5 Resume Templates Every PhD Needs In Their Toolbox To Get Hired

I truly believed I had a stellar resume brimming with all my accomplishments from every walk of life. I kept shooting the same resume at all the different job postings, all throughout the year.  Surprisingly, I never got a call back. 

After facing several rejections, I reached out to a friend who is a hiring manager at a firm and asked them to have a look at my resume. The first reaction I received was “what position are you targeting? The feedback that I received from a person who knew what I was trying to convey made me realize that after being so long in academia, my industry resume read more like a CV. I learned that filling my resume with the information that was not relevant to the position wasn’t impressing anyone. You have to consider the amount of information, the type of information, and the percentage of white space to craft the perfect industry resume. 

Using the right keywords, using industry-specific terms, and making that mindset shift are vital to be hired. Adding in several academic titles does not help in industry recruitment. The most important takeaway lesson that I learnt is that, A good resume isn’t enough to get you a job but a bad resume is enough to keep you from getting a job.

Also, I was introduced to the new AI industry hiring help — the ‘ATS’ — or the applicant tracking system, a software used to filter out the candidates most fit for the job. Companies receive thousands of applications for one open position, surfing through the haystack for the needle is humanly difficult, that would need a whole team just to read the resumes. When PhDs use academic job titles, ATS just weeds them out as it identifies only a set of keywords mentioned in the job description.  So, the question arises, how can I transform my resume into a successful well-targeted document?

How An Industry Resume Differs From An Academic CV

Employers and recruiters typically spend 5-7 seconds on a resume. Thus, the resume has to be eye-grabbing with all the relevant information. An academic CV is a 7+ pages long autobiography that lists your whole academic story, including a list of publications, presentations, awards, certifications, training, hobbies etc. The industry resume is a crisp, focused, 1-2 pages long candidate profile that highlights relevant information highly specific to the job description. The biggest difference is that the academic CV focuses on volume, while the industry resume focuses on impact, everything you add to your resume should focus on how you can add value to the organization

An industry resume must have a ‘F-shaped’ visual center which should be emphasized with all the vital information about how you can add value to the company.

Include Industry-specific Language To Portray Your Skills (Keywords, Buzzwords)

Using relevant buzz words increases the chances of getting an interview by 29%. Most PhDs focus on technical skills and academic titles but completely forego the importance of transferable skills. The transferable skills must be topical and relevant to the current industry situation. In the current recession transferable skills like change management, project management, personnel development and virtual training, virtual cross-functional collaboration, risk management, risk mitigation, regulatory acumen; autonomous working, work ethic, technical literacy, and stress management add immense value to an industry resume. Skimming through job descriptions and employing word cloud software to find the most common words, are the best way to identify the key words you should add to your resume. Recession-proof skills like leadership are obligatory in an industry resume. These are skills that every PhD masters during their doctoral research.

Ideally, every bullet in a resume point should start with a transferable skill and and with quantified results, with a technical skill sandwiched between them for portraying career highlights.

List Quantified Results In Numerical Format

Using concrete numbers increases your hireability by about 40%. Number of publications, presentations, collaborations and patents, and amount of grant funding; every academic accomplishment needs to be listed as a quantified result. As PhDs, we optimize several methodologies, media, culture conditions, SOPs — adding a number to these greatly enhances your hireability. 

Avoid Using Academic Job Titles

Your resume should highlight your skills, not your academic titles.  Highlighting your skills greatly increases resume readability as it saves the recruiter a huge hassle of digging into text to establish if you are the right candidate. Time is a luxury when it comes to hiring. With the amount of resumes a recruiter and hiring manager has to go through, you can’t expect them to spend extra time looking for buried information on your resume. Even the ATS is smart enough to realize that something written is bold is greatly emphasized upon. However, when you add your academic titles in bold, you tell the ATS that you are not a good match because no industry employer will add an academic title to the words they feed the algorithm. Instead, bolding the skills mentioned in the job description will benefit your case.

5 Resume Templates PhDs Use To Get Hired

After reviewing heaps of materials, statistics, and informational interviews with top industry professionals, the Cheeky Scientist team has zeroed on these 5 resume templates that impart maximum weightage to a PhD’s candidacy.

1. Gold Standard Resume

The Gold standard resume utilizes a reverse chronological order, highlighting your work experience. At the very top you will add your contact information and LinkedIn profile URL, followed by your professional summary. This section includes three bullet points that are the highlights of your professional journey. The gold standard resume focusses on your industry-relevant results, it highlights the key transferable skills that you possess matched with results. Another highlight of this resume style is that it includes a hobby section which introduces you as a well-rounded, interesting candidate. All PhDS should have a Gold standard resume ready as this format can be easily transformed into other resume formats and can be used to apply to virtually any position.

