The prospect of building a resume can be deeply intimidating to many students. The ideal resume, especially in a STEM field, does not only describe how a candidate has filled summers and lists the jobs and research positions he or she has held. It should give a strong impression of a candidate’s interests, bases of knowledge, and transferable skills. We have a few tips to help your STEM resume stand out and impress employers.  


[Tweet “The keys to success in today’s job market are”] a strong and specific base of knowledge and a wide range of versatile, transferable skills. For most students in the early stages of a job or internship search, the former is frequently demonstrated in coursework and the latter is most often demonstrated in summer or campus jobs. These jobs may at first appear to have little to do with the job for which the candidate is applying. This discrepancy can cause many students, especially those applying for first jobs or internships, to panic. “Demonstrated interest in” or “strong knowledge of”  a certain area does not necessarily indicate a need for a string of internships and research placements. A course in a certain subject area, volunteering with a related organization, or shadowing or researching with a professor can carry as much weight where “demonstrated interest” is listed as a requirement.


Everyone needs a first internship, and everyone needs a first job. Almost any hiring manager or intern supervisor will freely and gladly admit that what a candidate at this level needs to demonstrate is not expertise but enthusiasm. This can be shown in coursework, which can be displayed in a sub-section of the academic section, or in a listing of research positions and previous jobs if applicable. A well-written, well-informed, and enthusiastic cover letter can compensate for specific deficiencies in a resume but not for a resume that shows laziness in either content or construction.

Research Positions

For a first experience in a field, to begin building a resume, applying for research positions in one’s own academic department is a good start. Professors who know one’s work ethic and subject knowledge from classes or by reputation are more likely than an unknown hiring manager to take a chance on a student beginning to develop a resume. This is a chance not only for resume building but for experience and learning – a distinction that is as apparent to a student’s professors as to the student. 

Summer Jobs

Especially early in a career, other experience can be useful to list and can make a student an attractive job candidate. A summer job in customer service can demonstrate team spirit and an ability to interact considerately and effectively even in tense situations. Food service can demonstrate attention to detail. Tutoring or camp counseling can demonstrate teaching ability. Any and all experience is useful early in a career, and can demonstrate the abstract qualities that are so crucial in distinguishing one candidate with little experience from another. Demonstrated work ethic or familiarity with a seemingly irrelevant software system can make all the difference, even if either has little to do with the subject matter at the heart of a job or internship.


Eclecticism of experience, demonstrated work ethic, and consistency of interest make an excellent resume stand out from the merely good or even mediocre. Still, even the most exciting and qualified job candidate can sabotage his or her application with bad manners or slipshod proofreading. Careful attention to detail will be imperative in any STEM job, post-graduate program, or internship. A resume is the first opportunity to demonstrate this, just as a courteously worded cover letter can demonstrate the consideration that distinguishes a satisfactory coworker from an excellent one.