Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

I Trash Any PhD Resume That Has These 5 Mistakes (A Savage Lesson From Recruiters)

The first interview I did with a recruiter from industry regarding PhD resume was extremely eye-opening.

A recruiter told me that they typically receive 3000 resumes a month. She said that: 

Humans’ eyes don’t see the first round of submissions; they are filtered through the ATS. Applicants have to make sure that their resumes are specifically written per the job description with all the relevant keywords. This will cause them to be reviewed by human eyes as opposed to the computer. 

Typically, there is a recruiter who is assigned to a particular area and after he finds potential candidate/s he tries to get the attention of the hiring manager. The best-suited candidates would then be called for a phone interview to assess that the information they have on the PhD resume matches their profile. It is a very long process before the candidate hears back. 

Another recruiter said: 

Recruiters cannot spend a lot of time reaching out to the candidates as there are several behind the scene tasks that they need to focus on as well. So they might just spend 15-20% of their time reaching out to the candidates in a week. When it comes to being seen or recognized in such a small time, it’s a major responsibility on behalf of the candidate. Recruiters are typically looking for 3 keyword-based points: instruments, techniques, and methods: years of relevant experience, what capacity have you used these instruments in –  R&D capacity or intern. It is important to clearly list all these in the resume.

The recruiters I talked to were very bottom-line oriented. Many of the recruiters were on a race against time to try to fill open positions at companies before the best candidates were all taken by competitors. They were interested in gaining fast information even if it meant sacrificing relationship-building with job candidates, at least initially. Their primary goal was to match keywords mentioned on the job posting to the candidate’s profile on LinkedIn or their PhD resume.

They would spend merely 5-7 seconds reading these professional profiles, scanning for relevant industry experience, preferably similar job titles on a PhD resume that they have advertised for. Lack of relevant experience was a big reason to move on to the next candidate immediately.

This is why so many PhDs have the following experience with recruiters:

Do you have industry experience?

No. Goodbye.

Do you need a work visa?

Yes. Goodbye.

Do you have XYZ skills?

No, but…

Goodbye.

There are different recruiter types. Large companies often hire “Talent acquisition specialists“internally. Then, there are hiring managers and HR professionals who work internally as well. There are several external recruitment firms that have big contracts with companies, as well as solo recruiting sharks that just surf LinkedIn looking for open jobs the same way a job candidate would. When they see an open job, they contact the company and reach out to candidates to try to fill these jobs individually for a commission based on a percentage of the job candidates first year’s salary. 

The truth is some of the recruiters I interviewed were very savage. It is in your best interest to operate as though your mission is to make hiring you as easy as possible for all the involved parties. Assume that the recruiters don’t have time for you and adjust your efforts accordingly to save them time. Here’s how…      

5 Mistakes That Cost A Fortune

The resume is your first line of communication with c the recruiter. Therefore, it should be clear and super-organized so that the recruiter can find the relevant information quickly, assess it, and get back to you. You have to make it easier for the recruiter to find the information in your resume, or you end up hurting your own chances. 

The five savage points raised by recruiters and the quintessential modifications for making the right impression:

1. If your PhD resume isn’t easy to skim and has more text than white space, it’s going in the garbage.

In academia, more content is generally appreciated but in industry, one needs to set priorities; You should only present crucial, job-relevant information. This sends a clear message to the recruiter that you are a professional instead of coming across as an amateur or an academic. Know what information to include and which to exclude while tailoring your PhD resume in accordance with the job description.  

What you decide to put on the resume is equally important as what you decide not to.  Narrow margins, less indent, less white space pave the way for more text but make the resume non-appealing to the recruiter. Only a super-organized resume with efficient whitespace will look appealing to the recruiter. 

White space is not a waste. Since the recruiters spend only 5-7 seconds per resume they can’t read the whole document. Instead, they skim. The visual center is shaped like the letter F, they skim from left to right then right down the vertical line and scroll a little horizontally. Therefore, the most crucial information relevant to the position you are applying to  should be included in this area.  

Well organized information, arranged in short, precise bullet points is visually engaging and easy to access. 

Recruiters generally don’t like resumes sent in a google doc. Often, candidates forget to give access to the recruiter. It is always safe to send a PhD resume either in docx or pdf format. The resume must also be free of grammatical/spelling errors and passive verbs. 

A recruiter survey conducted by TopResume found “spelling and/or grammatical errors” to be the No. 1 resume mistake that could cost you the job. Recruiters are more interested in what you did rather than what the team or the department achieved. 

2.  If your contact information is outdated, if you don’t answer my first call, or I can’t find you on LinkedIn, I will forget about you forever.

