Communicating your employability

The process of finding a work experience placement or a science job depends on your ability to communicate your value to people who generally know nothing about you or your experience. As with other communication genres, you need to focus on the audience (potential employers) and understand what they are looking for in an employee.

It is up to you to reflect on your experience (both scientific and non-scientific), identify what relevant skills and experience you have, and convince an employer that you’re the best candidate.

The UQ Employ101x MOOC

This is an excellent short course to help you to develop and communicate your employability. To get you started, we’ve provided some key videos from the MOOC related to communicating your employability.

We highly recommend completing the full course – it’s free and can be completed at your convenience.

View the UQ Employ101x MOOC

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Employablity resources

For more resources on employability and applying for jobs, visit the Developing Employability website.developing employability logo


Job applications

A job application is often the only means you have to communicate your image to a potential employer and secure an interview. Resumes, cover letters, and selection criteria communicate your image to a potential employer through both the content and the formatting.

Each job application should be tailored to the specific job description, drawing upon all of your relevant skills and experience to create the most appropriate and effective image for that job. Your application should also be formatted correctly and be free from spelling and grammatical errors.

Top tips from an experienced recruiter in science
  • Write your application specifically for the advertised job
  • Address the selection criteria
  • Follow the instructions for each application

Check social media privacy

Always check your social media privacy settings before applying for jobs to ensure that potential employers and recruiters don’t have access to any unflattering photos or rants. You may have submitted an outstanding job application but if a potential employer sees photographic evidence of your drunken escapades, your chances of being offered an interview may be affected.

UQ Digital Essentials: Your digital footprint


During a job interview you will be assessed on your verbal and non-verbal communication skills and your ability to use these skills to convince an employer that you’re the best candidate for the position. Similar to your written job application, your responses to interview questions and your overall appearance should contribute to the image you want to create for an employer, and should reinforce the image that you have created in your job application.

While nervousness during an interview can hinder your ability to create your preferred image, through preparation and practice you should be able to effectively minimise any negative impacts. It’s OK, though, to be a bit nervous at an interview. It shows you care!

Applying for science jobs

A formal job application is often the only way to secure a job interview, therefore it is essential that you understand what employers are looking for in resumes, cover letters, and selection criteria responses.

Similar to other forms of communication, job applications have:

  • a purpose (to secure an interview);
  • an audience (hiring manager or recruiter); and
  • defined genres (resume, cover letter, and selection criteria).

You should keep these important aspects of communication in mind when preparing your application. What you include in your applications and how they are formatted should maximise the chance of achieving your purpose.

Top tips from an experienced recruiter in science

Job applications with grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors are highly unlikely to lead to an interview. If possible, have a friend or family member proof your applications before you send them.

Preparing your application

When preparing an application, it is important that you follow the instructions on what should be included. Most jobs in science will require a cover letter, a resume, and responses to selection criteria, but requirements will vary depending on the employer or scientific field.

Your aim should be to highlight your skills that are most relevant to the advertised position. This process doesn’t necessarily mean you will start from scratch for each application. By keeping a record of all of your skills and experience from university, work, and other activities, you will have all of the necessary information at your fingertips. As you apply for more jobs, you can adapt and refine your past job applications to create custom applications for new roles.

This module provides examples and advice on the different aspects of communication required for job applications in science.

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Getting help at UQ

(requires UQ student login)

While the resources in this module will help you to create a great job application, we encourage you to use the services of the UQ Student Employability Centre and the UQ Union.

UQ Student Employability Centre

The UQ Student Employability Centre supports UQ students in preparing job applications through on-campus workshops and a variety of online resources.

For more information, visit the UQ Student Employability Centre website.

Application resources
Resume writing guide
Referees guide
Phrase and professional language guide
Using action verbs
Cover letter writing guide
Responding to selection criteria

View job application workshops

UQU Student Help On Campus (SHOC)

The UQ Union provides job-seeking assistance to all current UQ students.

For more information or to book an appointment with the employment advocate, visit the SHOC employment website

Writing a resume guide
Writing a cover letter guide

Deconstructing job adverts and position descriptions

Before you write your cover letter or refine your resume, you should deconstruct a job advert to understand exactly what is required. The recruitment process will vary across organisations—don’t assume that you can send the same application to a range of employers. The process for applying for a job is usually outlined in the job advert or a separate application guide.

Large organisations such as universities, government departments, and big companies will have a fairly strict recruitment process and will provide details on what to include, how it should be formatted, and how it should be lodged. For example, here is the UQJobs application guide.

If a job advert doesn’t specify what to include, you should at least send a cover letter and your resume. If a job advert mentions essential or desirable criteria, you should include a response that outlines how you meet the criteria.

