Posted On11 Jun 2019
Resumes for PhDs and Researchers: How to Sell Yourself
In academia, individual achievements are valued above all else. As someone who hails from an academic background, it’s easy to think that other industries have that same perspective. And so when the time comes to leave the academe and get a job, you craft your resume placing a high priority on your publications, presentations, and posters. Unfortunately for you, most other industries do not work that way.
More often than not, industries look more at an applicant’s ability to collaborate and work with a team rather than individual successes. Not only that, you have to encapsulate all the essential details about yourself, your transferrable skills, and why the employer should choose you, into a single well-organized and properly formatted page. No wonder that most PhDs and researchers dread writing a resume more than they do a thesis.
Regardless of your technical know-how and experience, if you can’t sell yourself to prospective employers, you could wallow in unemployment far longer than you’d like. Keep in mind that recruiters take only six seconds to review a resume on average, so it’s crucial to write your resume in a way that makes those seconds count. You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in labs, fellowships, and research—don’t make the mistake of letting all of that go to waste by not giving your resume the proper attention it deserves.
So how does a PhD or researcher craft a resume that recruiters and hiring managers will approve? Here’s what you need to do.
Don’t treat your resume as a CV
A resume and curriculum vitae (CV) are two completely different documents. While the latter lists everything, the former only cares for what’s relevant to the job. And so the biggest difference is in length—while a CV can have as many pages as you want, you should only limit your resume to two pages at most. Suffice to say, you can’t put all your academic experiences in your resume. You need to pare it all down to the ones that directly relate to the job you’re applying for. Putting too much information can only make your resume look arrogant, not to mention disorganized.
Translate your experience into general skills
So, you’ve managed to trim out the fat, now you have to make sure ‘normal people’ can understand your resume. This means you have to drop the highfalutin words and replace them with more familiar terms. Focus more on skills and experience instead of achievements and job titles, which may sound like jargon to the average person. Find the connection between your responsibilities as a PhD and what you’re required to do at your target company. Don’t leave it to the recruiter to figure out. When you find that common thread, your resume will be much easier to read, and therefore, more functional.
Provide quantifiable results
Your resume must show a deep understanding of the company it’s been sent to. When describing your responsibilities in your resume, they need to spell out to recruiters exactly how you will fit into a potential employer’s mission and vision. Give them something quantifiable, so instead of saying “mentored entry-level staff,” say something like “Trained and mentored over 15 undergraduates.”
Many companies today employ automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan resumes for the right keywords. Resumes that fail to meet these keyword standards of these systems are simply discarded. As you build your resume, pay attention to the job description and identify the most prominent keywords used, and make sure to incorporate them in your resume in the most organic way possible. Use the keywords exactly as they are, because if you replace them with synonyms just so you can sound well-versed, your resume could end up confusing and challenging to read.
Remember—you’re not the only job applicant with an advanced degree
If you’re applying for a job in which a PhD is a strict requirement, other applicants are going to carry the same credentials you do. On the other hand, if the position you’re applying for doesn’t require an advanced degree, you could be thought of as overqualified.
If you truly want to land a job, then you shouldn’t rely too heavily on your PhD status. This can be especially humbling since you worked hard for your academic accomplishments, and want to be proud of them. Unfortunately, in this case, that pride can be seen as a detriment. Create a resume that showcases your skills beyond your academic degree. Focus on what you can contribute, not just what you have achieved in the academe.
Customize your resume for every job you’re applying to
The more companies you send your resume to, the bigger your chances of landing a job quickly, right? This is only true if you made sure each resume you sent out is unique for the position. Different jobs have different requirements, and so your resume needs to be specifically tailored for each one. Never take the one-size-fits-all approach when sending a resume to multiple recipients. Again, review the job description and make sure to include relevant keywords in your resume.
Pick the proper resume structure
Recruiters spend more time reading a properly formatted resume because key information is obvious and easy to locate. Studies reveal that recruiters look for six things in a resume: name, current and previous job positions, companies worked for, education and start and end dates. Format your resume in a way that readers can easily find these key pieces information they’re looking for even when they’re merely skimming it. Arrange the data in neat sections with clear headings to make them easier to spot. And make sure your resume is free of typos and grammatical errors.
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