While writing a PhD resume, it’s important to include all of your contact information at the top of your resume. Employers may want to reach out to you immediately after viewing your resume but if you don’t add detailed contact information, or add incorrect contact information, employers will not be able to get in touch with you easily. This is one of the major reasons to reject a candidate. You need to make it as easy as possible for an employer or hiring manager to contact you about the job you’re applying for. The following information is mandated on the top of a resume

First Name Last Name

Address

City, State Zip Code

Phone Number

Email Address

LinkedIn / Personal Website URL

Your email address is part of your personal brand.  Therefore, it shouldn’t be suggestive or flirtatious, rather it must be professional, should include your name, preferably first name and last name, should be a personal email address, not one shared with a spouse or other family members. Try not to use numbers or underscores and avoid including the year of your birth. 

A recruiter once told me that “When I see an email address such as surferman86 or jacksmom12, I cringe,”. “Email addresses are free, so my assumption is that you are just too lazy to care about your professional image. Laziness is not a quality I look for in prospective candidates.”

Although your LinkedIn profile is not your resume, information on both the profile and the resume need to be updated simultaneously. Imagine a hiring manager sees that the candidate’s LinkedIn profile is obsolete or does not match the PhD resume, they will think that either the candidate is out of touch or not current with technology. This perception is not a good way to brand yourself in the marketplace. 

Most recruiters prefer to see the candidate’s LinkedIn profile after they have seen the PhD resume, to verify that the information mentioned on the resume actually matches their public profile without any glaring discrepancies. This is the intermediary step between a PhD resume review and a face-to-face interview. 

You need to have both your PhD resume and your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and supporting each other. All opposing or outdated information should be removed.

3.  I’m only going to read your professional summary and if those 3 bullet points don’t interest me, I’m going to move on to the next PhD resume.

Employers spend 80% of their time on the top 1/3rd of the page and if they like it, they proceed further. Therefore, this area should exhibit the highlights of one’s career that are most aligned with the job requirements. 

A bulleted professional summary provides the hiring manager with a bird’s eye view of your skills and achievements without having to dive into the rest of your resume. It must sum up your top skills, experiences, and the biggest career achievements as they pertain to a job opening. Each of those bullet points should be structured with the 3 key parts of bullet points: transferable skill, technical expertise, and quantified results.

A resume should be accomplishment-oriented, not responsibility-driven.

Presenting transferable skills, quantified results, and expertise is the best way to show an employer that you can talk the language of industry. Employers are not interested in gazing at a long list of the responsibilities associated with your past roles. Especially those without context. A list of responsibilities doesn’t grab anybody’s attention.

What recruiters and hiring managers want to know is how you have contributed to your previous workplaces and how you can add value to their organization. You need to mention all the initiatives you have taken on, and the positive impact triggered by those initiatives. It is a key decisive factor when several candidates with similar work experience are being considered. Therefore, transform your responsibilities into accomplishments. 

The STAR method often comes handy when going through such a transformation.

A hiring manager only spends 5-7 seconds looking at your resume. It’s your responsibility to make the information on your PhD resume quickly accessible. A professional summary in paragraphs makes it difficult to capture the attention of a hiring manager. Using paragraphs instead of bullet points for the professional summary may lead to dismissal of one’s candidature. 

4. Graduate Research Assistant, Postdoctoral Fellow, University XYZ mean nothing to me. I’m not a product of higher education. I’m looking for industry experience and skills to match.

Your resume should highlight your skills, not your academic titles. Call their attention to a transferable skill a technical skill relevant to their job description and where you gained it instead of simply enlisting academic titles. 

Highlighting your skills greatly increases PhD resume readability and saves the recruiter a huge hassle of digging deeper into your resume. Since time is a luxury when it comes to hiring, you can’t expect a recruiter to spend extra time looking for buried information on your resume. 

The ATS is smart enough to comprehend that bold means emphasized. Therefore, 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. Besides, the line of education is different for the recruiter. So, a bunch of academic titles might just breed confusion. 

If you don’t have industry experience, use a functional PhD resume format where you highlight these skills instead of your academic job titles. The functional format resumes well for PhDs without any prior industry experience or short careers, those with career gaps, or those who have shifted industries. 

The functional format uses transferable or technical skill from the job posting. Therefore, instead of job titles as the section heading, how one acquired the skill is enlisted. 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 as it nullifies the need to put in a bunch of academic titles mostly foreign to ATS and the recruiter.

Technical skills are much valued in the industry; those that are highly relevant to the JD. Recruiters want to know your technical expertise, instrument knowledge, and the capacity in which you have worked on those. Whether you wrote the SOP or followed it if you know how to troubleshoot instruments, what software proficiencies do you possess? These are important relevant technical skills that you should highlight. The recruiter gets a list of technical proficiencies that they are asked to match with the candidate profile. Your JD relevant technical expertise will ensure your success.

5. If you include a work cited section on your PhD resume instead of mentioning your publications as a quantified result, I will see you as an academic, not an industry professional.

