Five Ways to Improve Your Resume

Resumes or CVs – the short documents used as a major tool for job applications – are a common source of angst for job seekers. Even people with extensive careers. Even for people who’ve been through the application process many times. So, as a “newbie” to the process, it is normal and usual to be stressed about what to include.

Here are some things that might help you write your resume:

  • Write for the reader
  • PhDs count as experience
  • No lists of articles, grants, and awards
  • write for the reader


What does your resume look like? Here are some tips that could make your resume just that little bit better.

The first thing is to think about the hire out. Resume is a document designed for the hirer to assess you. So, the way you lay information out, the order that it’s presented, the look and the feel of the resume, the length of the resume, all needs to take your hirer into account. So, think about it. Do you want to look at a 110-page documents? Or would if you could get the same information or the same level of knowledge across in 2 pages, would that be far better? Do you want to read 8-point writing? Or do you want to read 10-point writing? Should the writing be all the way to the edge of the page or should there be white space in and around it? Does color look better than black and white? Does good headings and good section layout make it easier than just a big long list? What else? Dot points, are they do they make it easier to read rather than having sentences? All of those things go to how does the hirer want to use the resume to make their assessment, and you need to consider those things when you’re writing your resume.

For PhD students and for PhD graduates, your PhD can definitely go on as experience not just as education. So, I’d recommend that you put PhD as your education, and you could put if you’re currently undertaking your PhD. You could put PhD bracket underway. For example, in education but in your experience section write, down your PhD as experience with the time frame like you would for any other work experience, and break it up into responsibilities and achievements. So you know, what were you responsible for as a PhD student? So, for most people that’s designing and conducting experiments. It’s collecting and analyzing data. It is reading the literature, and coming up with a hypothesis for how your work might fit into the existing knowledge.

And then the achievements could be all the things that you might have achieved in your PhD, like grants or journal articles or presentations or maybe it was that you designed an entirely new experiment or you set up a new system in your research group. Those are the kinds of things that could go in as achievements for your PhD. It could be collaboration. It could be negotiating with others. All of those things are achievements. Generally speaking, long lists of awards, grants, and publications aren’t required. If you are really proud of those things, you could potentially put those in as the achievements in your work experience section for the relevant job. You could have a section that specifically lists publications, grants, and awards is a very small section. You could put 2 or 3 in there. And you might say, why you’ve chosen those 2 or 3 to be as an example of the kind of work that you do. It’s not necessarily because they’re high impact factor or if that might be something that is of value to you then you can put that in, but it could be the way the work was conducted or the findings or the difficulty or the challenges that you overcame by getting that to publication or getting the awarded grant. What you can do is put a summary as well as those 2 examples, you could put a summary that says “I’ve published over 30 articles” or “I’ve got over $3 million in grants”. If you want a full list, ask me for it or follow this link.

The same is also true for referees. There is no need to put down your referees on your resume. In fact, it’s much better to put available upon request. You can have a list of people yourself that you know, you who will ask to be referees on your job application. It doesn’t need to be your supervisor. It doesn’t need to be your boss. They might ask for a current work colleague. That’s okay. Or someone who might be able to talk about your current work, but it doesn’t need to be your boss. So you have that list ready to go, and when the potential hirer calls you up, and says “we’d like your references”, you can say what would you like that you know, them to cover or to talk about, and then you can pick a referee that fits that description. And you can in fact, even call up your referee and say so-and-so is going to call you about such-and-such a job on this date. And you can let them know the kind of role that you’ve applied for, and what kind of information the potential hirer might inquire about.

So, there you go. Some ways that you can use to improve your resume.

The final thing that I almost forgot about was using a two-column layout. So, I mentioned this in a previous video. So you have about one quarter of the page is a quite a narrow column. Another quarter of the page quite a thick column. So maybe one quarter, and three quarters. The thin column has simple things like keywords that describe your skills or your education or some things like that. Maybe your interests. The thicker column has essentially all of your work experience brokendown into responsibilities and achievements.

So, there you go some tips on making your resume just that little bit better. Good luck!