An industry resume is nothing like an academic CV.
It’s not an exhaustive list of your achievements.
It’s not about length.
It’s not about prestige.
It’s all about fit and being exactly what the recruiter is looking for.
Other stuff that you did during grad school simply doesn’t matter.
Let’s take a look at the resume I used to get the recruiters to want to talk to me.
Industry Resume Format (Generic)
This is the exact resume format that I used for my industry job applications, including the one I ended up landing. Clear, concise, and effective, with plenty of white space.
This isn’t going to be exactly how a resume will be structured for everyone that reads this. But, the general outline and format worked very well for me when I was applying to jobs.
You know that the recruiter is skimming through dozens of resumes on any given day. The moment they come across your resume, they have to be convinced you’re worth speaking with.
This resume format worked for me because regardless of the role that I was applying for (I applied for mainly 2 types of roles, Support Scientist and Medical Writer), I made it extremely, extremely clear to the recruiter that I was a good fit for the position and worth interviewing.
I’ll go through each section of the resume in a bit more detail below:
Full Name and Exact Position Name From Job Listing
So I didn’t always do this.
At the beginning, I only put my full name at the top and not the job name. I thought it was super presumptuous to pretend like I could call myself that, having it so high up in the resume like it was my current title.
Sure, it made sense to me if people were already in a similar position and therefore used that job name up top, but coming out of grad school or a postdoc, not having had that actual job yet, I had a weird aversion to putting the job name smack dab at the top of my resume. It was a weird mental block that I think some readers can relate to.
Well, as a famous actor and athletic brand once said, just do it.
It’ll help the recruiter remember which position you’re applying to, and allow them to more easily associate your name with that role. It’s okay you haven’t actually had that job before! Putting it at the very top of your resume isn’t about labeling yourself as someone already having had that role. Think of it more as an organizational thing to help the recruiter.
Contact Information & Socials
I kept my resume super basic with only my city, state, and Zip, the phone number, and email address at the top. My resume was seriously no frills, no fuss.
This is a really important section that the recruiter is going to immediately read to get a sense of who you are. You like skimming stuff and getting to the good bits, right? Same goes for these recruiters.
This is where you make your first impression and you want to make sure it’s a good one. Fill this section with lots of technical and soft skills that you see listed on the job listing and that you can infer from the job listing.
I think the free tips from Cheeky Scientist’s Free Resume Guide are incredible for this section. It should be a 3-liner, where the first line is the first impression you’re going to make, and should be a line that describes your fit for the role using key skills from the job listing. The second line should be about your most technical skills and experiences that fit the role. The third line should be more soft skills and other things like project management and public speaking.
So, this can look totally different depending on the role you’re going for.
If your desired role is totally lab-based and benchwork-oriented, it might be one big section named “Research Experience” with all the job-relevant lab experiences you’ve done listed in reverse chronological order.
If you’re going for a medical writer or science writer role, then the section won’t be about labwork. It’ll be titled “Writing Experience” and be about all the things you’ve written while being in those workplaces (so yep, you’d still list the lab as the lab and department and all that).
The bullet points really need to reflect the job listing and the things you did during grad school or your postdoc that match the listing’s needs. You might be tempted to mention really cool technical things you did that you are proud of, like learning a new programming language to statistically analyze something big for your project. But try not to use precious resume space unless it’s really relevant to the job and you are genuinely convinced the recruiter will see it as beneficial to know about you.
It’s also super helpful to write your bullet points in a way that shows real, measurable outcomes, and not just “I know how to do this thing”. As you can see from how I structured them, you should try to include some sort of measured outcome in each bullet point so the recruiter sees how you were able to use that skill you claim to know and actually get results. What are they going to be paying you for, if not results?
What worked for me was to put the Education section towards the bottom where it’s still visible but not the very first thing that the recruiter sees. I think this helped distance me from giving off an academic impression and allowed me to really showcase my skills and fit for the role with the Qualifications on top.
Education is obviously really important for a lot of jobs because recruiters can screen for education and use that as a cutoff, but it’s not as important as you demonstrating you have the skills you need to do the job right.
