Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

Don’t Write Your Resume For Yourself (& Who You Should Be Writing It For)

It took about a month for that fact to finally sink in. I was a PhD, no longer a PhD student. I was part of the 2% of society that now possessed that degree of education. But I had no idea how to write a resume. 

After you get your PhD, all you hear about is getting a job, making a decent salary, and finally enjoying life. 

This was not true for me. I was in some post-PhD fog, a depression unlike what I faced during my PhD. There were of course dark times in the lab, at the computer, redoing the analysis for the thousandth time, but there was always a well-defined light at the end of the tunnel. And now this light was nothing more than a piece of paper or three letters at the end of my name. It was not as bright as I thought it would be. 

So, I started looking for a job and submitting resumes. Here I was, having received the highest level of education and unable to get a job, or even a single call back. 

It was clear I needed a new strategy. I was in the wrong state of mind. I had this wrong idea that just because I had a PhD industry employers would come knocking to my door offering my prestigious positions. But I was invisible, industry employers didn’t know I existed.

My main mistake was writing my resume in a way that made sense to me, but it did nothing for hiring managers.  I needed to write a resume that could engage my audience. 

So, I revamped my resume; I took out a lot of jargon, simplified the theme, and added information that related to the job descriptions I was targeting. 

Soon enough, I had phone screens, interviews, and offers. My resume went from a mix of CV and generic resume to a results-driven, detailed oriented industry resume that eventually led to my transition into industry.

Why Your Resume Is Not For You

This may seem a little counterintuitive, a resume should be about you. It contains your history and your experience. But at the end of the day, your resume will be in a pile with hundreds of other resumes. It has to stand out to those who read it. 

So who’s your resume really about? It’s about a few people, the company, and a computer. The first thing you need to consider when writing your resume is applicant tracking software or ATS. 75% of recruiters and hiring professionals use ATS to whittle down the initial stack of resumes to the top candidates. ATS is a computer software that evaluates each resume based on whether or not it has the right format and contains the right keywords. You have to write your resume for ATS to get to the next stage of the hiring process. 

If you make it past ATS, your resume will go to the hiring manager. Most hiring managers don’t have a strong technical background like you, so they won’t feel impressed by a jargon riddled resume. 

If however, they see you’ve used the keywords they understand, have shown why you are a good fit, and you have referrals from people at the company, they will schedule a phone screen with you. 

This does not mean you should be untruthful on your resume, but you should curate your resume with the company and position in mind. 

Make sure you highlight key words from the job description. 

You also want to ensure you are always building your professional network. A well formatted resume is great but having a referral from the company is your fastest track to securing a job, particularly in times of economic hardships like a recession. 

How To Write Your Resume For Your Audience

Writing, even in a technical setting like resume building is very personal. You’ve always been told the resume must highlight your skills, creativity, and uniqueness. This is still true but you have to write for your audience. Here, your audience is the company you’d like to work for, more specifically, people making the hiring decisions for that position. 

This can be very challenging for a number of reasons: you don’t know the company, you don’t know the hiring manager, and you don’t know the culture. I will show you the top ways to get around this and write your resume for the company not for yourself. 

1. Write your resume with the company in mind

When you apply to a job, you may only have the job description and the company name on hand. But as a PhD you are trained to do research, to gather information and analyze this information rather quickly. 

In today’s society, there are virtually no companies without an online presence. If there is a company you would really like to work for, do a little internet searching. Find out what the company’s goals are. What words can you add to your resume that highlight your achievements and how they can help the company complete their mission? 

You might also find an employee directory in the company page. Who’s there that you can reach out to? Are you already connected with any of them on LinkedIn? Set up an informational interview. Ask questions about the company, the culture, and the expectations. 

If all goes well, this research and informational interview will provide you with the answers to many of the above problems. You will have a deeper understanding of the culture and how/if you will fit in.

By gathering this information and carefully analyzing it, you can target your resume to that company, producing a resume that is not about you but about how you fit. 

