When applying for a position as a research assistant, use a curriculum vitae rather than a traditional resume. A CV highlights academic experience and prior contributions to the field in which you'll be doing research, rather than focusing on job titles and previous work experience. It will offer a more detailed picture of your academic qualifications and research expertise.
Lead With Education
Resumes used for positions outside of research or academia usually include an applicant's educational information at the bottom, unless the applicant is a recent graduate. With research jobs, however, education plays a greater role in the hiring decision than work experience, and thus should be listed first. Begin your resume by listing your undergraduate and graduate degrees and where you earned them, along with GPA, honors such as graduating summa cum laude, and scholarships or other awards.
Describe Previous Research
A research assistant position is a hands-on job with significant responsibility. Employers often favor candidates with demonstrated research experience and success. If you’re a student or recent grad, you might not have full-time research experience, and likely have not led your own projects. However, you’ve probably undertaken significant research work as part of your college courses or during internships and fellowships. Discuss your prior research experience, noting where you worked, who the primary researcher was, what role you played, and the project's outcome.
Emphasize Your Reputation
Highlight research-related experience such as contributing to scientific journals, teaching classes, working as a teaching assistant, or presenting at conferences. Work history accounts for only part of your strength as a candidate for a research assistant position; your academic and professional reputation also matter. When hiring for research positions, employers look for candidates with creativity, critical thinking skills, and ambition. They also want someone who will represent the institution or company well.
In many industries, applicants are advised to minimize the use of jargon and highly technical language. When writing a CV for a research assistant position, the reverse is true. The person reviewing the resume is likely the researcher you’ll work for, so you don’t need to make the resume accessible to laypersons. Many researchers will expect and appreciate specificity, using it to better understand your qualifications and how prepared you are for the project. Use specific examples, such as the names of tests you’re proficient in or equipment you’ve used in the lab.
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