use size 10 or 12 Times New Roman or Arial font. Do not use the first template that pops up on microsoft words; visuals and fancy, colored fonts are not necessarily a great idea. Your resume should be professional and neat, not flashy. Do not include personal headshots or photographs with your resume.

When compiling your work experience, you do not need to be completely comprehensive; your experience making pizzas when you were 16 may not be very relevant, unless it gave you a crucial skill that the employer is looking for. Make sure your work experience, education and especially your contact information and address are updated promptly if they change. Further, it is a misconception that fisheries resumes need to be under a page long. They should be as succinct as possible, but do not leave out important experience or acheivements in an effort to keep the document to exactly a page long. 

Formatting Cover Letters

A cover letter is your chance to convince your prospective employer that you are the perfect fit for a job. Each cover letter should be written specifically for the job you are applying for, so do some research on the organization you are applying to, and cater your cover letter to the specific skills and duties of the position. 

Your cover letter is submitted with your resume, so it should not simply repeat everything your resume displays. Instead, take experiences that may be mentioned on your resume and expand on them, relating them to the duties of the position. 

Use the first paragraph to succinctly introduce yourself, naming the job title/ position. The middle paragraphs are the body of the letter, and should describe why you are qualified for the position. Discuss skills and experiences– again, do not simply regurgitate your resume! Indicate what would make you an asset to the employer, and describe why you are different from all of the other applicants. Your background reading on the position will come in handy here– tell them why you think the job is an important one, rather than telling them how it would be personally fulfilling to you. In the final paragraph, thank the employer for considering you for the position, and give the best way to contact you. 

Make sure not to sound like you could do the job better than them– they are the experts, so make it clear that you are excited to learn what they have to share!

Follow this link to view an example cover letter for a fisheries positon.

Interview Success Tips

Before interviewing for any fisheries position, you should do your homework. Learn as much about the position as you can before interviewing. This involves carefully reading the job announcement as well as researching the employer and organization. You can find this information either by going online or talking to professors, other univseristy faculty or peers who may have worked for the organization. Do more than just skim the job announcement. The more you know coming into the interview, the better chance you have of getting the job. You may also want to read a paper or two related to the work you will be doing, as you will likely be asked questions regarding the research behind the position.

State government agency fisheries positions will generally see you interviewing in front of a panel. The hiring supervisor will lead the interview, along with several other panelists. Before the interview, make sure you know how many questions there will be in the interview, and how much time you will have to answer all of them. Time management during the interview is important, as some questions will require more time to answer than others. Some questions may be answered rather quickly with definitions, while others will leave an open lane for you to bring in your own experience and skills to show the panel how you are uniquely qualified for the position.

There are two questions you should expect to be asked during interviews for State agency fisheries positions:

1.) How would you deal with a conflict or disagreement with a coworker? 

2.) What is a real world management problem you were faced with, and how did you solve it?

Be prepared to answer these questions with work experience, as well as your research experiences. Whatever questions may be asked of you, make sure to answer them with personal, real world experience when applicable. 

As a rule of thumb, make sure to answer all questions given to you before asking any questions of the panel. If you cannot read the reactions of the panelists to your answers, do not worry. Sometimes, they will be visually pleased with your answer, but not always, so remain calm and confident (not cocky!). Be polite and attentive while interviewing, and answer questions directly and completely, making sure to interact with all panelists. Unlike interviewing for graduate positions, it is okay here to show interest specifically in the location of the job, as employers want to know that you would be happy and fulfilled living in the area if they were to hire you.

Fisheries positions are very competitive, so you should expect to interview for many different positions before securing one. Do not let not getting one position discourage you greatly. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. If you get the chance, ask the panelists why you did not get the position. This will help you learn and grow, as well as gain valuable insight into the interview process the next time around. 


Tips for Applying to Opportunites on USA Jobs

If you are currently (or soon will be) looking for a government fisheries position, USA Jobs will likely hold many positions of interest to you. This is the employment application portal for federal agencies with many fisheries/biology related jobs, including the Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.


TIP #1 USE KEY WORDS: When applying to federal positions using this website, it is imperative to pay attention to the fine details of the job posting to ensure your application is seriously considered. Your resume should use specific key action words referencing the job description. For instance, if one of the job responsibilities is “conduct radio telemetry surveys…”, and you have done so before, it would be smart to use this verbiage in your resume.


TIP #2 USAJOBS RESUME TOOL: USA Jobs has a resume builder tool that can be helpful to ensure you have included all the requested information and formatted properly. To use this, sign into your account (or make one), click the documents tab and select upload/build resume. This will help to ensure your resume is formatted to the conventions used by USA Jobs.


TIP #3 REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE: Keep in mind that the actual scientist you will be working for is not the person who will be evaluating your initial application package. Your materials will first go to the HR hiring manager for the region, who will assess if you meet the minimum requirements before passing your application along to the scientist. As a result, when constructing your resume, do not hold back on any job details that qualify you for specific duties of the job; HR personnel have to be able to pick these out from your resume and often are only looking for key words and do not interpret any nuanced language. Lack of detail or unclear language are a common causes of application denial through USA Jobs.


TIP #4 SELF ASSESSMENT: Almost all of the applications on USA Jobs have a self-assessment section in which you will rank your skills. While completing the assessment, be sure to use key words from the list of required skills to make identification of your relevant experience easier. Further, accurately represent your skill level and use the correct dates and positions during these self-assessments as they will be validated using your resume. The scores of the self-assessments are one of the key pieces of information used by HR to pick the most qualified candidates; often, only the most highly ranked applicants are selected. Be truthful in your assessment, but do not undervalue your own ability and experience. Low self-assessment scores are another common cause of application denial.


TIP #5 TRIPLE CHECK EVERYTHING: Once your materials are assembled, check your document thoroughly to make sure all of the information you are supplying your potential employer is correct. For example, all dates, supervisor contact information, and pay rates of previous positions– along with elements such as the spelling of the person’s name to whom your materials are addressed– should be correct. If any of these are wrong in your application, it may simply be discarded, so there is little to no room for error. Proofread all materials, then proofread them again!


TIP #6 FOLLOW-UP: After sending your application(s), it is not a bad idea to follow up with the position’s supervisor or HR personnel (whoever the contact for the position is.). This way you may stay up to date on your application’s progress or, if you have been denied the position, you may be informed why your application was not considered so as to improve your chances of securing a position the next time around. If possible, you can also ask for feedback on your application.