7 Powerful Tips For PhDs To Wow Hiring Managers With Their Resume

I’m happy to share with you that I’ve recently transitioned into an experienced design researcher position.

Here is what my transition timeline looked like:

  • Graduated in Jan
  • Started looking for a job in March
  • Joined CSA in May
  • Worked part-time since June
  • Got 1st offer in September
  • Got 2nd offer in October
  • Accepted the second offer

I want to share some takeaways from my transition experience.

Networking is important.

I landed my first couple of part-time jobs by networking (informational interviews, to be specific).

The part-time work experience really helped me build up my work experience and gave me some hands-on experience to talk about in the interviews.

Networking with other professionals also helped me to learn the industry norms and lingos so that I can sound more relatable to other industry people.

Don’t be afraid of cold-contacting people on LinkedIn or going to networking events. People are usually very nice when you try to have a conversation.

Resumes, interviews, portfolios, and all forms of professional communication are ways to communicate your skills and expertise in a relatable manner.

Learning how to convince people from different backgrounds is really a skill that we all need to practice often.

As PhDs, we all have what it takes to do the job.

But the most important thing is to let others know that we will be able to do the job.

We need to learn to speak their language (aka sound professional).

The process is stressful.

So make an effort to keep your mind and body healthy and always try to be positive.

This community has great support and helps you remember your value as a Ph.D.

How Your Resume Can Prevent You From Getting Hired

A resume is an interesting piece of your job search strategy.

Because a perfect resume is not enough to get you a job, but a bad resume will prevent you from getting a job.

As a PhD you might think, if I just get this resume perfect, if I show that I have all the skills, I will get hired.

You’re wrong.

Your resume needs to go hand-in-hand with a robust networking strategy.

But a robust networking strategy coupled with a poor resume is not going to work in your favor either.

It takes both a great resume and strong networking to get hired in industry.

For example, Harvard Business Review reported that 48% of all hires come from an employee referral.

And Talent Works found that using the right leadership-oriented words on your resume can boost your hireability by 51%.

You put those two things together and you have earned yourself a seat as a top candidate.

So what does it take to write a resume that will get you a job offer?

A resume that, alongside a well thought out networking strategy, is the key to your job search success.

7 Tips For PhDs To ‘Wow’ Hiring Managers With Their Resume

Your industry resume is different than an academic CV.

It should be tailored for each position.

The goal of your resume is to convince the hiring manager to bring you in for an interview.

The goal of your resume is NOT to recount all of your accomplishments.

A good industry resume is focused, relevant, and powerful.

Here are 7 tips to help you craft a resume that clearly conveys your value as a PhD…

1. Use single sentence bullet points.

There is nothing worse than a bullet point that never seems to end.

It just drags on and on becoming increasingly hard to understand and leaves the reader read to throw the resume in the trash.

A bullet point that is too long and does not clearly convey a point demonstrates to an employer that you are not a good communicator.

It shows them that you cannot be succinct.

A super long bullet point shows the employer you don’t understand that communication needs to have a clear goal or purpose.

Is that what you want an employer to think when they read your resume?

To prevent giving a bad impression, keep your bullet point length to a single sentence.

Sure, it can be a compound sentence, but it should not be a runon sentence.

Remember, each bullet point should have 3 parts: transferable skill, technical skill, result.

If you focus on having just those three things in each of your bullet points it will force you to think about what you are really trying to say with the bullet points.

So look at your resume, how many of your bullet points are long, never ending sentences?

How can you change those so that they clearly demonstrate a transferable skill, technical skill, and a result that is relevant to the position?

2. Include numerical results.

In industry, numbers matter.

A lot.

For many PhDs this is a big shift from the academic pursuits of their PhD and/or postdoc.

So you will need to look at the things that you have accomplished in academia through a different lens.

This is the only way to make them relevant to employers.

You need to associate numbers with the things that you’ve accomplished so that a hiring manager can really understand the value of what you have accomplished.

