Cheeky Logo
Ready To Transition Into Industry?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

7 Resume Tips That Are Giving PhDs An Unfair Advantage Over Other Job Candidates

Resume is your marketing document.

PhDs often think that their academic credentials and technical skills should be enough to get them hired in a top industry job. 

They underestimate the importance of learning industry etiquette and focus on uploading resumes filled with scientific jargon and technical skills to every job posting that comes their way.

As a consequence, they end up in a vicious circle of uploading resumes and never hearing back from employers. Most of these PhDs don’t even know that their resumes are getting rejected by Applicant Tracking System Software before they even reach the hands of a real person.

So, how can you break that vicious circle? You need to understand what employers are looking for and add this to your resumes to show them the impact you can have.

This is what one of our Cheeky Scientist Associates had to say about their job search process upon successfully transitioning into industry – “Hard skills are essential but so are soft skills. Employers like candidates who can disseminate ideas clearly. The key is understanding their requirements and communicating how our research background can help solve their problems.

Why Separating Yourself From Other Job Candidates Is To Your Advantage

Over the last months, we have seen record numbers of PhDs getting hired into their dream jobs. However, this doesn’t mean that PhD-level industry positions are easy to get. 

The crisis in academia is getting worse by the minute. This became increasingly clear last year when universities worldwide had to implement hiring freezes and budget cuts across all departments.

As a consequence, PhDs, postdocs, and adjunct professors are massively leaving academia and looking for industry positions, which has made the competition for PhD-level positions harder than ever. 

In order to stand out from this crowd, you need to show from the very beginning that you understand industry etiquette, that you understand what hiring managers are looking for right now, not last year.

Your resume is your first line of communication with a hiring manager. Based on it, they will decide whether or not to call you for a phone screen. 

A good resume is not enough to get you a job but a bad resume is definitely enough to disqualify you from a job application.

So, how do you stand out from the crowd?

First, you need to create optimized resumes with all the right keywords to ensure you get past the Applicant Tracking Software System. Second, you need to show the impact you can make so that employers can tell that you are exactly what they need after a quick glance. 


How To Target Your Industry Resume To Get An Unfair Advantage

Recruiters and hiring managers review hundreds if not thousands of resumes every day. So, they disqualify resumes that doesn’t have all the information they are looking for clearly displayed.

If your industry resume is full of scientific jargon and you are highlighting technical skills, it will end up in the trash pile. 

Hiring managers and recruiters don’t have PhDs so they don’t get scientific jargon. On top of that, they are looking for transferable skills. These are the skills that make you valuable in industry.

As you can see, you need to follow specific rules to ensure you convenience employers and recruiters to give you a chance.

Follow the 7 steps below to ensure your resume gets ahead of other PhDs even if you don’t have a referral.

1. Prioritize function over chronology

The reverse chronological order resume is great If you have some previous industry experience. And we strongly recommend that you use your gold standard resume after spending some months on your first industry role. 

However, if you are a PhD without industry experience, it is better to use a functional resume instead. 

The advantage of a functional resume is that it allows you to clearly illustrate how your academic experience is relevant to an industry position. 

Instead of bolding academic titles, like “graduate research assistant” or “postdoctoral fellow,” you will bold the skills that you gained at those positions (project management, microRNA experience, etc.) that are relevant for the job. You will add the position where you gained that experience underneath.

Another positive aspect of the functional resume is that it allows you to better showcase the array of skills that you gain by completing a PhD.

2. Add ‘PhD’ after your name

There is a myth saying that if you are PhD without industry experience, you are either underqualified for jobs that require a PhD or overqualified for jobs that don’t.

This leads them to believe that they cannot get into positions that require a PhD and that leaving their title out of their resume is the only way to get into a position that doesn’t require a PhD.

We have curated data from different companies and found the complete opposite, putting ‘PhD’ on your resume actually increases your chances of getting hired.

But PhDs tend to not believe that because they have imposter syndrome. Don’t let imposter syndrome get the best of you. You can get hired into a PhD-level position without previous industry experience.

You just need to execute a proper job search strategy and follow industry etiquette to show your value in industry.

If the job posting doesn’t require a PhD, this means that they will consider candidates with a master’s or a bachelor’s, but they will prefer candidates with a PhD and industry knowledge.

