Contributed by Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. Founder, Cheeky Scientist
One of the biggest misconceptions in academia is that if we put the work in and make a name for ourselves, jobs will follow.
It’s a shocking plot twist when reality reminds us that this isn’t so.
The truth is, opportunities are often limited when it comes to positions PhDs are interested in.
The competition is fierce.
In fact, 54,070 research doctorates were recently awarded in America alone in a single year — a record high in the over 58 years this number has been tracked.
As a result, your industry resume remains an important tool in your search for an industry job.
It’s the calling card you’ll come to rely on to get your foot in the door.
A good resume is not enough to get you a good industry job.
That being said, a bad resume by itself can keep you from getting a good industry job.
If your resume is not up to par, or if it’s littered with amateur mistakes, you’ll likely find yourself doing benchwork for the bulk of your career (work that robots and monkeys can do).
Here are 5 amateur resume mistakes PhDs must avoid to get hired into an industry role…
Mistake #1: Ignoring the job description
75% of big companies, and 60% of mid-level companies, were using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to review resumes.
Those numbers have only increased in the last two years.
These systems are making decisions long before a resume ever reaches the hiring manager in charge.
They focus in on keywords to eliminate applicants and present only those who, based on the words used in their resumes, seem best suited for the job.
That means you need to be studying job postings and descriptions to identify the most prominent keywords used, and tailoring your resume with those same keywords.
It’s not just about the keywords, though.
You should be tailoring your resume specifically to each and every job you apply for.
That’s a lot of work for just one application.
This work is what will separate you from other qualified job candidates.
You either want the job, or you don’t — and this is what it takes if you want it.
Hiring managers can spot a generic resume a mile away, and if you haven’t taken the time to tweak your resume for the job at hand, they likely won’t take the time to interview you.
Mistake #2: Burying the lead
Packing your resume with a chronological listing of every publication, presentation, award, honor, and project from your past is not impressive.
It’s arrogant and unorganized.
Your resume shouldn’t be an academic curriculum vitae (CV) — it should be the short and impactful document it’s meant to be.
I know how you feel — after all the work you’ve done, it feels wrong to leave things out.
It feels wrong to make your resume short, tight, and customized.
But your feelings don’t matter here.
Only the data matters…
An eye-tracking study conducted by Ladders found that the average hiring manager looks at a resume for only 6 seconds before making a decision to discard or interview.
That’s all the time you get to make an impression.
Submitting a resume that’s several pages long doesn’t mean that you’ll impress hiring managers with all you’ve accomplished; it means you’ve added clutter with a lot of excess information they’ll never read.
It also conveys your inability to make executive decisions regarding the most relevant information to share.
Resumes should remain concise, but powerful.
They should never be more than 2 pages long, they should consist of bullet points instead of paragraphs, and highlight only the most relevant details of your academic career.
Mistake #3: Refusing to leverage social media
Most if not all recruiters utilize social media in their hunt for the perfect job candidate.
This means hiring managers are vetting candidates online, AND recruiting directly through social media sites like LinkedIn.
You can have the most solid resume in the world, but if a recruiter decides to look you up online prior to scheduling an interview — and discovers something unsavory — you might just find yourself “selfied” out of a job.
For this reason, your personal social media accounts should be kept at the highest level of privacy.
You should also create secondary professional social media accounts specifically for your job search.
Most importantly, make sure you have a professional LinkedIn profile that will give hiring managers and recruiters more insight into your background.
Include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume so that employers can easily connect with you online as well.
Mistake #4: Relying too heavily on your PhD status
You’re proud of your academic accomplishments — and you should be.
You’ve worked hard to get to where you are today.
But it is incredibly important to remember that you are not the only job seeker with a PhD.
For most of the jobs you are applying for, a PhD is probably required — which means your competition holds the same credentials as you.
In some arenas, your PhD may actually be seen as a detriment — if you’re applying for positions that don’t require a PhD candidate, hiring managers may fear you’re overqualified.
Or worse, they may fear you’re more qualified than they are!
That means you need to create a resume that highlights your skills beyond your academic degree, especially your transferable skills.
Focus in on what you are capable of moving forward in your future industry job, not just what you have accomplished in the past in academia.
Mistake #5: Failing to personalize your message
You likely put a lot of work into your resume.
But have you also gone the extra step of researching who you’re applying to?
Who is heading up the human resources department at your company of interest?
Which specific hiring manager will be reviewing your resume?
Answering these questions before you submit your resume is a must.
For many hiring managers, a resume addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam” is an automatic red flag.
Because it is so easy to find out who the hiring manager in charge of any given position is.
The fact that you failed to address your resume and cover letter directly to an individual is seen as a sign of laziness and disinterest.
In other words, you just don’t care enough to find out.
Even if the job posting itself doesn’t list who the hiring manager is, a quick call to the company, an informational interview, and/or some digging online will produce that name for you.
Personalization is a small step that can go a long way.
Once you get the hiring manager’s name, consider connecting with them on LinkedIn.
This will provide the hiring manager with an opportunity to learn even more about you, which is a good thing.
Resume writing really is an art form, and just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean you automatically know how to sell yourself in two pages.
Most PhDs fall into the same bad habits and lazy resume blunders as other job candidates because they don’t know how to market themselves like a business person.
You need to translate your academic experience into results that have value to the specific job you’re applying for.
You also need to highlight your transferable skills and craft your resume into a format that is clear and relevant.
Doing anything less is a mistake that should be avoided.
Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized speaker and author who helps individuals and organizations develop a more entrepreneurial mindset to accelerate their business success. Isaiah earned his Ph.D. in Anatomy and Cell Biology and is the founder of www.CheekyScientist.com, a training platform that has helped thousands of academics transition into industry careers.