Job Search Guidelines

Vita Preparation

A properly prepared vita is perhaps the most critical and important first step in gaining successful employment, and deserves well spent time and attention. Prospective employers are most interested in a vita which outlines your academic and research achievements, provided in as simple and comprehensive a format as possible. A typical vita outline would contain the following:

  1. Name and immediate contact address and phone number.
  2. Brief statement of the type of position you are seeking and/or your career objectives.
  3. Education; anticipated graduation date, degree (ACS certified?), GPA, and honors. A list of pertinent upper level courses which are applicable to the job for which you are applying. Make sure everything is presented in a chronological order.
  4. Research and job experience; very brief review of research projects with chronological dates and locations, instrumentation used, co-authored publications or paper presentations, etc.
  5. Date at which employment could begin, availability for travel and/or relocation.
  6. A brief list of organizations and affiliation, hobbies and outside interests (if for anything to show that you are a well-rounded individual)
  7. A list of 2-3 references with contact addresses and phone numbers (or you can simply state that these references can be made available upon request). Please notify these people in advance of your intentions of using them as a reference so they are not surprised by sudden phone inquiries.

Never include such things as religion or church affiliations, age, sex, race, anticipated salaries, or opinions of previous employers. Do not get overly detailed or wordy; a resume of 1-2 pages is quite sufficient. Just make sure it is well organized and professionally prepared.

All vitae directed to prospective employers should include a cover letter which serves as a point of introduction and expresses a specific interest in the company or organization for which the vita is being forwarded. You should try if possible to address the letter directly to an individual within the company responsible for hiring (e.g., personnel manager). Whereas the vita can be used for virtually every prospective employer, the cover letter should be tailored to the specific company. For example, you may want to learn a little about the specialties of the company to cite your interest in making the application.


Probably the most nerve racking part of seeking gainful employment is the interview. You do not know what specific questions to expect, you may be asked to give brief presentations of your past research experience, they may quiz you on fundamental areas of chemistry and whatever else they can think about as it applies to evaluating you as a potential member of the company. We should point out that there are a number of questions that they cannot ask you, especially with regards to marital status, family life, politics, and religion to name a few. The Cohen Career Center has more specific information with regards to proper interview practices, and has services available through mock interview sessions to prepare you in the event that an interview is requested.

The main approach one wants to take for an interview is to exhibit an expressed interest in the company and do not try to sell yourself in an overly confident fashion. Details to consider for an interview may include the following:

  1. Proper attire; business suits (both men and women) are always appropriate.
  2. Make sure that you are at least 10-15 minutes early for the interview.
  3. Generate direct eye contact with the interviewer whenever possible and smile frequently. This is a reflection of self-confidence; staring at the floor or walls is not.
  4. You should also ask questions, such as descriptions of employment responsibilities, salary and benefits (if they don't tell you), living costs in the area, training and education available for specific job tasks, etc. Do not raise the subject of salary until everything else has been covered. Do not ask about vacations, bonuses, holidays, and retirement plans, all of which indicate you are more interested in time away rather than on the job.
  5. Educate yourself on the history and interests of the company such as company specialties, current fiscal status, etc.; being able to generate some knowledge of the company in conversation will greatly strengthen your interview.
  6. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not feel obliged to make something up or shuffle through an inappropriate answer. Honesty is always the best policy.

Always remember that interviewers are not trying to break you down with intensive or excessively thought provoking questions. They are simply trying to assess whether your personality, oral skills, and educational (and research) background are appropriate for their needs. The types of questions which may be asked can vary greatly; however, some typical questions one might expect to field during an interview include the following:

  • What are your career goals, immediate and future objectives?
  • What is your minimum salary requirement at this time?
  • What other jobs are you considering?
  • Do you intend to continue your education?
  • If you made a decision which was wrong, how would you handle the situation?
  • What kind of position would you like to be in ten years from now?
  • What do you rate higher in a job, challenge or stability?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Also keep in mind that an interview is a two way street and it is equally important for the interviewee to be evaluating the company. You may want to prepare a mental list of key questions to be answered, which also gives a stronger impression of direct interest to the interviewers.

If you are really interested in a company for which you have just completed an interview, the best approach is to send a short thank you letter expressing your appreciation for the interview time, calling attention to the most important aspects of the job and your expressed confidence in being able to handle the position, and concluding with the hope that you are being considered for the job. Once you have accepted a position, you should contact other companies you have other offers from expressing your thanks for their consideration.