How to Get a Job in Analytical Science
Incognito offers some careers advice to aspiring separation scientists.
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I am currently hiring analytical scientists from bench analysts to more senior management - and a lot of the CVs that I’m seeing aren’t really doing it for me at all.
There are certain things I personally like to see on a CV to attract my attention. I want to see your qualifications, who you have worked for previously, and a brief description of your previous job roles. For the more qualified of you, I want to see your publications and presentations; and for the even more senior your management experience and so on.
I also want to to see what sets you apart from the rest. This generally involves situations in which you solved a problem, took an alternative approach, gained valuable experience, or showed a willingness to further understand your work. These needn’t be long-winded stories but some illustrative examples from past CVs include:
I don’t have the means to check these out without actually meeting the person and discussing their claims - oh wait a minute, that’s an interview, right? Am I saying quirky statements get you an interview - well, yes, I guess I am. Even if it’s so I can bust your claims wide open!
I like to hear what you do in your spare time; however, spending time with your family, doing sports, reading, or outdoor activities are a little passé. I’d like to hear the quirky things about you. Again here are some example that have caught my attention:
Again, I’m not saying you should lie or mislead anyone because this will not do your job prospects any good, but something a little out of the ordinary always catches the eye.
Now let us take a second to consider the recruitment programme from my side. How on earth do I assess if you have what it takes from a short interview? Obviously I can ask you a bunch of questions that get progressively more difficult until I reduce you to a quivering wreck, but I’m not sure if this works well. I asked one candidate a while ago why they were laughing after I asked a tricky question - “I feel my sense of humour is all I have left” came the reply.
I can also give you a questionnaire to complete, which helps reduce the nervousness of the interview situation. However, I’ve seen some really dumb questions in these tests and, unless very carefully designed, they can be almost meaningless. Here are just a few illustrative examples:
Presentations can also be difficult. I have a friend who prepared a talk entitled “The Role of Serendipity in Analytical Method Development” for a job interview; in introducing the ethos of the laboratory, the manager explained in some detail the rigorous nature of the method development process and how “automated” and decision tree driven their approach was. It’s always very difficult for a candidate to pitch the perfect presentation and is very time consuming for both parties.
My favourite (and I think most informative) interview task is to take someone into the laboratory and get them to make up an HPLC eluent and adjust the pH with the commensurate recording of data. If it’s a GC job then we make up some standard solutions. Of course I ask questions as I go and we will discuss various aspects of the analytical techniques but these simple operations can reveal much about a person. I do this no matter what level in the company the person will be working - even if their role is laboratory management and they will ostensibly be office based.
So - what’s the take home?
Contact author: Incognito