3 Resume Tweaks to Help Scientists Get a Job in the Private Sector


According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), approximately 42% of life science professionals with doctorate degrees work in academia.  However, only a fraction of them have full-time faculty positions.  As a result, many scientists experience a highly competitive process trying to secure those full-time roles.  After much exhaustion and rejection, many life science professionals get to the point where they want to expand their job search outside of an academic environment.  Based on my experience as a certified career coach, I recommend that they consider positions in the private sector as well.

The challenge is that many scientists only have a long, academic CV that is not ideal for roles outside of academia.  Submitting this type of CV instead of a strong resume is usually ineffective at landing you interviews for a few reasons. 

First, when you apply online for positions, the majority of the time your submission is going into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  This system scores your resume based on the amount of relevant keywords included.  In most situations, your academic CV will not match up well with the private sector position. 

Secondly, if you are lucky enough to get past the ATS, your average HR professional or recruiter will not be well versed enough in your industry to understand your value based on the CV.  They are used to seeing shorter documents that allow them to instantly qualify candidates for a position.  The HR professional simply moves on to one of the other top 10-15 resumes they’re reviewing.

This doesn’t have to happen to you!  Over the last two years, I’ve reviewed and written over 100 resumes.  Here are 3 resume tweaks to help you get a job in the private sector:

1.  Reduce it down to three pages max!- And to be honest, a two-page resume would be even better.  This can be difficult for many life science professionals, because they don’t know what information to remove and what needs to be highlighted.  In general, removing the following sections is a good start: publications, conferences attended, presentations, and community service.  A resume should be more succinct and really show the impact you could have on an organization. 

2.  Limit highly technical language- Describing the specifics of all of your research is not necessary and can be overwhelming.  The reviewer is looking to get an idea of who you are which includes your transferrable, leadership, and social skills.  The best resumes tell a story and in this case, the story of your career.  Your goal is to provide a high-level overview that intrigues them to know more about you.

3.  Use position specific keywords- Finding the appropriate keywords to use in your resume can take a lot of time.  This can be easier if you look at postings of many scientific positions in the private sector.  What words do you see repeatedly?  How can you use them in your resume?  You might need to replace a more specific term you’re currently using with one that is more generic (that you see in multiple job postings).

Applying for jobs in the private sector is a good idea if you want to pursue new opportunities and shorten your job search. The NSF found that only one in five PhDs in science, engineering, and health end up with faculty or teaching positions within five years of completing their degrees.*  Whether you decide to hire a professional resume writer or make the outlined changes yourself, these tweaks can help you land more interviews.

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching.  She empowers ambitious professionals to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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