Instead of listing transferable skills, and associated quantified results, if several levels of education starting from high school are mentioned, the resume is considered outdated. Just mention your highest degree because it is obvious that you must have gone through the bachelors and masters to attain a PhD. Don’t just mention where you got your degree. Instead, focus on what you learnt in the degree that makes you a great candidate for the job..

Publications don’t matter in industry. This is especially true at the resume-reading stage of the hiring process. Smart PhDs know that putting their publication record on an industry resume is a waste of time. Industry employers want to see work experience and results, not publications or education history. 

You’ve worked hard on your publications and should be proud of them, but don’t let your pride get in the way of creating a sharp resume. Besides, you can discuss your publication record when you get to the interview stage, if a hiring manager wants to bring up the papers you’ve published, they will. The number of publications can be mentioned as a quantified result, it must never be put out as a focus.

The final section in an industry resume are your honors, awards, and hobbies. Often, recruiters don’t belong to the same background as us, so mentioning hobbies will humanize you. It also gives an employer insight into the kind of person you are. As a bonus, the hobbies section will generally come up in conversation during interviews – these are a great opportunity to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded candidate.

While mentioning awards, write down how you got them. What did you have to do to get the award? Other information that can be added are volunteering service, arts, crafts, hiking. 

You want this section to have something that the reader can relate to. In most cases, the first person to see your resume does not have a PhD, and they are mostly not a specialist in your field. Showing this person something on your resume that demonstrates you are human–that you have interests outside of your STEM career.

Concluding Remarks

Know your audience. Tailor your PhD resume accordingly. Maintain a balance between what information should be included in what should not be. Create a visually appealing resume with all the information relevant to the job description while keeping in mind the time crunch of the recruiter.

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

ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD

CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS

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

How PhDs Can Avoid The Overqualified Label To Get Hired

How PhDs Can Avoid The Overqualified Label To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“We regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application due to concerns that your qualifications exceed those required for the role.  We feel it would not be a good fit. Thank you for applying.”  Oof, that’s part of a rejection email a PhD sent me. An employer had sent it to them after the first interview.  Another PhD told me this recently… “I feel like I’m both overqualified and underqualified for the jobs I apply to Isaiah.”  Which do you feel is more of a problem for you? I asked.  “At first I thought…

How To Answer “Why Are You Leaving Academia?” (& 4 Scientific Ways To Convince Employers To Hire You) 

How To Answer “Why Are You Leaving Academia?” (& 4 Scientific Ways To Convince Employers To Hire You) 

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“‘Why do you want to work here more than anywhere else? And why are you leaving academia?’ Those are the questions I got stuck on, Isaiah.  I told them why I liked their company, mainly because it was aligned with my values, but I also wanted to be fair and ethical so I told them that I was considering other companies. Then I explained that academia was no longer a good fit because I wanted to do more than write grants all day.”  “Okay, I replied, anything else? What did you say after that?” “I asked them a few clarifying…

Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Isaiah, I applied to ThermoFisher two weeks ago and a hiring manager got in touch with me and I had my first interview…. But then a second hiring manager reached out to me about another job I applied to there.  I started talking to this second manager and they asked if I applied to any other positions there.  I couldn’t lie so I told them about the other job and the other hiring manager.  Now, neither of the hiring managers will get back to me.  What should I do?”  This is what a PhD told me over the phone last…

How LinkedIn Ranks Job Seekers With PhDs, EdDs & Other Degrees

How LinkedIn Ranks Job Seekers With PhDs, EdDs & Other Degrees

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Be real Isaiah, there’s not a government bureau keeping track of how our resumes perform.”  This is what a frustrated job seeker said to me recently.  “What do you mean I have a reputation score?” they asked.  “Of course there’s not a bureau dedicated to this, at least not yet” I said.  “But you absolutely are being scored and ranked” I went on, “and your ranking is used to indicate how reputable you are as a job seeker.”  This is what I’ve explained to countless people looking for a job in today’s job market, most of whom were getting initial…

How The Academic PhD Job Market Was Destroyed

How The Academic PhD Job Market Was Destroyed

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I spent over a year looking for a job in academia and flew to multiple interviews. I didn’t get one offer.” A PhD told me this recently and many other PhDs have told me similar stories.  Of course, the stories involve more than just looking for a job for a year.  They involve living on a meager academic budget, trying to support themselves and their families, often in very expensive cities where many of the biggest universities are located.  They involve decisions to never go on a vacation, to feed their kids cheaper, less healthy food, and to work all…

Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

My last year in academia, I didn’t have enough money to fly home for Christmas. So I spent it in Iowa City, mostly alone.  I was broke (of course) so I decided to shovel snow out of driveways for $10 per driveway. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to be a PhD shoveling snow for money. “What I wouldn’t give to have a better job”, I thought.  That was the gift I wanted for Christmas and the holidays.  A better job.  Not to be a student or a postdoc or an academic PhD getting paid less than I was…

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…

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.

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.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

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.