2. Show how you will help the company reduce risk

Companies don’t want to hire risky candidates, this is universal. No matter who you are writing your resume for, they want to see you are not going to be a risk, and this doesn’t just have to do with your professional behaviour but your whole demeanor. 

Their interest in you only goes so far as your ability to mitigate risk at the company. Are you stable? Do you seem genuinely interested in the company and excited about the position? Are you flexible? Does your online presence depict your professionalism?

Flexibility and versatility are some of the best transferable skills you can add to your resume because they convey that you won’t be a risk. When the pandemic hit, it completely shattered most work environments. Suddenly, the whole world had to work remotely. Showing that you are adaptable to situations and flexible during times of change is crucial to conveying you are a low risk candidate. 

You can also highlight that you are a low risk candidate by showcasing your management skills. Every PhD has developed project management and task delegation skills by juggling multiple projects at once during grad school. As a PhD, you also know quite a bit about stress management. 

PhDs already have so many transferable skills that reduce risk and provide certainty. When you write your resume, make sure to include these transferable skills and back them up with the results you achieved using them.

Keep current trends in mind when writing your resume 

The job market is not static. It is changing, sometimes more rapidly than others. Your resume has to reflect these changes. Fifty years ago, knowing how to type was a valuable skill. Twenty years ago it was important to put on your resume that you knew how to use Microsoft word. Six months ago it was important to know how to communicate virtually, but today this is a necessity. You have to be comfortable communicating and working remotely.

Knowing the trends in your current industry or target industry will make you a more valuable candidate. 

Not only are you keeping up with the times, but you are showing the dedication and enthusiasm to work in current conditions. 

Right now, the trend is virtual work and communication. Take advantage of this trend by highlighting your ability to work autonomously while still being able to collaborate in an effective way despite the decentralized workforce. 

Virtual training and chain of communication are also getting a lot of attention right now. It’s not a bad idea to put in your hobbies and interests sections some personal development you’ve done. Maybe you’ve completed an online course, or done some volunteering. Both of these highlight initiative and work ethic and your desire to continually improve.  

In Conclusion

While your resume is undoubtedly about your skills, interests, and experiences, it needs to be written for the company. You need to show the hiring manager that you are a dedicated and non-risky candidate. In a time of so much uncertainty, you can be certain on your career choice and convey that certainty to the company. Everytime you apply to a job, you should be creating a new resume that is written for the company, for the times, and for stability. 

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 ELIZABETH DEYETT

Elizabeth holds a PhD in genetics, genomics and bioinformatics. Now she combines her passion for science and writing as a consultant and freelance medical writer.

Elizabeth Deyett

Similar Articles

Your Job Search a Disaster So Far? Here's How to Clean Up the Mess (and Land the Job You Deserve)

Your Job Search a Disaster So Far? Here's How to Clean Up the Mess (and Land the Job You Deserve)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I’ve had several first-round interviews, Isaiah, but no callbacks,” a frustrated PhD candidate recently confided in me.  “Do you have any idea why?” I asked.  Everyone’s job search is unique, of course, so there’s no one answer to this question. But there are two that I hear more than most.  One is: “Employers say they’re looking for someone with more experience.”  The other? “Employers keep asking me why I’m leaving academia.”  Put another way, these two reasons are a reflection of PhDs being seen as either underqualified or overqualified.  The transition from academia to industry can be a minefield, and…

How PhDs Can Avoid The Overqualified Label To Get Hired

How PhDs Can Avoid The Overqualified Label To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“We regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application due to concerns that your qualifications exceed those required for the role.  We feel it would not be a good fit. Thank you for applying.”  Oof, that’s part of a rejection email a PhD sent me. An employer had sent it to them after the first interview.  Another PhD told me this recently… “I feel like I’m both overqualified and underqualified for the jobs I apply to Isaiah.”  Which do you feel is more of a problem for you? I asked.  “At first I thought…