I genuinely saw a massive increase in the number of responses once I started structuring my resume in this way.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Any skills you have that fit the role you’re trying to get would be great to list here. Be simple, and use short words rather than descriptive phrases, so that it’s easy to scan.
Soft skills are great as well, because you don’t want to come across like a nerd that doesn’t know how to get along with coworkers.
I liked the look of having 2 columns in my Skills section.
Support Scientist Resume Template Example
Now, I’ll show you an example of the above generic resume being used as an actual, useful template for a position I was interested in: Support Scientist.
One of the roles I was really interested in was the Support Scientist, or Technical Support Scientist. Large life science research supply companies have these roles that help the researchers who are customers do their experiments and troubleshoot things that come up.
You’ve probably spoken with, emailed, or chatted online with someone who’s a Support Scientist for a company you bought some sort of research tool or reagent from. It’s not a Field Application Scientist position where you have to physically go into their labs. It’s all virtual, either by phone, chat or email, and that appealed to me.
The reason I was super interested in this role was because I had a lot of experience working with clients already from my tutoring days (I have a whole blog post about my tutoring side hustle during grad school if you’re curious, $500 a month, baby!) and I genuinely enjoyed working with and educating them.
Sure, I tutored kids and Support Scientists work with adult scientific researchers.
But the literal years of experience I had from interacting with the students and parents to identify areas of improvement, plan ways to help them through their knowledge gaps, and allow them to meet their goals all while being professional and knowledgeable was super appealing to recruiters.
It’s important to be able to prove that you’re not just a nerdy scientist who knows their science, but that you’re also a well-adjusted individual who can communicate professionally with people. I think this will ring true for many other positions, not just this particular one.
Here’s the exact resume template that got me Support Scientist interviews at 4 major laboratory research supply companies here in the U.S….ones that your lab has probably purchased from.
As you can see, I organized it by starting out with the Qualifications Summary, like I covered for the generic resume format above. I really wanted to showcase an equal contribution of my technical prowess as well as my genuinely client-focused, “loves to work with others” side. I wanted to make sure that the recruiter saw I was not only a scientist, but also one that can work with clients in a troubleshooting manner very easily and effectively.
I then made sure to include my “Scientific & Technical Experience” section, and then the “Customer-Facing Experience” section, as I knew they were both very important for the role. Oh yeah, Company 2 was me being a campus tour guide during undergrad! Fits the theme of this job, right?
As for the skills, I included all the skills related to the company’s product line. Sometimes job descriptions will give you specifics on which category of products you’ll cover, work on, research, sell, oversee, etc., so that will give you information on what to definitely include in your skills section.
Resume Preparation Steps
That was just one example above, and it might not be the exact role you’re looking for. That’s okay, because these next steps will hopefully help you develop a great resume for whatever industry role you’re looking for.
You’ve probably heard people say to not use the same resume for a bunch of jobs, and that’s totally true! You want to tweak your resume to fit the job you’re applying for. When it comes to preparing your resume to fit the job you’re interested in, here’s the general workflow I used:
1. Having a pre-phrased, mostly-done resume template saved
I had something like the above Support Scientist resume template already saved on my computer. It was in my Job Search folder and was named something pretty basic, like “SupportScientist”. All the basic sentences about troubleshooting something or cultivating relationships with clients were all in there, because those sentences applied well to the type of role I wanted to apply to.
Sure, you can tweak those too here and there depending on the role! Overall, though, I had a template ready to fill in with details from the job listing.
2. Finding jobs to apply to
I found jobs on LinkedIn and Indeed. I didn’t need to buy LinkedIn Premium, but the 1-month free trial was pretty interesting so I do recommend you check it out. I didn’t need Premium to get the job I got and I don’t think it’s necessary to get a job. The job I actually got was listed on Indeed!
You can set up notifications to get new job listings that are the types of roles you’re interested in every day by email. You can also use the Save tools on LinkedIn and Indeed to save jobs to your “My Jobs” list to have them all in one place.
I’ll get more into this and how I got my job in another post but those two sites were where I looked for and applied for jobs. I honestly didn’t use any other sites or job boards. I didn’t network at all, either.
If you’re not entirely sure about what job role you’d like to have in industry, check out my post with general tips on how to figure that out for yourself and approach the industry job search process in general!
