Five Ways to Improve Your Resume

Five Ways to Improve Your Resume

I wrote earlier on writing a better resume. It included some research on what makes a good resume. If you missed it, check it out. It is called Four Things to Writing a Better Resume.

Building on that article, here are some other tips that I think will make your resume even better.

1. Empathise with your hirer

A CV is a document for you. A resume is a document that you give to a potential hirer. A CV needs to have the information organised in a manner that makes it easy for you to find and use. A resume needs to have the information organised in a manner that makes it easy for a hirer to find and use. So, when the job ad or recruitment manager requests certain things, make sure your resume has them. But there may also be unwritten rules. The most common of these rules is to limit your resume to 2 pages. Now, as a PhD student you might wonder how you can even get to two pages. And as an ECR or academic you might wonder how you can keep it as short as two pages. As a PhD student, remember that your part-time jobs will have given you experience that a future employer will probably be interested in. And as an academic, remember that a future non-academic employer is probably NOT interested your grants, publications or awards. Even academic employers are not interested in ALL of that. Just selected stuff. 

At it is not just me, even researchers say that resumes should be written based on how the reviewer might search for and process information.1

2. PhDs count as experience

There’s some conjecture over the inclusion of PhDs on resumes. I say “yes” do it. And they should appear in your education . As one line. Like I said above but they can also appear in your work experience section. As with other roles, you should include information under the headings of responsibilities and achievements.

Sorry – long lists of grants, articles

and awards are not interesting to hirers.

One might be. But not pages and pages.

3. No lists of articles, awards or grants

There’s no need to list all of your articles, awards, and grants. I know many academic roles will ask for that. And, if you feel you have to give them that list, go for it. BUT. WHO. WILL. READ. THAT. LIST?! Instead, have a section that includes your top three, and why. Then a link or option to make the full list available upon request. 

4. No referees

Just “available upon request”. Have a go-to list for yourself. Make sure they know you’re looking for work. When you get asked for your referees, ask for some context. Then, provide the names of people that best fit the requirement. This approach allows you to tailor your referees. It also allows you to protect the privacy of your referees. And no, you don’t need to include your current boss or supervisor as a referee. In fact, outside academia it is common NOT to include your current boss/manager/supervisor. 

5. Use a two column layout

Have one thin column – say ¼ of the page width – and one thick column. The thin column can list your skills, education, and interests. Under those 3 headings, the thick column can list your experiences as per above. 

And if you need help writing your resume or applying for jobs, feel free to get in touch.


Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He has been helping researchers grow their careers for more than a decade. As a #pracademic, Richard understands the need to have practical solutions to academic problems. He knows how to identify transferable skills and what makes a good industry CV. His pragmatic approach to job hunting has been getting people jobs for more than a decade.

To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.huysmans@drrichardhuysmans.com) or subscribe to the newsletter. He's on LinkedIn (Dr Richard Huysmans), Twitter (@richardhuysmans), Instagram (@drrichardhuysmans), and Facebook (Beyond Your PhD with Dr Richard Huysmans)


1Understanding the enigma that is résumé layouts by analyzing saccade-derived and scanpath metrics, S Devlin, M Sauls, L Hieftje-Conley, A Ward, 2017, http://andrewd.ces.clemson.edu/courses/cpsc412/fall17/teams/reports/group02.pdf, accessed 26 Oct 2020

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