Hosted By

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

Join us as we talk about…

In this week’s episode…

  • You will learn that how important transferrable skills and communication are
  • You will learn the importance of optimizing your resume content
  • Finally you will that you must manage your online presence

“I have an interview coming up in 3 days Isaiah. It’s by video.” Congratulations, I said. “What are some of the big things I should pay attention to?” They asked. So, I told them how to research the position, how to approach the panel by making each person feel heard and paid attention too, not just the most vocal person, and we talked about some more practical tips like blurring his background or using a different virtual background (his current background showed a very messy bookcase and desk). “My background is good, I’ve used it before. It will be fine.” Okay, sure, I said. Why fight with him? You’re either coachable, or you’re not.

Too many PhDs fail to get hired because they’re not coachable. They insist, without any openness or humility, that they’re not getting hired because they lack the skills, not because they’re coming across as unlikable, or naive to the social norms of industry. I see this a lot which is why today I want to give you some direct advice on some of the biggest errors PhDs make when trying to get hired – errors they think don’t matter or that they’re doing really well.

Are you coachable enough to take this critique and think differently? Let’s find out.

First and foremost, as a PhD trying to get hired in industry, even if you have some experience, you’ll be seen by many as a clueless first-year intern on their first coffee run. And your degree will be seen as a checkbox indicating that you’re intelligent but also likely untrainable and difficult to get along with. Are you compensating for this? Are you leaning into transferable skills especially those that indicate you can work cross-functionally with others and that you value communication? If not, you better start.

Second, your resume is too dense to read and is as bland as unsalted crackers. Sounds like a corny joke right? But these are the exact words I heard from a top Talent Acquisition Specialist I interviewed who worked for both Genentech and Novartis for years, hiring hundreds and hundreds of PhDs. News flash: Recruiters spend about six seconds looking at a resume and don’t have your niche background. If all your bullet points are describing what you specifically did and not balanced in a one-to-one ratio with easily digestible transferable skills and quantified results that employers care about, your resume will go right into the trash bin.

Your online presence, or digital footprint, is being stalked more than your ex. Another funny joke? Nope, this is a comparison I heard from a recruiter I interviewed when I asked how much employers are looking up past online posts and accounts during their final review of a job candidate before they send a job offer. Creepy? Maybe, but true.

If your social media profiles are controversial or if you’re bashing people and businesses online, is it really a stretch to think that employers will strongly question whether or not to bring you into their company? What if you get mad at them? Will you bash them too?

Fourth and finally, job Interviews are less about your skills and more about your vibe. That’s right – an employer’s job during an interview is less about drilling you on your skills (as hard as that is for most PhDs to swallow, it’s true) and it’s more about seeing if you’re someone they can tolerate eight hours a day without going insane.

So, while you’re busy prepping your technical answers, don’t forget to work on not being a robot. Personality matters. Likability matters. You might not be a loner, you might be good at talking, but that has nothing to do with the business acumen and professional awareness it takes to persuade an employer to hire you into an industry position.

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