Employers want the best talent possible. None of them is going to say ‘I just really don’t want this smarter, more educated person’ and disqualify you for putting PhD in your resume. And if they do, this means that you are applying to positions that are beneath your level anyway. 

3. Start every bullet point with a non-technical skill

I’ve been in many hiring committees, evaluating PhD resumes for industry positions and they almost always follow the same format. They start with the education section and only list technical skills. 

The sad thing is, these technical skills are so far behind what’s being done in industry. No industry employers will hire you for your technical skills.

PhDs are valuable in industry because of their transferable skills, and you have many of those. Comprehension, innovation, research and analysis, project management, time management, product knowledge, market knowledge, even the ability to quickly learn new technical skills, are examples of transferable skills. 

Every one of your bullet points should start with one of those skills. It Should be the first thing employers see while going through your experience. 


4. Show that you can communicate results

Your industry resume is a marketing document. As such, it should clearly show the impact you can make. You will achieve this by adding results to your resumes. 

And you want to quantify those results – this means adding actual numbers to your resume – because eye-tracking studies show that people’s eyes stop on numerical values.

You have achieved so many results in grad school and/or during your postdoc, any and all of them can become quantified results for your resume: number of figures, number of reports, number of lab notebook entries, number of publications, number of collaborations, number of presentations, number of conferences that you’ve gone to, number of people you have trained, etc.

You might think that your results are not impressive. This is, once again, your imposter syndrome talking. Your results are relevant and impressive in industry. But even if they weren’t, employers just want to see that you understand the importance of getting results and know how to communicate your results.

5. Use 3-part bullet points and use “transitory” language

Every bullet point you add to your resume should have three parts; it should start with a transferable skill and end with a quantified result, both of which should be connected by a technical skill. To bring these three elements together, you need to use transitory language. 

A full bullet point look something like this: “[Transferable skill] with expertise in [technical skills], as evidenced by [quantified result]”.

What if your transferable skill doesn’t perfectly match your technical skill or your result? The match doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as the three of them are associated, it’s fine.

What if the job posting asks for a specific skill that you don’t have hand-on experience in? You can use expressions like “with the ability to do…” or “which is relevant to…” to show that you can excel at the job even if you don’t have direct experience. 

Having complete bullet points and mastering the transition language will allow you to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the role. 

6. Use at least 50 keywords from the job posting in your resume

Job postings are packed with keywords that hiring managers want to see in your resumes, not a single word in a job posting is there by accident. 

A standard job posting has at least 50 relevant keywords that you can add to your resume. Putting the effort to identify them and add them to your resume will give you an unfair advantage because most PhD add less than 10 relevant keywords.

To ramp up your resume, look at the job posting and extract all the skills – transferable and technical, as well as the terms that are capitalized. You can also use a wordcloud to better identify the relevant keywords. Then, use the previous steps covered in this article to incorporate each of those words into your resume. 

7. Embed a conversation starter at the end of your resume

As we already mentioned, the first people who will read your resume and decide whether or not to call you for an interview are not likely to have a PhD.

Therefore, it is important to incentivize them to call you by giving them a conversation starter. This is what the last section of your resume – awards, honors, and hobbies – is there for. 

Adding this last section will make you look approachable. This is especially true for the last bullet. It should reference a hobby or a sport your practice, something not at all related to your PhD background.


It might not seem like much. But trust me. Adding this final bullet providing an ice breaker will make recruiters and hiring managers more likely to call you.

Concluding Remarks

There are now more PhDs than ever before looking for industry positions. This means that you need to stand out from the crowd from the very beginning. Upgrade your resume by using the functional format. Add ‘PhD’ after your name. Ensure that each bullet point starts with a transferable skill, followed by a technical skill, and finishes with a quantified result. Master the transitory language to make your bullets more relevant. Study the job posting to identify at least 50 relevant keywords. Add these to your resume and finish with a conversation starter to convince employers to give you a call.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly



Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published three bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Similar Articles

Robots Ate Your Precious Technical Skills. Focus On These Transferable Skills Instead

Robots Ate Your Precious Technical Skills. Focus On These Transferable Skills Instead