This format makes it easy to see the career progression.

Avoid this template if you do not have prior industry job titles to mention under work experience.

2. Functional Resume

The functional format is a great alternative for PhDs who do not have any prior industry experience or short careers, have career gaps, or have shifted industries.  The functional format uses transferable or technical skill from the job posting Instead of job titles as the section heading. You can see how you acquired the skill below. The functional resume only differs from the gold standard resume in the work experience section, all other sections are the same. All the deliverables in this kind of resume are organized by a transferable skill.

Since, this resume format downplays the work history, it proves to be extremely successful for those with no prior industry experience, with gaps in career and for job seekers looking for a career change.

3. Recruiter Resume

The resume that you give to a recruiter should be different from the resume that you craft for a hiring manager.

The most important highlight in the recruiter resume is a list of technical skills, software, reagents, certifications and instrumentation, right after your summary bullets. 

The recruiters receive a list of skills from the employer that are imperative for the job. So, they match the skills first and then look at the other specifics. By highlighting your skills on the top of the resume, you will help the recruiter scan you as a potential fit for the job. The recruiter resume shows how to balance skills and progression so it mentions the key skills section first then the work experience.

4. Combination Resume  

Combination resume is used when the job description is intimately focused on results and skills. It is similar to the gold standard resume but it highlights a section with core skills from the job description. This section mentions specifically what you have leveraged your job-specific skills for and what was your resulting achievement. 

This resume shows how you have excelled by employing the desirable job relevant skills. 

If you don’t have all the specific skills, you can use relevant skills in this section. The combination resume is future facing as it focuses on your future goals more than your past experience. The combination resume shows your key skills first and then your work experience.

5. Sidebar Resume

The sidebar resume is the way to go if you are applying for positions like user experience research, data scientist, principal scientist, and management consulting, which prefer 1-page resumes. By using a sidebar to divide the page, you can accommodate a similar amount of information in half the space.

You should add the most important information, such as your personal data and most relevant skills to the side bar and the rest of the sections on the other side. 

3 Words To Avoid Putting On Your Resume

You have a very short span of time to give the right impression to the potential employer: adding the right words is fundamental. Using these words reduces the opportunity to interview by 51% and of job candidates receive an interview invite. We may often feel that we have described ourselves in the resume with ‘verbs’ as go-getter, enthusiastic, teamplayer etc.. but verbs imply action and these are truly just adjectives.  Strong verbs as, mentored, engaged, achieved, developed with the result that has been achieved using these verbs are preferable. These 3 words are often misinterpreted as verbs.


Avoid general power words like this as they come across as inauthentic. These words were once influential but now have been extensively overused and are rarely backed up by examples. Employers want to see how you embody these traits rather than how you feel about it. These words are termed as ‘space-killers,’ as PhDs are more likely to get the attention of hiring managers because of an  associated specialized skill than being ‘enthusiastic.’

Team Player

Companies want people who are self-motivated and can work autonomously especially in today’s decentralized working environments. Almost everyone says they are a team player, but basically it is an attribute that can’t be proven until hired. Team-centered hurt can hurt your hireability chances by up to 50%. Recruiters are mostly interested in what your input was to the team. The words teamwork, team player, contributed to, have a passive submissive tone as compared to active power words as mentored, engineered, developed, maintained, oriented. The later verbs actually advertise your key role in the team effort


Too general and often overused in the context of how many years experience you have. This is vague and redundant, something employers don’t care about because they care about results not past duties. Experience should be shown instead of being mentioned. Created the xyz based diagnostic assay exhibits more of your involvement and expertise than Experienced in developing diagnostic assays

Concluding Remarks

Your resume is your first elevator pitch that canvasses and presents you as the top candidate for the job. Make sure your resume is self-explanatory, job-specific, showcasing your skills backed by your accomplishments. Invest in the best resume type to represent you and use industry language to get hired.

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Sarah Smith, PhD
Sarah Smith, PhD

Sarah Smith, PhD, holds a degree in Biochemistry. A tireless science consultant at large, her rigorous pursuit of pristine labwork is unflinching. Yet Sarah’s keenest passion--guiding emergent academics into the business world--stems from personal experience with the transitional struggles she would have no PhD face alone.

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