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

Why You Should Add A Sidebar Resume To Your PhD Job Search Arsenal

Why You Should Add A Sidebar Resume To Your PhD Job Search Arsenal

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

I couldn’t believe it.  After nearly 25 years of being a “student,” I had done it.  I had earned the right to put 3 letters at the end of my name: P-h-D.  After those 25 years, I felt it was time to leave academia behind, I no longer wanted to be on a college campus anymore, with undergrads, and lifetime academics.  I wanted something more. This was not for me.  So I brushed off my CV which I had used for so many grant proposals, changed a few things here and there, and started posting my ‘resume’ on every job…

Top 3 Cover Letter & Resume Combinations For Getting Hired

Top 3 Cover Letter & Resume Combinations For Getting Hired

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

By the time I received my PhD, I had never held an industry job. I had never been trained in how to create a resume or cover letter.  After college, I watched those going into industry struggle to get jobs, but I was at ease with my PhD lab already picked out, my future was set. I followed these friends on social media as they got jobs…found spouses…started to have children. Meanwhile, I was still glued to my bench trying to squeeze my stipend into a survivable income. I was no longer at ease. I was stuck and uncertain about…

7 Video Resume Failures That Make Employers Press “Pause”

7 Video Resume Failures That Make Employers Press “Pause”

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

My very first video resume was embarrassing. At the time, I thought it was pretty good. I had some music going in the background because it seemed like a way to add personality. Bad idea. After reviewing my recording, I noticed there was also a dog barking somewhere in the background. On top of that, the lighting wasn’t very good in the room where I filmed myself. I had shadows on my face, and it made my eyes look a little sunken… However, this seemed fine to me – after all, I was applying for a PhD-level position not a…

511 Rejections Later ...The Resume That Finally Got Me Hired

511 Rejections Later ...The Resume That Finally Got Me Hired

By: Dwight Lane, PhD

Before Cheeky Scientist, 6-to-12-month contracts were the best I could get.  Ultimately, my industry transition process took about 2 years and 1000 applications. After joining the Cheeky Scientist Association, it took only 3 months to land my dream job. Talk about a difference. The resume template was, I am quite sure,  a major factor in this process.  There was this thing called a “functional resume” where I could highlight all the relevant skills I learned as a graduate student – instead of showing that my only experience had been as a graduate student. This made a huge difference. Most of…

My 3-Step Job-Search Plan For PhDs In A Bad Economy

My 3-Step Job-Search Plan For PhDs In A Bad Economy

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

Finding the right position was one of my biggest challenges once I decided to move into industry.  I had plenty of academic experience, but I didn’t know if that was valuable in industry. A lot of people told me that it would be difficult to apply for industry roles without relevant experience. At first, I made some major mistakes. My advisor told me to list my technical skills at the top of my resume. He told me to emphasize my education section – surely, this would impress employers, right? It didn’t, and now I know better. I wasn’t listing all…

3 Urgent Resume Updates PhDs Must Make For The Recession

3 Urgent Resume Updates PhDs Must Make For The Recession

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I want to help you avoid one of the biggest mistakes that I see right now from PhDs. A lot of them are trying to either get a job in industry or just protect their current job. They had a job search strategy that was working for them back in January, and now the same job search methodologies are not working.  That’s because things have changed, and you have to adapt. If you have not updated your resume and LinkedIn profile since the pandemic began, you need to do it now. PhDs need to give a certain impression to employers.…

3 Cover Letter Hacks That Get PhDs Hired

3 Cover Letter Hacks That Get PhDs Hired

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

There is no denying the fact that cover letters are becoming less and less popular. According to a survey in Jobvite, 55% of hiring managers say that while cover letters are not important in their job search process, they still recommend that you learn how to nail them. With the advent of social media, recruiters and hiring managers can easily vet a candidate on LinkedIn without even looking at their resume. But here’s the thing… You never know exactly what the hiring manager wants to see, and it can be a huge misstep if you forget this. In a recent…

5 Crucial Resume Facts That Will Boost Your Job Search

5 Crucial Resume Facts That Will Boost Your Job Search

By: Karthik Pandalaneni, PhD

Many PhDs spend countless hours on their resume, listing endless accomplishments, responsibilities, publications, presentations, and other information that practically bore industry employers to death. They mass-upload this ridiculous document to online job postings and wait for the job offers to roll in like red carpet on their way to industry success. These PhDs--otherwise sharp and creative people--are shocked when they never hear anything back. The reality is that your resume is probably never even seen by another human being, let alone rejected. Your resume is being rejected by a computer program. JobScan reports that more than 90% of Fortune 500…

7 Top Job Skills That PhDs Can Leverage To Get Hired Fast

7 Top Job Skills That PhDs Can Leverage To Get Hired Fast

By: Surayya Taranum

The key to making a successful transition to industry is through developing and highlighting your transferable skills. And yes, as a PhD you already have the transferable skills you need for your future career. Now you must learn to leverage these skills to build a career in industry. Your potential employer knows that you have deep technical skills in your field, what they need to see is that you have the ‘soft-skills’ they are looking for in their next hire. You need to show to potential employers that you are a well-rounded individual with the transferable skills needed to be…

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.