How To Get Employers To Hand Pick You For A PhD Job In Industry

It was 9PM and I finally finished my last experiment for the day. I made a deal with myself that I would stop working at this time and start sending out résumés. I wanted to get a PhD-level job in industry and figured all I needed to do was spend the last hour of each day uploading my résumé to job postings online. So, I sat down, polished my résumé and cover letter, and sent them out to a handful of companies.

I really thought it was as simple as that. Get your PhD, fill out a résumé or CV, get a great job …the end. I was wrong. I never heard back from any of the industry positions I applied to. In some cases I got an automatically generated email but that was it. I was really confused. And, if I’m being completely honest, I was hurt and angry. How could someone download my résumé and read through it without at least having the courtesy to email me back a simple “no thanks” or similar? I found out much later that I never received a personal email back because no one was reading my résumé. Well, no person was reading it—a machine was reading it.

Wait …No One Is Even Reading My Résumé? 

Most companies will never look at your résumé. That is to say, most companies will never have a human being look at your résumé. Instead, your résumé will go through an automatic filtering system. Once you upload your résumé to a job posting online, the company’s computer program will scan it for keywords. If your résumé does not have the right type, number, combination, sequence, or density of keywords, it will get archived. Which is as good as having it thrown into the trash. Many large companies get up to 2,000 résumés a day. 2,000! Of course they’re not going to hire over 100 people just to read and organize those résumés.

3 Ways To Differentiate Yourself From Other PhDs 

If you’re just doing what everyone else is doing, you’ll never get your résumé read. You’ll never get an interview or an actual job either. There’s too much competition. The only way to get industry employers to notice you is to do things differently. Instead of trying to be the best needle in a haystack, try to get as far away from the haystack as possible. Stop trying to force your way through the crowd to get noticed. This strategy will never work. A better strategy is to completely differentiate you from your peers. Here are 7 things you can do to differentiate yourself from other PhDs and industry employers will hand pick you for open positions:

1. Personally deliver your résumé to strategic targets.

The average PhD sits behind their computer and fills out their résumé or CV, uploads it to a company’s website, clicks send, and then goes home. Maybe they take a minute to feel good about themselves for accomplishing something. But they shouldn’t feel good about themselves because all they did is throw both their résumé and an hour of their time in the garbage. These PhDs are not going to get high-level jobs. Even if they’re smart and stuff their résumé full of keywords that they pulled from the job posting’s text—it’s not enough.

The hard truth is most industry jobs are filled through internal promotions or outside referrals. In fact, almost half of all job hires at top tier companies are from referrals. This is why it’s so important to connect to the right people. You have to get associated with professional groups who know the names and details of executives, hiring managers, recruiters, and headhunters. Never send your resume to a company until you have a name—a referral—that you can include with it. Once you get a name, use it to personally deliver it to that person’s inbox, or use it in the first sentence of your cover letter to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

2. Consult with experts to make your résumé or CV a work of art.

If you’re just downloading résumé templates online and hoping the one you choose will get you noticed, you’re in trouble. For starters, résumé designs, styles, and formats quickly go out of style. What worked 6 months ago will not work now. And, if you’re downloading a particular résumé online—guess what—so is everyone else. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to get professional advice from an exclusive source. Insider tips, like how to design a visual center, will go a long way in getting your résumé and your experience noticed.

The visual center of your résumé starts at 2″ from the top of the page, ends 2″ below that, and is your main selling focus. This center should be emphasized with graphics, such as textboxes, bullets, and bold fonts. Just by glancing at the visual center, the reader should be able to tell what position you are aiming for. Load the visual center of your résumé with the value that you offer to potential clients, such as across-the-board accomplishments, industry-specific skills, a summary of a highly successful project you led, or even a clipping from a recommendation letter (if you are a recent PhD with minimal professional experience) or news article about your work (if you’ve been recognized for your work). If your visual center is interesting and catches the reader’s eye, your résumé will be read a lot more carefully. Whatever you do, don’t just start your résumé with a list of your education history and professional experience.

You should also add something to your résumé that no one else has. Try to see yourself from an interviewers point of view. During the hiring process, most interviewers meet with dozens of PhDs just like you. And, believe it or not, most of them have the same experience level as you. This makes it almost impossible to stand out. The only way to really differentiate yourself is to include something unexpected. Whether it’s joining an elite group of industry professionals, going through a interpersonal skills training program, or attending webinars with MBAs to improve your business acumen, take on something that will differentiate you from all of the other PhDs who have nothing else but publications and grants on their résumés and CVs.

3. Get high-level training in the fields of communication and interpersonal relationships.

Too many PhDs spend 20-30 years of their lives (not to mention thousands of dollars) perfecting their scientific skills, research skills, and writing skills. But very few of these PhDs will ever spend any time perfecting their communication or interpersonal skills. The truth is interpersonal skills are more important than any other skill set you have, especially when it comes to getting a job in industry. This is true no matter the industry—all PhD jobs included. In the book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, Dan Schawbel polled hundreds of industry employers asking “What are the most important traits you look for when hiring?” 98% responded, “communication skills.” A large-scale survey performed by the Center for Creative Leadership found that poor “interpersonal skills” are the number one reason promising industry careers go off course. Another survey by the Workforce Solutions Group found that 60% of all applicants to high-level industry jobs lack adequate communication and interpersonal skills.

As a PhD, the best and most straight forward way to differentiate yourself for an industry job is to show that you’ve received high-level training in both communication and interpersonal relationships. The only way to sharpen these skills is by associating yourself with other high-level professionals and engaging with them on a long-term basis. The key is to not limit yourself to just engaging with other PhDs. Try to engage with high-level academics of all kinds, especially MBAs. The more diverse your training, the more you will stand out.

