Apply for Positions

After you find the positions for which to apply, the next step is reading and understanding for what the hiring manager is looking, as well as what documents are required in your application. Non-academic job applications typically require only two documents, a cover letter and a resume; however, unlike academic applications, each must be specifically tailored to the job description.

Read below to learn what to include in each.

As for any application, the purpose of a cover letter is to get an interview. Aside from being well written, error-free, and professional, your cover letter should be compelling. For non-academic positions, a well-written cover letter should not only entice the reader to read your resume, but it should confidently convey how you will apply your knowledge and expertise to the position, using your accomplishments as examples. Self-promotion is expected.

For non-academic cover letters, follow the following guidelines:

  1. Formal letter format with standard margins
  2. One-page limit
  3. Three to four paragraphs:
    • Salutation: Who you are - What you do and where - For what you are applying and how you found it - Why you are the ideal candidate
    • Body: Qualifications - What you will bring to the position - How you will be an asset - Why you want to work for the company
    • Closing: Reiterate your candidacy - How you will follow up - Intention to speak in an interview - Describe special circumstances, if any.

Unlike a CV, which is a very static, often long, and impersonal document, a resume is a much shorter, more tailored document that changes based on the description and requirements of the job to which you will apply. As a rule of thumb, you should never re-use a resume. 

In general, resumes come in three flavors:

  1. Chronological: In reverse chronological order, a chronological resumes lists your education and professional experiences, including title, company, description, date of employment, and bulletted list of accomplishments
  2. Functional: A functional resume focuses on skills and accomplishments, grouped by function. Less commonly used compared to chronological resumes, it is useful for those with less work experience or long employment gaps.
  3. Combination: A hybrid form that groups experiences according to skill areas made apparent by the job description. Experiences are listed chronologically under each functional area.

Like a CV, a resume should be cleanly formatted for easy readability. Create a clear hierarchy using a variety of font formats (bolds, italics, etc.) within standard margins. A resume should also follow these general rules:

  1. One to two pages (three pages maximum, if necessary)
  2. Begins with a summary statement
  3. Uses task and accomplishment-focused statements for each experience
    • tailored to the position
    • self-promotion expected

Cover letters

Cover Letters: Wow the Employer in 30 Seconds or Less - BioSpace
Knock 'em Dead Cover Letter
 - Martin Yale (Postdoctoral Career Resource Center)


Nine Winning Resume Strategies for PhDs - Rudy Bellani (LinkedIn)
How to Spin One Resume Bullet Five Different Ways - Lily Zhang (The Muse)
How to Write a Winning Resume - Peter Fiske (Science Careers)