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Interested In The Top PhD Careers? Must-Use Keywords For Your 2021 Resume

If you think employers or job recruiters are going to read your resume word for word, you’re wrong.

The people reviewing your resumé are skimming at best. 

Eye tracking studies show that employers only spend 5-7 seconds on a resume (HRDive). 

Those same studies show that resumes are read in a F-shape, whereby employers skim the top one-third or so of the resume (the first horizontal bar of the F-shape), which is known as the Visual Center, then skim down the left-hand side of the first page and, if you’re lucky, the second page (the vertical bar of the F-shape). 

Finally, their eyes jump back up anywhere between midway down the first page to midway down the second page – usually somewhere in the Work Experience section, depending on the resume format you use – and skim across the page again from left to right (the second horizontal bar of the F-shape). 

But, where do their eyes stop? 

They stop on the keywords that they know best. The keywords that they wrote in the job posting itself. 

Employers are looking for these specific keywords so they can get an idea about whether you’re a good candidate for their specific position at their specific company …or not. 

So, the question becomes…

What are the top keywords for resumes in 2021?

Which keywords will help you stand out from other PhDs to land top jobs in industry and provide you with the best salary possible for a former PhD student and/or postdoc? 

Keywords For Your 2021 Resume: Tips To Impress Potential Employers

What do you see when you look through job listings online? 

Do you see bullet points outlining job duties and technical skills that do not apply to the job at hand? 

Or, do you see bullet points showcasing quantified results, specific capabilities, transferable skills, and core competencies PhD-level applicants like you need to qualify for a specific position? 

The latter is your key to success. 

As employers scan your resume (or use a software filter), what will they see? Adopt some of the following keyword tips in your 2021 PhD resume to make it stand out. 

1. Match Your Keywords To The Exact Job Description

You may have to spend some extra time rewording your resume for various positions. However, it will be worth it when your resume is selected from thousands of resumes that have been entered into a company’s Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) software. 

Start by reviewing the job descriptions of the positions you’re interested in. Below is a list of simple keywords that might show up in a job posting. Imagine you manually go through 10 job postings or use the Cheeky Scientist Word Cloud trick to hack the 10 job postings much faster, and you find the below words at the top of your list. What would you do next? How would you add them to your resume? 

  • Technical
  • Health
  • Certification 
  • Regulations
  • Database
  • Analytics
  • Testing
  • Consulting
  • Writing
  • R (or any other type of programming language used in your industry)

Remember that your resume will go through the ATS filtering software first. The recruiter/employer/manager will have entered the above specific keywords for the ATS program to flag. Again, the keywords you identified from the job description will be in the system, so make sure to identify and add them to your resume. 

Let’s make it even simpler and say the job you’re looking for requires project management skills. The keywords flagged will be “project management.” 

But, you might ask, what if your resume says that you’re experienced in “managing projects”? They’re similar, so your resume would likely get flagged, right? No, probably not. 

ATS software programs are very specific. They look for the exact keywords. 

Review your PhD resume before submitting it to make sure your keywords match the job posting and you’ll be in a better position to get calls for interviews to the top PhD jobs.

2. Change Words To Fit Your Industry 

Certain industries use different words for the same skills or positions. 

Jobscan gives the following example in their list for the top 500 keywords for resumes: 

For example, some employers look for a content creator, while others specify a content writer. The jobs might be identical, but the titles are different. 

Employers, managers, and job recruiters use keywords identifying specific qualifications in terms of transferable skills and quantified results to quickly sort through the plethora of resumes they receive. 

What are they doing? 

Your resumé is your first introduction to a potential employer. Make it count! We share the best keywords for your 2021 resumé that help PhDs get hired.

Remember, they’re looking for keywords that correspond exactly to the keywords on the job posting or the keywords recognized at their company, which means the words they use on a day-to-day basis. 

These words may include words related to their company culture, branding, products, or their proprietary way of doing business.

Change the keywords on your resume to reflect the exact title for the position you are applying to. 

3. Don’t Just Write For Bots

Although some companies use filtering software to look for specific keywords, remember that humans will read your resume, too. 

In fact, some resumes go through at least two people/departments before they call you for an interview. In these situations, your resume will likely go through HR personnel and a direct supervisor. Consider what each department is looking for. 

The HR department probably has a checklist of requirements that aren’t always obvious from simply looking at a job title. 

The department supervisor will sort through the resumes flagged by HR to find a candidate that fits their department’s needs. 

4. Identify The Top 5-10 Job Requirements Or Skills

Some job postings are extensive. By the time you’re finished reading it, you’re not sure if you’d be eligible even with your impressive PhD resume. 

Re-read the posting. You might find it helpful to print it out and review it with a highlighter. Find the skills or requirements that seem most important to the company, and also fit your knowledge and experience. 

Once you have your chosen words highlighted, go through your resume. See if those keywords are already on it. If not, find strategic ways to add them. 

This qualitative review will enhance your understanding of the role and help you choose keywords better. Don’t just trust a Word Cloud or other quantitative approach. 

5. Research The Most In-Demand Skills In Your Industry

Do extensive research online for the in-demand skills in your field. The results will provide you with some must-add keywords for your 2021 resume. 

For example, according to a 2019 Stack Overflow survey, the top in-demand qualifications for Data Scientists include: 

  • Knowledge of Python programming language
  • Knowledge of at least one other programming language (R, JavaScript, etc.)
  • Machine learning
  • Probability and statistics
  • Business knowledge

A PhD who wants to get hired as a Data Scientist and adds these keywords to their resume will increase their chances of making the “to interview” resume stack.  

6. Add Some Common Skills To Your Resume

Do you have transferable skills or transferable experience like the following examples?

  • Research
  • Documentation
  • Innovation
  • Information systems
  • Strategic planning
  • Technical literacy
  • Technical supportRisk management
  • Change management
  • Data analysis
  • Statistics
  • Coding
  • Quality assurance

Of course there are thousands of other valuable transferable skills like this. What’s important is that you don’t disregard these skills just because they sound simple. These are the core skills that give rise to nich technical skills. 

Don’t forget to include these transferable skills in your resume. Some of the more basic skills you’ve picked up through previous jobs, internships, or even life skills can attract potential employers. 

Make sure the keywords you add complement the position you’re applying for. 

Get Extra Help To Improve Your Confidence 

The Cheeky Scientist Association is committed to helping PhDs get hired into top positions. We offer PhDs everything from writing attention-grabbing resumes and improving their interview skills to negotiating job offers for top PhD jobs. 

Many graduates like you are happy they survived academia and have their degrees to show for it. But you need more. You need a job. One that adequately rewards the financial and mental efforts put into earning your PhD degree. 

We can help you navigate highly-paid PhD careers and find one that best suits your skills, knowledge, and talents. 

Want more PhD resumé tips? Our Industry Resume Guide for PhDs (the most downloaded eBook in our library) can help. 

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Isaiah Hankel holds a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology. An expert in the biotechnology industry, he specializes in helping other PhDs transition into cutting-edge industry career tracks.

Isaiah believes--from personal experience--that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life, it’s a clear sign that you need to make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Isaiah is an internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant, CEO of Cheeky Scientist, and author of the straight-talk bestsellers Black Hole Focus and The Science of Intelligent Achievement.

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