If you’re still unsure, you can usually get clarification by contacting the person mentioned in the job advert or position description.

Science job description examples

The following links are annotated examples of real job adverts/descriptions from a variety of scientific fields. The notes included for each job will help you to understand the different parts of job adverts and create an appropriate application.

Project Officer – Operations Support
GIS and Environmental Science Analysts
Gameplay Programmer – Vehicle Physics
Research Scientist – Pathogen Detection
Project Officer – Litter Management
Livestock Technical Officer
Junior Geophysicist
Assistant Veterinarian
Science Technician – Weed Biocontrol


Resume vs. CV

In Australia, the terms resume and CV are interchangeable but this isn’t always the case overseas. You should do some research to ensure you include the appropriate document for each application.

Master resume

A master resume includes ALL of your skills, experience, education, and work history details. When you come to prepare an application, you can copy the most relevant skills and experience from your master resume to create a customised resume that targets the information provided in the job advert. This makes process of tailoring a resume for a specific position much quicker and easier than starting from scratch.

Creating a master resume also helps you to keep a record of all the skills and experience you accumulate over time. If you’re unsure what you should be including in relation to skills and experience, see the work experience module for more information.

Your master resume should contain the following information:

    • Name
    • Contact details (Include a respectable email address and phone number)
    • Education and other qualifications (Tertiary education only)
    • Skills (Include key skills that you’ve developed at university, in a workplace, or as part of your personal interests)
    • Employment history (Both paid and volunteer positions with descriptions of the work you did, with a focus on skills.)
    • Professional memberships
    • Personal interests (Include your interests that will reinforce the image you want to present to an employer)
    • Referees (Job adverts generally ask for 2-3 referees but it’s a good idea to have more than three so you can choose the most appropriate for each application. You should get permission from each referee before adding them to your resume.)

Refining your resume

Once you’ve analysed a job advert you should be able to choose the relevant skills and experience from your master resume to and customise a resume to target the job’s key attributes and selection criteria. Keep your resume to a maximum of 2 pages (some employers will specify the maximum length).

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Formatting and colour

The example provided will give you an idea of how to format a basic resume but we encourage you to look at other examples on the internet and add some colour, make slight changes to formatting or try different fonts, but don’t go over the top!

The aim should be to have a neat, professional-looking resume that allows an employer to quickly assess your education, skills, and work experience.

View science resume example

Academic resumes

Resumes for academic research positions, such as honours, PhD, or MPhil, will usually require a greater focus on your academic and research achievements.

For more information, view the UQ Graduate School academic resume guide

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Cover letters

Think of a cover letter as a brief introduction and a way to get an employer’s attention. It may seem like an old-fashioned formality but it communicates to an employer that:

  • You can follow instructions for an application (job applicants often fail to include a cover letter)
  • You can succinctly explain why you want the job and why you would be a good employee
  • You can write a polite and professional letter without spelling or grammatical errors.

As with resumes, you should customise your cover letter for each job. Some parts of the cover letter may remain the same but you should ensure that you highlight skills and experience that are relevant to the position and the organisation.

Be sure to read the application instructions carefully. A standard cover letter is usually only a single page, however, some employers will want you to include responses to selection criteria as part of your cover letter and will set a page limit.
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Selection criteria

Selection criteria responses are your opportunity to address the key criteria that the employer has outlined in the job advert. Your responses should provide specific examples that illustrate your skills or abilities in a certain area. For example, if an employer wants strong written communication skills, you should outline a situation where you either developed or demonstrated strong written communication skills.

Selection criteria responses usually follow the STAR model. If you’ve already reflected on all of your work experience using the SEAL model, the STAR model will be an easy process to follow.

Follow the UQ Student Employability Office’s guide to find out more about how to use the STAR model to respond to selection criteria (requires UQ student login).

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Job Interviews

Preparing for an interview

Job interviews can be daunting experiences. However, there are ways to prepare that can help you to reduce anxiety and maximise your ability to communicate your skills and experience to an interview panel.

The following videos provide a wealth of information that will help you to prepare for an interview. The key point of all the advice is that you need put effort into preparation. You need to know as much as possible about the job and the related tasks, about the organisation, and about the industry.

Most importantly, you need to be an expert on yourself. When asked a question, you need to be familiar with your past experiences and how they relate to the job so that you can present the best image of yourself to the interview panel.

It’s important to remember that job interviews are learning experiences—as long as you reflect on the experience you will be able to improve. Furthermore, with each job interview your confidence and your ability to adapt to interview situations will increase.

Job interview resources

UQ Student Employability Centre

(requires UQ student login)
Interview skills
Example interview questions
View interview workshops

UQ Union SHOC Employment Services

Book a mock interview appointment

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