Forum: Bioinformatician, a jack of all trades, but in the eye of the CV-beholder a master of none? How can your CV reflect the diverse skills that you have as a bioinformatician?
gravatar for  '
11 months ago by
'260 wrote:

This probably holds true everywhere, but perhaps more pronounced in research and service centers, or at least I'm under that impression since every bioinformatician I have talked to has been part of a research or service center and has confirmed this. In such facilities, people think bioinformaticians are, and should be, capable of everything that is in any way connected to 'computers' and 'programming' in their broadest sense!

Having worked, for a few years, at a research center that is partly also a service center, I have been often asked to do things completely outside the scope of bioinformatics. For example, I have: designed a website for our unit, designed websites for all of our courses/workshops, taken care of our internal newsletter, literally done a lot of tasks that precisely fall under the scope of an IT department (managing SQL databases of our center, etc.).

This is just a very short list of what I have been asked to do that is in no way related to what I have been employed for. I am not complaining about any of this, in fact I really appreciate such positions. I have learned a lot. Data analysis, deep learning, image processing, signal processing, biostatistics, database management, web design, web application development, OCR, you name it.

This is all great until you want to apply for a focused position in industry.. Most of the time I see job recruiters completely ignore my application the moment they read the word 'Bioinformatician' on my CV as my most recent position. They don't even bother to go further with my CV and just think of me as irrelevant to their 'Data Scientist' job ad. And when it comes to cover letters, I feel that nobody believes me when I tell them that I have had to develop tools that leveraged Perl, R, HTML, and SQL at the same time, and that in that same position I did a lot of image processing, machine learning. And when it to comes to data analysis, it's probably the worst.. Looks like mentioning you have done metabolomics, proteomics, ChIP-seq analysis just makes you more irrelevant.

I guess this has become a very confused post so far, but that's because this is a terribly confusing matter. I am pretty sure many bioinformaticians have had the same experience, because I have talked to many who have felt the same. How can you advertise yourself? How do you structure your CV when you are truly a good fit for that 'Data Scientist' position while also a very good fit for that 'Junior Machine Learning' position? How do you make the job recruiter understand the multidisciplinary nature of your work and that you are not boasting when you tell them that you have experience with statistical analysis, time-series data analysis, deep learning, data visualization, and so on and so forth?

I think even having the title 'Bioinformatician' on my CV is a minus point. But what can I substitute it with without lying? Research Assistant? Research Analyst? Well of course if I am applying to a 'Data Analyst' position they'll still go after those people whose recent position's been 'Data Analyst', not after me. I am saying this because I have experienced this so many times where the job recruiter didn't have a single idea 'what' a bioinformatician 'is'. After that point, you could be writing a novel about how complex metabolomics datasets are, they won't be listening to you..

job industry forum cv career • 1.3k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 11 months ago • written 11 months ago by '260
gravatar for Dan D
11 months ago by
Dan D7.1k
Dan D7.1k wrote:

Skill lists get you through dumb (objectively-speaking) filters, but if you want to prove your worth, put down your specific accomplishments.

When I'm involved in hiring and I'm looking through the stack, I see no end of people who claim to know all sorts of skills. Invariably a good number of those candidates will fail to answer very basic questions about those skills. Anyone can put that they know any skill. I want to see accomplishments, and then I want to ask you about those accomplishments. That's how I'll get to know you.

By all means, put down skills to get your CV past the HR screening filters, preferably toward the bottom. Put specific accomplishments at the top to get the attention of those who matter in the hiring process. I'm speaking as someone who's gone from academia to industry, to fields entirely unrelated to bioinformatics, and back again. Spend a little extra time tailoring the description of your accomplishments to match the needs of the position and industry for which you're applying.

When you do get in front of someone, be sure to explain that bioinformatics is as cutting-edge as it gets. The sheer scale of the data involved and the speed with which the field moves requires us to be on top of new technologies and constantly mastering new tools and algorithms. Ultimately, you're solving new and incredibly-challenging problems. Make sure you work that into the conversation as soon as possible.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 11 months ago • written 11 months ago by Dan D7.1k

I do believe the accomplishments section is the most important part in the CV, too. This is the section where I read whether an applicant solved problems comparable to the ones he would face in the advertised position

ADD REPLYlink written 11 months ago by Carambakaracho2.2k
gravatar for genomax
11 months ago by
United States
genomax89k wrote:

' : Let me hazard a guess that you have been in academia for somewhere close to a decade. As you said in your post, it was fun in early days (when you got to try different things) but now life has become a chore.

I can relate to what you are talking about in terms of trying to get into industry. You have now gone past a point where industry thinks you are an academic at heart that will not fit into their structured/rigid environment. Since you have no industry experience it counts as a negative against you for any jobs you apply for. You probably have a job title that looks as if you are a senior researcher so when you apply for a data scientist job HR thinks you are over qualified for the position you are applying for. AI (or whatever other automated algorithms) that most companies now use to pre-screen CV's also work against you since you don't seem to have the right position/background or keywords they are looking for.