For example, when talking about your communication skills, you should write the actual number of papers or presentations that you have.

This number will do two things.

First, it will make the readers eyes stop for a moment.

When we read things, numbers will jump out and draw our eyes, and when you include them on your resume it will help maintain the reader’s engagement.

Second, this number will give a sense of what you have accomplished to the hiring manager and show them that you know the value of results.

3. Don’t repeat descriptive words.

This is just laziness.

And when you do this on your resume, an employer will read it as laziness, which is not the impression that you want to give.

Also, it’s not even necessary to put a descriptive word at the beginning of your bullet points.

Instead of saying that you are an ‘excellent project manager’ say ‘project manager with xyz experience which resulted in 123 result.’

Let the results show that you are excellent.

Another word to stay away from is ‘Team Player.’

This keyword has been shown to actually make you less hirable.

You may have been told that employers are worried that PhDs won’t be able to work well with other people, but the way to prove them wrong is not to use the phrase ‘team player.’

Instead, use the proper bullet point structure and identify a time that you collaborated with others and achieve a good result.

Show – don’t tell.

That is what you need to remember with you bullet points.

Instead of repeatedly telling them that you are excellent, show them you are excellent with the clear and tangible results that you have achieved.

4. Switch to a functional style resume.

When you are making the transition from academia to industry, without industry experience, a functional resume is a great option for you.

This type of resume takes the focus off the your titles and puts the emphasis on your skills.

This is important because many employers do not understand academic titles and this will hurt you.

Also, applicant tracking software will not be looking for academic titles, it is looking for skill based keywords.

Writing a functional resume is a bit different than a regular resume and there are tips on how to write one here.

But the main difference is that instead of using ‘Postdoctoral Fellow’ as the bolded header in your work experience, you would use the key skill you want to convey.

Here’s an example:

Research & Development Skills

Earned as a Postdoctoral Fellow at XYZ University

  • Bullet point 1
  • Bullet point 2
  • Bullet point 3

This format will allow you to make your academic experience relevant to the industry position you are targeting.

5. Use 3 or 5 bullet points per section.

Under each experience section you should use either 3 or 5 bullet points.

Using just one bullet makes it look like that experience was not impactful and begs the question of why you would include it on your resume.

Additionally, humans like to see things in odd numbers.

So using 2 or 4 bullet points seems like it is unfinished and will subconsciously leave the reader thinking that something is missing.

So, use 5 bullet points for you most relevant experience and 3 for those that are less relevant or where you have fewer results to discuss.

It is not a good idea to use 7 bullet points either.

This is just too long and will make the section look crowded and again convey to the employer that you don’t know how to get to the point.

6. Include your customized LinkedIn URL.

There are things that you just will not be able to include in your resume.

Your resume should only have the most relevant and impactful experiences listed, but the other things you have accomplished are important as well.

This is where your LinkedIn profile comes in.

You should be putting EVERYTHING you have accomplished on your LinkedIn profile.

The more filled out your profile, the better you will appear in search results on LinkedIn.

So, you want the person reading your resume to know that they can also find out more about you on LinkedIn.

All you need to do is, at the top of your resume where you put your name and contact details, include a link to your LinkedIn profile.

However, before you do this you need to go into the settings of your LinkedIn profile and change your LinkedIn URL.

The default URL will likely have a string of letters and numbers, this looks bad.

Change this to be some version of your name and make it professional.

7. Check the visual aesthetics of your resume.

It might seem silly, but it matters what you resume looks like.

You want it to look appealing.

So, take a step back and have a look at your resume.

Does it look nice?

Is the layout organized?

Is it designed well?

The biggest factor to consider here is the amount of white space on the page.

If your sections and bullet points are too close together the resume is going to look crowded and induce a bit of anxiety in the reader.

It will look like something daunting to read.

This is not good.

