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5 Important Items PhDs Leave Out Of Their Resume

Written By: Jeanette McConnell, Ph.D.

The day I finished my PhD was bittersweet.

I was beyond excited to be finished and to have accomplished something that I had wanted since I was a child.

But, when I looked toward the future, I was lost. 

What could I do next?

I did not want to stay in academia or work in a lab anymore, it just wasn’t for me.

But, I had no idea how to get a job.

Seriously, it was a huge mystery, how did people do this?

I knew a LOT about the chemistry project I had just spent years researching, but I knew absolutely nothing about how to get a job.

If I wanted a future outside of academia, I knew I had to figure out what jobs were available to me and how I could get them. 

I’d earned a PhD, surely I could learn how to get a job?

So, I started learning.

I developed a job search strategy that involved tons of networking, but I also spent quite a bit of time on my resume.

I went from thinking that my resume was just a boring piece of paper to understanding that it is an essential part of my job search strategy. 

My resume became a place for me to prove that I was the perfect job candidate. 

Now, once I was recommended for a position, I had an excellent resume to follow up with.

A resume that I was confident would earn me an interview.

Why Your Resume Is Not Just A Formality

Glassdoor reported that out of every 250 resumes, only 4-6 candidates will get an interview.

That means, at least 244 out of 250 job candidates will be rejected, based on their resume alone.

With a poor resume, you will never make it past a hiring manager’s initial screening.

With a bad resume, you will never move forward to a phone screen or interview.

And, you have to show your value in your resume very quickly.

A study by The Ladders found that recruiters spend an average of just 6 seconds looking at a resume.

6 seconds!

Your resume must clearly demonstrate that you are the right candidate for the position, or you will go straight into the reject pile.

Everything that you put on the resume has to add value to your application and be relevant to the job you’re applying for.

It’s up to you to prove that you are the best candidate.

5 Features To Include In Your PhD-Level Resume

If you have been sending out resume after resume and not getting any response, you are clearly doing something wrong.

Are you networking and generating referrals?

Do you have a persuasive cover letter?

If you are networking and sending your resume to the recruiter or hiring manager via your referral, and still not getting any response, the problem is likely your resume.

Your resume is your first impression, so make it a good one.

Here are 5 features many PhDs forget to include in their resume…

1. Tailor your career experience to the specific job.

Of course, your resume will have a section that details your work experience.

But, your work experience is more than a list of the duties that you performed in each role.

This section allows your potential employer to get a sense of how your experience will fit into the role they are trying to fill.

You should tailor your experience to highlight the skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for.

As a PhD or postdoc, you have a wide variety of experiences to draw upon and make relevant to the industry position you want.

Use your transferable skills and a quantitative result to make your PhD or postdoc experience relevant to the industry position.

Your resume will look slightly different for every position that you apply for.

This is how you will show your potential employer that you are a worthy candidate.

2. Include all relevant credentials and awards.

Most PhDs have no problem including their academic accolades on their resume.

But, are you including other credentials or awards you have received in your resume as well?

For example, have you taken any online courses?

Do you have any special certifications in specific lab techniques?

You should include credentials like this on your resume.

Another area that is often neglected is the hobbies section of your resume.

This is not just a superfluous section.

This is where you can demonstrate that you are well-rounded, are a leader, and are a team player.

Include hobbies and sports that highlight your teamwork and leadership skills.

Showing a potential employer that you are part of a team demonstrates that you can work well with others and will be a positive addition to a workplace environment.

Also, include any volunteer or community organizing you are a part of.

Being a community volunteer demonstrates initiative and leadership.

Leadership skills are particularly useful if you’re applying for a management position.

While it is a great idea to include relevant accomplishments and credentials in your resume, this does not mean that you should list all your publications.

Listing your publications on your industry resume is a surefire way to have your resume discarded.

3. Add links to your professional content.

You should include links to your website, articles you have written, or any other professional online web presence you have.

If your resume has peaked the employer’s interest, these links will give them a place to learn more about you.

If you don’t have any relevant web links to add, then it’s time to generate some.

A great way to do this is to create your own professional website.

There are many free web hosting sites that are easy to use.

Here, you can create an online resume where you can expand into more detail than is possible on your 2-page industry resume.

A professional website or links to your online content show that you are involved in your professional community. 

This is important, because demonstrating that you are an active part of your professional network is a great way to build rapport.

On this same note, ensure that every part of your online presence is professional, consistent, and aligns with your overall job search goals.

4. Use keywords found in the job posting.

Many companies use applicant tracking software to screen resumes.

This software rates submitted resumes and will reject a large portion of resumes before they are even seen by a person.

The specific criteria the software uses to rate candidates is unique to each company, but they all rate resumes based on keywords.

Therefore, you need to have a look at the top keywords used in the job descriptions and ensure they are in your resume.

You should insert the keywords several times throughout your resume so that they naturally blend into the content.

You can use a software like Wordle or Word Cloud to figure out which keywords are being used most frequently in the types of jobs you are searching for.

Using keywords in your resume is important even if you have been executing your job search strategy well and have an internal referral.

These keywords represent what the company is looking for in a job candidate.

When the hiring manager is reading your resume, they will be looking for these keywords to decide if you are the right person to call in for an interview.

5. Ditch the crowded layout for lots of white space.

As a PhD, you have many accomplishments.

You have many advantages over other job candidates, but that does not mean that you need to list every single accolade you have in your resume.

Your industry resume should be short and sweet.

It should highlight the accomplishments that your potential employer will care about the most.

And, it’s important that you don’t try to squeeze too much information into your short industry resume, because that will make it look crowded.

It will look messy and crowded if you do not leave enough white space.

Lots of white space and a clean, crisp layout will make your resume look professional and increase your chance of getting an interview.

Increase your chances of getting an interview by writing a professional resume. Don’t let a bad resume keep you from getting the industry position you want. By tailoring your resume to the job, including your relevant credentials, adding links to your professional content, using the right keywords, and ditching the crowded layout, you’ll be putting your best foot forward in every job application. Having a good resume is an essential part of a successful job search strategy.

To learn more about 5 Important Items PhDs Leave Out Of Their Resume, 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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Jeanette McConnell, PhD

Jeanette is a chemistry PhD turned science communication enthusiast. During her PhD she realized that her favorite part about research wasn’t actually doing research, but rather talking and writing about it. So, she has channeled her passion for discovery into teaching and writing about science. When she isn’t talking someone’s ear off about her latest scientific obsession, you’ll find her on the soccer field or reading a good sci-fi novel.
Jeanette McConnell, PhD


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