Cheeky Logo
Ready To Transition Into Industry?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

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

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 site I could think of. 

I was so excited to start the next chapter of my life.

Days past….weeks past….months past. And still nor response from employers. 

After 9 months, my enthusiasm diminished. I began just searching for a postdoc. 

Maybe I wasn’t destined to leave a college campus and I was doomed to be a lifelong academic.

I finally decided to show my resume to a previous labmate of mine who had transitioned from academia to industry. 

He all but laughed at me when I showed him my 5-page resume. 

He gave me two pieces of advice I will never forget.

  1. Every resume should be 1-2 pages and targeted at a specific job.
  2. A sidebar resume is a unique way to save space and show, not tell, my creativity. 

Back to the drawing board. 

I began targeting my resume, I dropped all the academic and scientific jargon, I focused my resume, and curated it to each job. I began to get some phone interviews. 

Why Your Resume Is Important

Your resume is a key job-hunting tool that highlights your accomplishments, your education, and your skills. This document is your sales pitch to the recruiter or hiring manager, it needs to scream I AM PERFECT FOR THIS JOB! While subtly hinting how your technical skills and work experience add values and expand on the job description. 

Many PhDs spend hours, days, even weeks on trying to get the perfect resume format. Pouring endless time into checking margins, adding periods, changing wording.

Sounding familiar?

Hate to tell you this, but the majority of resumes are never even looked at by a person. 

Your resume is being rejected by a computer. JobScan reports that 90% of Fortune 500 companies are using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to screen out the majority of resumes. And with 525 applications being sent in for every job posting you really need to make the resume shine. 

If you pass this step, all your efforts might result in just 7.4 seconds of a hiring manager’s time according to a recent study by Ladders.  

That’s it, that’s all you get 7.4 seconds to WOW the recruiter to put you into the “maybe” pile. 

The benefit of ATS is its programmable, predictable, and thus beatable.

If you place enough keywords in your resume in the right context in a format that is readily scannable you can beat the ATS according to themuse

However, recruiters are less predictable. They come with biases and preferences. They have a certain format they expect and would like to see. But the same old format can get boring, it can get blurry and all the resumes become just a smear of black and white.

So how can you WOW the recruiter? By adding just the right amount of spice to your resume. Enough to make it stand out but not so much to put the recruiter off. 

The answer may be in slimming down your resume with a sidebar format update.

What A Sidebar Resume Is (& Isn’t)

At Cheeky Scientist we champion 5 kinds of resumes as the best for PhD level positions. They are functional, the gold standard, combination, recruiter, and sidebar. 

While the functional, gold standard, combination, and recruiter resumes follow a similar format, the sidebar is defined strictly by its unique format. 

The functional, combination, and gold standard resumes aim to highlight your skills over your job title to show an employer that you are the best candidate. In a recruiter resume, you highlight your technical skills and knowledge in a format for recruiters to easily scan and help place you into an ideal role. But the sidebar resume is less about resume content and more about the overall visual representation of the resume.

To get two free resume templates (side bar and functional) CLICK HERE  

A Sidebar resume is designed to be one page while still providing all the necessary information.

A long and wordy resume of simple black and white text can get cumbersome fast; while 2 pages is ok, a 3 page resume is far too big and unacceptable.

Adding a sidebar thus allows you to add more content onto a single page while still creating lots of white space. 

A sidebar resume update will tone your resume composition to be fit, fun, and functional. 

The Pros And Cons Of Sidebar Resumes

First let’s start with the cons, specifically who shouldn’t use this resume. The sidebar resume format is not for everyone.

While it is growing in popularity, there are still a number of companies that would prefer a more standard format. A very simplistic rule would be, if you are going into a career path that requires a strict dress code (think business, accounting, etc.) then a sidebar resume is likely not the way to go. 

The other consideration with the sidebar format is ATS. The sidebar format is not always read correctly by ATS and your resume could be thrown out. However, this issue is becoming less prominent as applicant tracking software becomes more sophisticated.

Now let’s talk about who should use a sidebar format resume. There are many top PhD positions that would benefit from using this format.

PhDs looking to get into the field of marketing, data scientist, medical writing, management consulting or other client focused positions should add the sidebar resume format to their job hunt arsenal.

