Today, we’ve got a great question from Matthew Randall. I’m currently an academic postdoc because that was my comfort zone coming out of my PhD, sounds familiar, in pulmonary medicine but now I’m looking to make a move into industry after 1.5 years. What are the key differences between an academic CV and an industry-targeted CV or industry resume and a similar question for cover letters?
Great question, Matthew. This is a question we get a lot. You definitely don’t want to use your academic CV when applying to industry positions. Now, anytime you’re communicating – whether it’s in written form like with a resume or through oral communication – you always want to consider two things. Your purpose, that’s number one and then your audience, that’s number two. Your purpose and your audience.
In the case of a resume, your purpose is clear, to showcase that you are the right position for the job. Number two is not considered by a lot of PhDs. We’re so used to writing for other academics. We’re so used to generating these long CVs with all of our publications. Basically, a timeline of all the methodologies that we’ve learned. This is not for the correct audience in industry. Your industry audience, they just want to see your biggest results that you’ve achieved so far, as well as your past job positions, past job titles, a little bit about your work history and that’s it. They want to see it in a very succinct manner.
Today, more than ever, resumes don’t matter as much. Most jobs are coming through referrals. With that being said, we always like to say that, “A good resume is not enough to get you a job but a bad resume can keep you from getting a job.” If you’re submitting a 7-page CV for an industry position, you’re going to be seen as not credible to industry. They’re going to take one look at it and realize that you don’t understand how things work in industry, you don’t understand your audience and as a result, you’re not going to get a response or you might get that automated response after uploading your CV to a job posting.
What do you need on an industry resume? Well first of all, contrary to a CV, your industry resume, it’s going to be 1 to 2 pages, tops. Of course, you have to always consider your audience, always look at the job posting if they ask for something specific. Make sure you’re following whatever they ask for. Make sure you’re paying attention to the different countries you’re applying to also. Some countries, like some European countries, they want you to have a picture on it. For the US, definitely don’t put a picture. In general, you’re looking at a 1 to 2-page resume. In the top third of your resume is what’s called a “visual center.” This where the most important information goes.
This is the most important part for a couple of reasons. number one, if you’re uploading your resume to a job site, it’s probably not being read by a human. Instead, it’s going through applicant tracking software and what the software does is it looks for certain keywords and tries to match those keywords to the job posting. It weights keywords at the top of the resume more heavily than keywords at the bottom of the resume. That top third of your resume, it’s the most important part. It’s also the part that human beings, so when it gets in the hands of a recruiter or a hiring manager, it’s the part that they will read the most. There’s a lot eye-tracking studies on resumes that have been done. On average, recruiters, hiring managers, spend 5 to 7 seconds. Short amount of time. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, that’s all that they’re spending on your resume. Most of that, again as seen on those eye-tracking studies, is looking at the top of the resume and then maybe looking at the job titles below that.
Again, this was a really good question. If you look our website, http://www.cheekyscientist.com, on some of the other articles, we dig into resumes more.