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I haven’t even graduated yet and my career is already being phased out by AI. Am I going to need a separate degree in machine learning to stand out from the competition?  How can I compete in a data-focused industry when software can do most of my job faster and for far less? Messages like these come to me every day. ChatGPT sent shockwaves through every industry when developer OpenAI unveiled the software to the general public in 2022. Within 5 days of launch, it had already seen 1 million users. I work closely with PhDs on a daily basis.…

The Power Of The Functional Resume: A Game-Changer for PhDs Seeking Industry Roles

The Power Of The Functional Resume: A Game-Changer for PhDs Seeking Industry Roles

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Sometimes you’re too close to a situation to really understand it. That was definitely the case for me when it came to my industry resume.  As a PhD leaving academia, it took me a long time to understand that I was wasting my time submitting an academic CV to industry employers. It wasn’t until I was hired in an industry role that I understood there was a specific resume format for people like me. When I had a chance to shadow an industry recruiter, that’s when I really understood the goal of a resume – the zoomed-out view that I…

5 Positions In Biopharma Perfect For Any PhD

5 Positions In Biopharma Perfect For Any PhD

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

It was by chance that I even considered a career in biopharma.  As far as I was concerned, academia was all there was. The world of industry was a big question mark to me, and that was fine. I found myself working on a postdoc, waiting for a tenure-track position to open up.  At first, it was exciting: a real, paying job as a PhD-level scientist. I showed up early, stayed late, and was happy to do it.  But a change happened, gradually. There was so much repetition in my day, and so much emphasis on performing tasks that required…

Top 5 Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Top 5 Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

From the time I started graduate school, there was only one point in the future that I could focus on: the finish line. I was swept up in my own expectations and also caught up in what I thought was expected of me. But something I hadn’t given much thought to was what I actually wanted to do. I was about six months away from defending my thesis. That’s when I started to give some serious thought to what would happen after I added the “Dr.” to my name. It’s when I began to admit to myself that academia was…

How Long Does It Take To Get Hired As A PhD?

How Long Does It Take To Get Hired As A PhD?

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I spent a lot of time being disappointed during my job search; things were taking longer than they should have.  At least, that’s what I thought. The longer I didn’t hear back from a recruiter or hiring manager for a job I really wanted, the more jobs I’d apply to and the more confused my job search would become.  I also didn’t realize that recruiters and hiring managers would trade notes and become confused by my frantic frequent applications to as many jobs as I could find.  What I didn’t know was that my impatience was costing me potential jobs…

Spin The Hard Knocks Of Academia To Your Advantage To Get Hired

Spin The Hard Knocks Of Academia To Your Advantage To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Something that comes up a lot when I talk to new PhDs is that they think they don’t have enough on-the-job experience to apply for the high earning jobs they’re perfect for. I see this imposter syndrome prevent PhDs from even trying to apply for jobs – and puts a stop to their journey to getting hired in industry. So they settle.  For academia, where they don’t have job security.  For jobs that pay less and don’t value their abilities.  For a job they’re not interested in and don’t want, but they think it gets them “started” in industry when…

6 Rewarding Careers In Research Policy, Funding & Government

6 Rewarding Careers In Research Policy, Funding & Government

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

An indomitable spirit is a rare quality, but not among PhDs. Perseverance is a prerequisite that comes standard with every doctorate.  It seems like there’s no shortage of things that can stand in the way when you’re pursuing a terminal degree. Yet I’ve only met a handful of PhDs who weren’t cut out for the hardships of academia. They made it past the gauntlet of frustrating academic advisors, endless hours in the lab, and year upon year of compounding stress. But there are some things that arise that you simply can’t prepare yourself to push through. Sometimes life happens. PhDs…

5 Miscalculations That Are Holding You Hostage In Academia

5 Miscalculations That Are Holding You Hostage In Academia

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

As a PhD student, I felt more and more lost the closer I came to graduation. That’s because I had started to doubt that I knew what I wanted anymore. You could say I was torn, but that would be an understatement. I was absolutely wracked with indecision. My original plan had been to continue on in academia.  I was going to apply for a postdoc.  Then on to Assistant Professor.  And so on. However, I was starting to see a real pattern emerge among the PhD graduates I knew. I liked to check in periodically with those colleagues and…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies January 7, 2023

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies January 7, 2023

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.