3. Figure out the job’s key skill requirements
Next, I looked at the exact wording of the description of the job listing to see which techniques they wanted me to be the best at.
Some companies were looking for applicants that were very experienced with cell stuff, like mammalian cell culture and cell enrichment/dead cell removal. Other companies were interested in applicants that were very experienced with RNA isolation, rtPCR, and in-situ hybridization.
It’s important to take some time to carefully read through the job listing’s description to get a good sense of the key skills, both technical skills as well as soft skills, that you’d want to write in your resume.
4. Tweak the resume template
Finally, I opened up the template I had saved, and tweaked it by filling in the details using the information I had gleaned from the job listing.
5. Save the resume as a PDF with a unique name
Once I made all the job-specific changes I needed for the resume, I saved it as a PDF. Saving it as a PDF helps you maintain the formatting of the original document. Sometimes when I used a Word file and sent it through LinkedIn and then looked at it after the fact from the LinkedIn page where I applied for the job, it looked all squished and terribly formatted.
I also made sure to give it a unique name that was specific to that company. Usually, something along the lines of “YourFullNameCompanyNameResume” worked for me. So for example if your name was Leslie Knope, and the company was named Cryo-Glad, you could make the file name “LeslieKnopeCryoGladResume”.
I put the company name in the file name because if the recruiter downloaded it, I wanted to make sure they saw I wasn’t using any old resume that was lying around to waste their time. I wanted to show I actually made that resume specifically for that role at that company. No clue if that helps in any significant way but it kept me organized, too!
In order to prepare a winning resume, it’s important to understand this concept of the “recruiter”. Yes, we hear it here and there as we begin to explore the world of industry jobs. But like with experiments that we want to get done properly, it’s important to understand every element of the process to get it right, and that includes understanding who a recruiter is, and what a recruiter does.
A recruiter is someone who works for the company you want to work at, usually in the HR department, and is responsible for advertising the open position, as well as selecting, screening, and facilitating the hiring of candidates for jobs. Recruiters are your main line of communication throughout the job application process.
A recruiter can also be someone that works for a company called a staffing agency (or similar name) that helps companies find potential hires.
Either way, recruiters benefit from finding the best of the best applicants to spend their time and energy on. They only have a certain number of hours in a day to screen applicants. When they feel confident about an applicant, they’ll even provide them with tips on how to do well in interviews with their company and inform the applicant about expectations and impressions.
Your job when preparing a resume is to make it crystal clear to the recruiter that you’re worth talking to and moving forward in the process. You need to relieve them of the burden of flipping through dozens of job applications hoping to find suitable candidates to fill the role.
Another thing to remember about recruiters is that they can be a scientist or they can be a regular recruiter. Scientific recruiters have scientific training in the area that you want to get a job in. That makes sense if the company wants to recruit for an especially technical position that requires the recruiter to assess if the candidates really know what they’re talking about.
A regular recruiter tends to be a bit more of a generalist and is still very aware of the requirements of the role, but may not “talk shop” with you as much from the get-go. They tend to ask more general questions to see if you match the description of the role.
You can try to check if the recruiter is a scientific recruiter or a normal recruiter by identifying them from the job listing and then looking them up. That can inform how you communicate with them through your resume and cover letter. Connecting with the scientific recruiter by saying things that you can both relate to about research, labwork, or leaving academia, can help give a positive impression if done well!
However, it’s very common that you won’t be able to find the name of the recruiter anywhere and that’s totally okay. You can still fill your resume with key skills and outcomes that pique their interest, regardless of their background.
The resume format that I shared in this post worked wonders for me.
It takes a little bit of time to get into that industry mindset where the point of a resume isn’t to brag about everything you’ve ever done (like in a CV), but is to make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to think that you’re a good fit.
The contents of your resume, and perhaps the structure of some aspects of it, are going to be very different from mine if you’re considering other roles. Have no fear! The same general techniques apply.
What you can do right now is to start making a resume “template”, like I did, for the role that you want, and filling it with key phrases that really showcase your talents in the context of that role. Once you have that on hand, half the work is done! Tweaking it for every job listing will get easier and easier the more you do it. Good luck!