On the other hand, if you have lots of white space and the bullet points have enough room around them it will look inviting.

The reader will be curious.

This might seem too ‘fluffy,’ but think about an Apple advertisement and then think about a terrible advertisement you have seen online.

What is one of the biggest differences?

Bad advertisements have too many things crammed into them and they look messy.

While your resume is not an ad, it is still a persuasive document.

You are using it to convince the hiring manager to bring you in for an interview, and you should be using the design and layout of your resume to help achieve this result.

Your resume is one key part of your industry job search. It needs to clearly and powerfully convey your value as a PhD. It needs to show the employer why they should hire you. To do that you should use single sentence bullet points, include numerical results, not repeat descriptive words, switch to a functional style resume, use 3 or 5 bullet points per section, include your customized LinkedIn URL, and check the visual aesthetics of your resume. A good resume coupled with solid networking will set you up for a successful industry transition.

To learn more about the 7 Powerful Tips For PhDs To Wow Hiring Managers With 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.

Join Cheeky Scientist Association
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly
Erica Yi, PhD
Erica Yi, PhD

Erica has a PhD in Communication & Media Studies from The University of Kansas. She is a social scientist turned UX researcher with 5+ years of experience in communication studies, media user analysis, qualitative and mixed method research design and execution.

Similar Articles

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 10th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 10th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

The (Revised) Fundamentals Of A PhD Job Search

The (Revised) Fundamentals Of A PhD Job Search

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

We’ve seen dramatic changes in the job market since the start of 2020; the fundamentals are changing. From the first wave of lockdowns to the mid-year hiring boom and then the second wave of lockdowns, and now –  the vaccine rollout.  We’ve observed the highest month of PhD hiring ever since we started tracking PhD hiring nearly a decade ago.  The month was November, 2020.  But this boom was followed by an 81% drop in PhD hiring.  And now, with a lot of uncertainty around future corporate tax rates in many countries, we are seeing PhD hiring stagnate in this…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 3rd 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 3rd 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

How To Tell Your PhD Story And Use It To Sell Yourself In Industry

How To Tell Your PhD Story And Use It To Sell Yourself In Industry

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

You were so excited to take charge of your future and transition out of academia.  You hired an expert to craft the perfect resume. You lined up interviews, and the hiring managers seemed impressed. You felt confident. Then came the question… “And why do you want to leave academia?” You figured the answer was obvious. Doesn’t everyone already know academia isn’t the most financially rewarding path—especially after the investment you made in a PhD? “But what is it about this job in particular that makes you want to take the leap? Are you just looking for a better salary?” That’s…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 27th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 27th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 20th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 20th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Understanding Top PhD Jobs In Altac Fields Is Not Easy, But This Will Help

Understanding Top PhD Jobs In Altac Fields Is Not Easy, But This Will Help

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

A repeated misconception that plagues PhDs when faced with career choices is that their doctorate could be a liability in the job market.  Career counselors are still telling doctoral students that a PhD will make companies view them as overqualified or too independent, instead of guiding them to the top PhD jobs available.  These advisors will tell you that cultivating strong professional relationships, attending networking events, and relying on your mentors are the best options to find a rewarding career post-graduation.  However, years spent doing research prepare you for almost any strategic role in modern industry. Another misconception that may…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 13th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 13th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

If Your Resume’s Been Rejected 20 Times Or More It’s Probably Missing these 5 Things

If Your Resume’s Been Rejected 20 Times Or More It’s Probably Missing these 5 Things

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Here is the funny thing that most PhDs don’t understand - your PhD is incredibly valuable and so are you, BUT you are not above the job search process. You and your PhD don’t give you a free pass to not have to learn to speak the language of industry, to not have to follow up, to not have to learn industry buzzwords and transferable skills; to not have to practice behavioral questions, on and on. Being smart, proven, or successful in one area does not make you any of those things in another area. Get over yourself. Otherwise, you…

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.

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the top 20 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.