These positions require a fair bit of creativity and higher levels of communication skills. The sidebar format conveys just that, creativity. Communication and creativity can further be enhanced with the addition of other graphics such as skill bars. It allows your creative skills to be shown, not just said. 

The power of showing is far more convincing than simply telling. 

This resume is aesthetically pleasing, although it may take some time to really get the formatting right. By adding a sidebar to your resume, the whole document will have a different feel and look. 

A sidebar resume is unique enough to stand out to a hiring manager while still having a high professional quality. 

Finally, this format can be combined with aspects of the functional resume, highlighting your skills over your job titles. This is typically great for PhDs who don’t have industry experience. Just like our functional and gold standard format, you want to curate your sidebar resume to the position adding 3-5 bullets points per work experience or functional skill.

Also universal in all three resume styles, every bullet point should link a transferable skill to a technical skill and end with a quantifiable result. 

Structuring Your Sidebar Resume: The SideBar

With any resume you want your name to be big and eye catching in the top center part of the document. There should be a lot of white space. This makes the document more readable and especially more scannable.

The actual side bar usually takes up about ¼-⅓ of the width of the page.

Because we read left to right it’s important to put the most relevant information in the sidebar. This would include your contact information which encompasses your phone, email, LinkedIn, location etc. 

Skills are typically only a few words. So, they fit well into this smaller space. Adding a skill level in the form of a bar or a word such as “excellent” next to the skill can convey to the hiring manager your confidence with each skill.

If your professional summary fits into this section you can also add it. However, if your professional summary is long and does not properly fit, add it to the wider side.

Structuring Your Sidebar Resume: The Wider Side

The right side of the document is a little wider, allowing for more detail and longer sentences. In this section, you can add your work experience. 

Your most recent education, your PhD, can be placed on either side of the document just somewhere towards the bottom. Finally, you can add awards and hobbies. 

This format can add a little creativity and break away from traditional-looking resumes. It changes the body composition of the document, giving you the ability to add a little spice to your resume making it functional, professional, and just a little cheeky.

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


Sarah Smith, PhD, holds a degree in Biochemistry. A tireless science consultant at large, her rigorous pursuit of pristine labwork is unflinching. Yet Sarah’s keenest passion--guiding emergent academics into the business world--stems from personal experience with the transitional struggles she would have no PhD face alone.

Sarah Smith, PhD

Similar Articles

Robots Ate Your Precious Technical Skills. Focus On These Transferable Skills Instead

Robots Ate Your Precious Technical Skills. Focus On These Transferable Skills Instead

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I haven’t even graduated yet and my career is already being phased out by AI. Am I going to need a separate degree in machine learning to stand out from the competition?  How can I compete in a data-focused industry when software can do most of my job faster and for far less? Messages like these come to me every day. ChatGPT sent shockwaves through every industry when developer OpenAI unveiled the software to the general public in 2022. Within 5 days of launch, it had already seen 1 million users. I work closely with PhDs on a daily basis.…

The Power Of The Functional Resume: A Game-Changer for PhDs Seeking Industry Roles

The Power Of The Functional Resume: A Game-Changer for PhDs Seeking Industry Roles

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Sometimes you’re too close to a situation to really understand it. That was definitely the case for me when it came to my industry resume.  As a PhD leaving academia, it took me a long time to understand that I was wasting my time submitting an academic CV to industry employers. It wasn’t until I was hired in an industry role that I understood there was a specific resume format for people like me. When I had a chance to shadow an industry recruiter, that’s when I really understood the goal of a resume – the zoomed-out view that I…

How Long Does It Take To Get Hired As A PhD?

How Long Does It Take To Get Hired As A PhD?

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I spent a lot of time being disappointed during my job search; things were taking longer than they should have.  At least, that’s what I thought. The longer I didn’t hear back from a recruiter or hiring manager for a job I really wanted, the more jobs I’d apply to and the more confused my job search would become.  I also didn’t realize that recruiters and hiring managers would trade notes and become confused by my frantic frequent applications to as many jobs as I could find.  What I didn’t know was that my impatience was costing me potential jobs…

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…

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.

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.

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.