Don’t be tempted to think that this kind of networking is a waste of time. It’s not. Studies show that successful industry professionals spend 70% more time networking than their less successful counterparts. Other studies have shown that networking in the right circles of people is positively associated with salary growth, number of promotions, perceived career success, and job satisfaction. If you’ve put off improving your interpersonal skills and have yet to join any high-level industry networks, it’s not too late. Start differentiating yourself now.

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

Isaiah Hankel, PhD is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 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. Isaiah Hankel received his doctorate in Anatomy & Cell Biology with a focus in immunology and is an expert on biotechnology recruitment and career development.

Isaiah has published two bestselling books with Wiley and 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 About Photo

Similar Articles

Clinch The Interview With 6 Can’t-Miss Cover Letter Strategies

Clinch The Interview With 6 Can’t-Miss Cover Letter Strategies

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

When I first started my job search, I was not a fan of cover letters.  I’d even go so far as to say that I hated them. But I ran into a friend of mine about a year after I got my PhD. We got to talking. I told him that it had been almost 12 months since I graduated and I had only had a few interviews.  He said to send him my resume and cover letter and he’d take a look for me. Cover letter? I didn’t have a cover letter, I told him. And he told me…

How To Supercharge The Search Ranking Of Your LinkedIn Profile & Resume

How To Supercharge The Search Ranking Of Your LinkedIn Profile & Resume

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

You probably know that you should always target your resume when you apply for an open position and that you should add keywords related to your desired position throughout the sections of your LinkedIn profile. But do you actually know what targeting a resume or LinkedIn profile involves? Most PhDs think that they just need to look at the skills mentioned in a job posting and sprinkle a couple of them throughout their professional profile. This is the bare minimum.  If you want to ensure your LinkedIn profile always comes at the top of searches and your resume always makes…

How PhDs Should Structure Their Industry Resume Bullet Points

How PhDs Should Structure Their Industry Resume Bullet Points

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

If you’ve been reading Cheeky Scientist blogs for some time, you probably know that the best way to get an industry job is by applying through a referral.  That way, you can skip the resume submission step and move straight into a phone screen. So, you’re probably thinking that you shouldn’t waste time on a targeted resume for each position you apply to. But here’s the reality: even though you shouldn’t rely on resumes to get your foot in the door, employers will still want to see your resume and LinkedIn profile before they interview you. I was recently talking…

How To Write A Convincing Cover Letter In 3 Steps

How To Write A Convincing Cover Letter In 3 Steps

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Setting up a job search application can be time consuming.  Especially if you have set up the right job search strategy and are applying to several positions at the same time.  This leads many PhDs to try to cut out steps of the job application that seem dispensable. For example, the cover letter if the job posting doesn’t specifically asks for one. This is a misconception, you should always include a cover letter with your job applications.  How formal the cover letter is will depend on the situation, but taking the time to introduce yourself and your candidacy will separate…

A Complete Guide To PhD-Level Industry Resume Formats And Sections

A Complete Guide To PhD-Level Industry Resume Formats And Sections

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Your PhD-level industry resume is one of the key components of your professional job search profile. You should make sure that it is well crafted and accurately represents you as an industry professional. The PhD-level industry resume is a marketing document that will help you pitch yourself, it is not a lengthy CV, full of irrelevant information. A well crafted PhD-level industry resume will show recruiters and hiring managers that you know who you are professionally and are a valuable job candidate. The following story comes from a member who recently transitioned and illustrates the importance of understanding the goal…

4 Powerful Ways To Communicate Your PhD Value To Industry Employers

4 Powerful Ways To Communicate Your PhD Value To Industry Employers

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What’s the biggest gap that you have when it comes to transitioning into industry? How do you communicate your value? This is a common question I like to ask PhDs. And, very often, I get the following answer:  Well, I’m not sure how to position myself for industry. What this actually means is that you don’t know how to communicate your value to potential employers.  You probably only know how to talk about your skills in academic terms. You only know how to talk to other academics, but industry employees don’t really care for that type of language. This leaves…

20 Measurable Results That Any PhD Should Add To Their Industry Resume

20 Measurable Results That Any PhD Should Add To Their Industry Resume

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

By the end of my PhD studies, I found myself in a very bad place.  I knew I wanted to leave academia, but I didn’t know how to set up an industry job search strategy. The only thing I could think of was uploading resumes online.  I kept doing that, but I never heard back from employers. I knew there was another world out there, but I had no idea how to crack into it. Eventually, I became convinced that I had no value. That my PhD was useless. And I lost all my motivation. I had undervalued myself so…

6 Phrases That Get PhDs Ghosted After A Job Interview

6 Phrases That Get PhDs Ghosted After A Job Interview

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Far too many PhDs are getting ghosted by employers after job interviews. They set up a job search strategy, build a targeted resume and LinkedIn profile, and apply to positions where they have internal referrals; only to get ghosted after a phone screen, or even worse, a site visit. If this has happened to you, you need to prepare better for job interviews. An interview can go south very easily. Maybe you just said the wrong thing and that caused employers to stop considering you. You cannot underestimate the importance of coming prepared.  Take it from one of our members…

5 Ways PhDs Can Leverage Wage Push Inflation To Get Hired

5 Ways PhDs Can Leverage Wage Push Inflation To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I had heard of PhDs transitioning rapidly into management roles, but I never thought I would meet one. I assumed that opportunities to fast track one’s career into the top levels of a company were reserved exclusively for elite PhDs.  The chosen minority who always have brilliant ideas and produce 10 first-author publications in top journals by the time they defend.  The ones who have been aiming for senior management all along. The ones for whom negotiation for a high salary seems to come naturally. Can you imagine being one of them? I can’t.  Do you even know one of…

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.

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.