If you are set on getting into industry then your best bet may be to look at smaller companies/startups where your expertise may be valued more. Be ready to work a two person job when you get in, so in a couple of years you would become an attractive candidate to larger companies. Networking with right people (via conferences etc) may also be another way to get noticed and to manage to get past automated HR screening programs/algorithms/people.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 11 months ago • written 11 months ago by genomax89k
gravatar for Martombo
11 months ago by
Seville, ES
Martombo2.6k wrote:

I believe there is generally some misconception about the amount of previous knowledge and technical skills that is expected from new employees. In every job, even the most competent person still needs to learn a lot. So the ability to learn and adapt to a new position is much more valuable. This is precisely the strong suit of people who have been working in research and especially bioinformatics. Don't fall in the trap of considering this a weakness, just because it is hard to communicate. With that said, if you are applying for a data scientist position, put a lot more stress on the relevant skills in your CV. Even if you are an expert in metabolomics, you don't have to mention it first. You can also hide the more technical skills in order to make your CV simpler and synthetic. What you can then hope for, is a competent HR department.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 11 months ago • written 11 months ago by Martombo2.6k
gravatar for Kevin Blighe
11 months ago by
Kevin Blighe65k
Kevin Blighe65k wrote:

This is all great until you want to apply for a focused position in industry.. Most of the time I see job recruiters completely ignore my application the moment they read the word 'Bioinformatician' on my CV as my most recent position. They don't even bother to go further with my CV and just think of me as irrelevant to their 'Data Scientist' job ad.

Do you have evidence of this or is this just what you feel? For Data Scientist roles, are you sure that you match up well to the requirements?

I found your post quite interesting as I have also wondered about how best to advertise myself. I feel that advertising myself as a bioinformatician is implying that I am content to just process data and have no further input to things. I have had comments, over the years, dismissing my and my colleagues' abilities in understanding the biology of the very data that we are processing. I would not go so far as to call myself a Data Scientist, though.

Unfortunately, and some will disagree with me, the bioinformatics 'trade' is a mess and there is zero regulation in what we do. I feel that we have lost respect from other professionals due to this fact - in fact, I know this to be true because I work with a wide range of people all over the World. The programs that we produce are full of bugs and lack testing. Code is 'thrown' on GitHub and then left to rot. Granted, some of these issues are born from the fact that we don't have much funding and that people, therefore, don't have time. It is my opinion that there should be some organisation / body that controls who can call themselves a bioinformatician (or not), much like they have in other trades. At least, for R Programming Language, there exists Bioconductor, which controls the software release cycle, deprecates old packages, and promotes testing and 'good practice' coding.

My time on Biostars tells me, in addition, that wet-lab people are being asked to assume bioinformatics roles, despite the likely possibility that they have no training in software dev. or may not even have any official training in any programming language.


ADD COMMENTlink modified 11 months ago • written 11 months ago by Kevin Blighe65k
gravatar for JC
11 months ago by
JC11k wrote:

I am repeating what it was said before, you need to adjust your CV depending on the position you are applying. If you want to go to a Data Science position, it's more relevant to mention algorithms and ML/AI stuff rather than metabolomics or even genomics. Inversely, if the position is for a Bioinformatic job in neuroscience, you need to highlight what research areas you know in neuroscience.

Also, the evidence is highly recommended, github, websites, publications, etc.

ADD COMMENTlink written 11 months ago by JC11k
gravatar for Joe
11 months ago by
United Kingdom
Joe17k wrote:

A short answer to this, I think, is to maintain a 'portfolio'. Having a really elegant/tidy repo of SQL or HTML code says way more about you than any line on a CV is going to. Any recruiter is going to want to know more about your proficiency in a tangible or assessable manner anyway, and "So and so is proficient in <language>" doesn't say all that much.

This is similar conceptually to things I've seen on twitter from academics, when talking about hiring postdocs etc, simply say they'll judge you on the calibre of your papers, not what your CV does or doesn't say.

ADD COMMENTlink written 11 months ago by Joe17k

Not really an answer to your question, but that is a mighty long list. In these sorts of interdisciplinary positions a lot can be gained, and by that I mean for your sanity, health and future career, by learning how to say No. Clearly, politely, and firmly.

No one can expect you to do everything just because they are completely ignorant of the entire digital world!

Personally, I have found that by insisting I am unable to do this new funky website/db/newsletter whatever generally allows me to focus on the NGS bioinformatics, cluster and teaching that I am actually being paid to do. At least claiming incompetence can save your skin :-)

ADD REPLYlink written 11 months ago by colindaven2.3k
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