Contributing Author: Cathy Sorbara, Ph.D.
I remember feeling so much pride when writing my first resume after my PhD.
I could finally put that PhD after my name and I could include all the accomplishments and publications I had gotten as a PhD student.
There was so much that I wanted to include is this document so that anyone who read it would know exactly what I was capable of.
In the end my resume was 5 pages long.
That was a lot of work.
So I took my massive document and started sending it to companies that had job openings.
I poured all my accomplishments and skills into that resume, I was sure that I would get contacted by an employer in no time.
But, as the weeks passed I heard nothing.
I thought, well maybe I am not qualified for these industry positions? Maybe they don’t think I have the right skills?
It was discouraging.
I wasn’t sure how to proceed, so I sought help from a career mentor.
What I learned was that my super long resume was never even being seen by a person.
I was getting rejected by a computer.
It’s not that I wasn’t qualified, it’s just that I didn’t know what industry employers want in a resume.
It was time to redo that massive resume and turn it into a succinct 2 page document that highlighted my industry relevant accomplishments.
Why Your Resume Is Getting Rejected By Employers
If you are submitting your resume to online job postings or to job portals then is very likely that your resume is never seen by a person.
Jobscan reported that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking software.
Many large to medium sized companies use ATS systems as well.
When companies get thousands (or tens of thousands for companies like Microsoft or Google) of resumes every week they rely on these systems to weed out unqualified candidates.
But if your resume is not optimized then you could get rejected, even if you are a qualified candidate.
Baruch College reported that 70% of all applications are never even seen by a person.
Simple things, like not having the right keywords, the right experience listed or the right length resume can cause you to get rejected automatically.
This means 2 things for your job search.
First, if you are not hearing back from employers after submitting your resume it does not mean that you aren’t qualified for those positions.
And second, you should do everything you can to get a referral at the company so that you can bypass the ATS.
No matter how you are submitting your resume, you need to make sure that it adheres to the industry standard and that it clearly demonstrates that you have the skills required to do the job.
5 Parts Of A Resume Proven To Get PhDs Hired In Industry
When writing your industry resume you need to remember who your audience is and tailor your resume appropriately.
You are not applying for an academic position.
So, what does industry want to see in a PhD’s resume?
What should you include in your resume so that you can get called back for an interview?
Here are the 5 essential parts of a PhD level industry resume…
1. Focused on industry relevant results.
Putting a result into every single bullet point on your resume is essential.
Employers want to see that you are a person who can achieve results and who know just how important that is.
Often PhDs will just list or describe the things they did or their responsibilities on their resume.
This is boring and your potential employer does not really care about these things.
They care about what you accomplished.
How will the things you did and achieved during your PhD and/or postdoc help the employer?
That is the question you need to be asking yourself when you are writing your resume bullet points if you want your resume to get you an interview.
Also, whenever possible quantify the result you are focusing on.
Numbers will pop on your resume and they will again demonstrate to the employer that you understand the importance of results.
Now, the other argument that PhDs often have is, “But I don’t have any results!”
As a PhD you are constantly moving your project forward and creating results, you just need to look at your project from the perspective of the employer and decide what would be important to them.
For example, did you optimize a protocol?
That optimization would have saved time, money, and resources, maybe it also increased the reliability of the results from that experiment.
2. Highlights transferable skills not academic titles.
When you submit your resume online, the vast majority of the time your resume is going to go through applicant tracking software (ATS).
A human is not going to look at your resume until it gets past this software.
This is one of the reasons that you should do everything you can to get a referral so that you can bypass the ATS.
But, if you do submit a resume via an online system, this software will scan your resume to see if it contains the right keywords.
What’s important to note is that the words on your resume that are bolded will be more heavily weighted that those words that are not bolded.
So, look at your resume, what words are you currently bolding?
Postgraduate Researcher? Postdoctoral Fellow? Graduate Student?
These are not the keywords the ATS is looking for and bolding them is hurting your resume.
Instead you should be bolding and thus highlighting your relevant transferable skills.
This means that your bolded headers should say things like, Project Management, Leadership, Data Analysis or another key transferable skills you read in the job description.
Then underneath those bolded headers you can add a note such as, “earned as a Postdoctoral Fellow at xyz university”.
This way you are putting the most important transferable skills front and center, but you are still giving the employer the information about where and what you were doing when you learned those skills.
3. Does not contain too much information.
Have you ever changed the margins on your resume so that you could squeeze in one last bullet point?
PhDs often put way too much information into their resume and it makes the resume almost unreadable.
Your resume needs to be clear and clean.
You want it to be very easy for a hiring manager you read and skim your resume – changing the margins so they are 0.5cm is not going to make your resume easier to read.
Yes, as a PhD you have many skills and accomplishments to highlight, but instead of writing as much as you can, you need to be more selective.
You need to figure out what parts of your experience are most relevant to your potential employer and put those items on your resume.
Once you have whittled down to the most important results and skills you want to write about, you need to think about formatting.
There should be clear spaces between sections and lots of white space in you resume.
Use the white space to make the important skills you have really stand out and not be lost is a sea of irrelevant text.
4. Hobbies section displays that you are ‘well rounded’.
The hobbies section of your resume is not disposable.
If you have deleted this section so that you can list more technical skills or squeeze in an extra bullet point about your duties as a PhD, stop.
Put the hobbies section back.
This is a very important part of your resume.
This is where you can show employers that you are not the PhD stereotype of a stuffy and boring person.
In this section include some of the interesting hobbies you have, with a focus on those hobbies that are social or where you have taken on a leadership role.
Often in interviews hiring managers will use this section of the resume to break the ice and find something to start a conversation.
Be ready to talk about these experiences and showcase the things that you do outside of academia and outside of work.
Putting and community engagement or volunteer experience can be especially valuable in this section.
But whatever you do, don’t just delete this section, it’s important for helping you build rapport with your interviewers.
5. Includes the right keyword density.
There are 2 reasons you need to have the right keywords in the right density throughout your resume.
The first is for ATS systems that are judging your resume based on these keywords.
If you don’t have the right words in the right amount your resume will automatically be rejected.
The second is so that when a hiring manager is reading your resume that can see right away that you have the skills they are looking for.
Don’t make it difficult for the person to see that you are the right fit.
Make the important skills stand out and write them throughout your resume a few times, so that no matter where the hiring manager is skimming your resume they will see you have the right skills.
To find the skills you should be including, do a thorough read of the job posting.
Locate the words or skills that they used multiple times in the job description and use these words several times in your resume.
It’s also a good idea to gather several job postings for the type of position that you are interested in and see what words are appearing in all these job postings.
That way you will get a big picture view of what employers want to see in someone they will hire for your target position.
You can use a word cloud software to quantify the number of times words appear in these job postings.
Is a bad resume keeping you from getting called in for an interview? There is a specific formula for creating a high quality industry resume. Make sure you are impressing hiring managers with your resume by including these 5 elements, focused on industry relevant results, highlights transferable skills not academic titles, does not contain too much information, hobbies section displays that you are ‘well rounded’, and includes the right keyword density. Following these tips will set you up with a great resume, but remember, having an excellent resume is just one part of your overall industry job search strategy.
To learn more about These Are The 5 Parts Of A Gold Standard PhD Level Industry Resume (Does Your Resume Have #3?), including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.
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