How To Answer “Why Are You Leaving Academia?” (& 4 Scientific Ways To Convince Employers To Hire You) 

How To Answer “Why Are You Leaving Academia?” (& 4 Scientific Ways To Convince Employers To Hire You) 

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“‘Why do you want to work here more than anywhere else? And why are you leaving academia?’ Those are the questions I got stuck on, Isaiah.  I told them why I liked their company, mainly because it was aligned with my values, but I also wanted to be fair and ethical so I told them that I was considering other companies. Then I explained that academia was no longer a good fit because I wanted to do more than write grants all day.”  “Okay, I replied, anything else? What did you say after that?” “I asked them a few clarifying…

Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Isaiah, I applied to ThermoFisher two weeks ago and a hiring manager got in touch with me and I had my first interview…. But then a second hiring manager reached out to me about another job I applied to there.  I started talking to this second manager and they asked if I applied to any other positions there.  I couldn’t lie so I told them about the other job and the other hiring manager.  Now, neither of the hiring managers will get back to me.  What should I do?”  This is what a PhD told me over the phone last…

How LinkedIn Ranks Job Seekers With PhDs, EdDs & Other Degrees

How LinkedIn Ranks Job Seekers With PhDs, EdDs & Other Degrees

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Be real Isaiah, there’s not a government bureau keeping track of how our resumes perform.”  This is what a frustrated job seeker said to me recently.  “What do you mean I have a reputation score?” they asked.  “Of course there’s not a bureau dedicated to this, at least not yet” I said.  “But you absolutely are being scored and ranked” I went on, “and your ranking is used to indicate how reputable you are as a job seeker.”  This is what I’ve explained to countless people looking for a job in today’s job market, most of whom were getting initial…

How The Academic PhD Job Market Was Destroyed

How The Academic PhD Job Market Was Destroyed

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I spent over a year looking for a job in academia and flew to multiple interviews. I didn’t get one offer.” A PhD told me this recently and many other PhDs have told me similar stories.  Of course, the stories involve more than just looking for a job for a year.  They involve living on a meager academic budget, trying to support themselves and their families, often in very expensive cities where many of the biggest universities are located.  They involve decisions to never go on a vacation, to feed their kids cheaper, less healthy food, and to work all…

Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

My last year in academia, I didn’t have enough money to fly home for Christmas. So I spent it in Iowa City, mostly alone.  I was broke (of course) so I decided to shovel snow out of driveways for $10 per driveway. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to be a PhD shoveling snow for money. “What I wouldn’t give to have a better job”, I thought.  That was the gift I wanted for Christmas and the holidays.  A better job.  Not to be a student or a postdoc or an academic PhD getting paid less than I was…

The Ideal Keyword Density For Targeting Your PhD Resume To An Industry Job Posting

The Ideal Keyword Density For Targeting Your PhD Resume To An Industry Job Posting

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Writing a resume for an industry job is one of the biggest sticking points I see with PhDs entering the job market.  What worked even a year ago is not working today due to recent and rapidly accelerating advances in Applicant Tracking Systems.  These systems, called ATS or just AI today, are software tools used by companies to filter resumes.  They scan for specific keywords related to the job role, abilities, credentials, and qualities desired in a candidate.  As a PhD seeking very competitive roles, including relevant keywords in your resume is essential to pass through these systems and get…

AI Is Replacing Recruiters. Here’s How PhD Job Seekers Should Adapt

AI Is Replacing Recruiters. Here’s How PhD Job Seekers Should Adapt

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I had a recruiter reach out to me, Isaiah, and after I gave them my resume and answered their questions, they never got back to me. What should I do?”  I hear this a lot.  I also hear, “Isaiah, I was on the phone with a recruiter and as soon as they heard that I needed a visa, they hung up” …”or as soon as they heard I had no industry experience, they hung up.”  Man, I personally hate this. What a waste of time. The recruitment industry is broken.  The good news is its being devoured by Artificial Intelligence,…

Top Industry Career eBooks

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.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

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.