Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
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 millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of 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 3X 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

The Ideal Keyword Density For Targeting Your PhD Resume To An Industry Job Posting

The Ideal Keyword Density For Targeting Your PhD Resume To An Industry Job Posting

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Writing a resume for an industry job is one of the biggest sticking points I see with PhDs entering the job market.  What worked even a year ago is not working today due to recent and rapidly accelerating advances in Applicant Tracking Systems.  These systems, called ATS or just AI today, are software tools used by companies to filter resumes.  They scan for specific keywords related to the job role, abilities, credentials, and qualities desired in a candidate.  As a PhD seeking very competitive roles, including relevant keywords in your resume is essential to pass through these systems and get…

AI Is Replacing Recruiters. Here’s How PhD Job Seekers Should Adapt

AI Is Replacing Recruiters. Here’s How PhD Job Seekers Should Adapt

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I had a recruiter reach out to me, Isaiah, and after I gave them my resume and answered their questions, they never got back to me. What should I do?”  I hear this a lot.  I also hear, “Isaiah, I was on the phone with a recruiter and as soon as they heard that I needed a visa, they hung up” …”or as soon as they heard I had no industry experience, they hung up.”  Man, I personally hate this. What a waste of time. The recruitment industry is broken.  The good news is its being devoured by Artificial Intelligence,…

Why PhDs Are Powerhouses Of Productivity (& How It Can Get Your Hired)

Why PhDs Are Powerhouses Of Productivity (& How It Can Get Your Hired)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Nothing makes sense today in the job market”, a PhD expressed to me recently.  “No one is responding to my resumes. I don’t understand why they would ask for a scientist at the company and then not even want to talk to me”, they said. They went on: “I’ve even had some friends refer to me, but still didn’t get an interview. I feel like I made a mistake getting my PhD.”  It’s hard hearing this from PhDs who invested so much in their education and in advancing research for humanity.  Still, I hear it a lot.  My response is…

Employers Are Hiring PhDs Because They Learn Faster Than Other Job Candidates

Employers Are Hiring PhDs Because They Learn Faster Than Other Job Candidates

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Why would any employers hire me… I don’t have industry experience, my skills don’t match the positions I want, and I’m not hearing back from any positions I’ve applied to… Plus, I don’t know anyone in industry.” I heard this from a PhD recently who was mentally broken from their job search.  They had been applying to jobs for months and either hearing nothing back or getting rejected very quickly.  When they asked their peers for insights as to why, they heard the usual stuff, “maybe you’re overqualified?” Or… “Actually, you’re underqualified because you don’t have industry experience.” “You can’t…

What Are Ghost Job Listings & How PhDs Should Handle Them

What Are Ghost Job Listings & How PhDs Should Handle Them

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I’ve applied to hundreds of job postings” a PhD recently told me. “Using the same resume?” I asked.  “No.” they replied.  “I targeted every resume. I’ve heard nothing back. In some cases I was sent a rejection email within the hour. What’s happening?!”, they wailed.  “Ghost job listings.” I replied.  They asked me what a ghost job listing is and I explained that ghost job listings are jobs posted by real companies but they’re jobs that these companies have no intention of actually filling. Of course, this PhD wanted to know why and I told them that the answer is…

Does Your PhD Resume Spell A Bad Culture Fit?

Does Your PhD Resume Spell A Bad Culture Fit?

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

One of the biggest reasons that I left academia was the constant negativity.  Instead of collaboration, I was pitted against my fellow PhDs. The system forced us to compete against one another. I couldn’t look to my advisors for support either. It was more trouble than it was worth to even get them to make time, and in the end, their “advice” was little more than common sense. And that’s to say nothing of the wrath I’d face if I picked the wrong time to speak up or advocate for my research. I persisted, though, and looked forward to applying…

3 Entry-Level PhD Jobs Pay Six Figures A Year

3 Entry-Level PhD Jobs Pay Six Figures A Year

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I was determined to stay in academia… until I wasn’t.  It took almost six years for me to reach the conclusion that academia just wasn’t for me.  My PhD defense was just a few months away, and I can’t lie: I was literally willing myself to stick it out. But what about after that? Professorship had been the goal for me before I ever even enrolled in college. It had been my dream. I had absolutely no idea what to do if it wasn’t going to teach. I knew what I didn’t want: I didn’t want to be tethered to…

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…

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.