Cyber Monday Banner

These Are The 5 Parts Of A Gold Standard PhD Level Industry Resume (Does Your Resume Have #3?)

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?

Well, stop.

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.

Join Cheeky Scientist Association
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly
Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.
Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.

Cathy has a PhD in Medical Life Science and Technology and is COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association. Cathy is passionate about science communication including translating science to lay audiences and helping PhDs transition into industry positions. She is Chair of Cambridge AWiSE, a regional network for women in science, engineering and technology. She has also been selected to take part in Homeward Bound 2018, an all-female voyage to Antarctica aimed to heighten the influence of women in leadership positions and bring awareness to climate change.

Similar Articles

Don’t Write Your Resume For Yourself (& Who You Should Be Writing It For)

Don’t Write Your Resume For Yourself (& Who You Should Be Writing It For)

By: Elizabeth Deyett

It took about a month for that fact to finally sink in. I was a PhD, no longer a PhD student. I was part of the 2% of society that now possessed that degree of education. But I had no idea how to write a resume.  After you get your PhD, all you hear about is getting a job, making a decent salary, and finally enjoying life.  This was not true for me. I was in some post-PhD fog, a depression unlike what I faced during my PhD. There were of course dark times in the lab, at the computer, redoing…

Why You Should Add A Sidebar Resume To Your PhD Job Search Arsenal

Why You Should Add A Sidebar Resume To Your PhD Job Search Arsenal

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

I couldn’t believe it.  After nearly 25 years of being a “student,” I had done it.  I had earned the right to put 3 letters at the end of my name: P-h-D.  After those 25 years, I felt it was time to leave academia behind, I no longer wanted to be on a college campus anymore, with undergrads, and lifetime academics.  I wanted something more. This was not for me.  So I brushed off my CV which I had used for so many grant proposals, changed a few things here and there, and started posting my ‘resume’ on every job…

Top 3 Cover Letter & Resume Combinations For Getting Hired

Top 3 Cover Letter & Resume Combinations For Getting Hired

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

By the time I received my PhD, I had never held an industry job. I had never been trained in how to create a resume or cover letter.  After college, I watched those going into industry struggle to get jobs, but I was at ease with my PhD lab already picked out, my future was set. I followed these friends on social media as they got jobs…found spouses…started to have children. Meanwhile, I was still glued to my bench trying to squeeze my stipend into a survivable income. I was no longer at ease. I was stuck and uncertain about…

7 Video Resume Failures That Make Employers Press “Pause”

7 Video Resume Failures That Make Employers Press “Pause”

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

My very first video resume was embarrassing. At the time, I thought it was pretty good. I had some music going in the background because it seemed like a way to add personality. Bad idea. After reviewing my recording, I noticed there was also a dog barking somewhere in the background. On top of that, the lighting wasn’t very good in the room where I filmed myself. I had shadows on my face, and it made my eyes look a little sunken… However, this seemed fine to me – after all, I was applying for a PhD-level position not a…

511 Rejections Later ...The Resume That Finally Got Me Hired

511 Rejections Later ...The Resume That Finally Got Me Hired

By: Dwight Lane, PhD

Before Cheeky Scientist, 6-to-12-month contracts were the best I could get.  Ultimately, my industry transition process took about 2 years and 1000 applications. After joining the Cheeky Scientist Association, it took only 3 months to land my dream job. Talk about a difference. The resume template was, I am quite sure,  a major factor in this process.  There was this thing called a “functional resume” where I could highlight all the relevant skills I learned as a graduate student – instead of showing that my only experience had been as a graduate student. This made a huge difference. Most of…

My 3-Step Job-Search Plan For PhDs In A Bad Economy

My 3-Step Job-Search Plan For PhDs In A Bad Economy

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

Finding the right position with the right job search strategy was one of my biggest challenges once I decided to move into industry.  I had plenty of academic experience, but I didn’t know if that was valuable in industry. A lot of people told me that it would be difficult to apply for industry roles without relevant experience. At first, I made some major mistakes. My advisor told me to list my technical skills at the top of my resume. He told me to emphasize my education section – surely, this would impress employers, right? It didn’t, and now I…

3 Urgent Resume Updates PhDs Must Make For The Recession

3 Urgent Resume Updates PhDs Must Make For The Recession

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I want to help you avoid one of the biggest mistakes that I see right now from PhDs, especially while we are in a recession. A lot of them are trying to either get a job in industry or just protect their current job. They had a job search strategy that was working for them back in January, and now the same job search methodologies are not working.  That’s because things have changed, and you have to adapt. If you have not updated your resume and LinkedIn profile since the pandemic began, you need to do it now. PhDs need…

3 Cover Letter Hacks That Get PhDs Hired

3 Cover Letter Hacks That Get PhDs Hired

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

There is no denying the fact that cover letters are becoming less and less popular. According to a survey in Jobvite, 55% of hiring managers say that while cover letters are not important in their job search process, they still recommend that you learn how to nail them. With the advent of social media, recruiters and hiring managers can easily vet a candidate on LinkedIn without even looking at their resume. But here’s the thing… You never know exactly what the hiring manager wants to see, and it can be a huge misstep if you forget this. In a recent…

5 Crucial Resume Facts That Will Boost Your Job Search

5 Crucial Resume Facts That Will Boost Your Job Search

By: Karthik Pandalaneni, PhD

Many PhDs spend countless hours on their resume, listing endless accomplishments, responsibilities, publications, presentations, and other information that practically bore industry employers to death. They mass-upload this ridiculous document to online job postings and wait for the job offers to roll in like red carpet on their way to industry success. These PhDs--otherwise sharp and creative people--are shocked when they never hear anything back. The reality is that your resume is probably never even seen by another human being, let alone rejected. Your resume is being rejected by a computer program. JobScan reports that more than 90% of Fortune 500…

Top Industry Career eBooks

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.

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the top 20 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.

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.