Reworking My Academic CV into a Resume: Lessons Learned from 1000 Minutes of Mentorship

You might think that 1000 minutes is a lot, but I was determined to absorb as much advice as possible from peers, ranging from senior-level professionals to senior directors! Through 1000 minutes of mentorship on ADPList, I started on a journey to understand the job market better and learn how to reshape my past experiences in a way that resonates with the industry. In this post, I’ll summarize the invaluable insights I received on the art of resume writing.

People healping each other!
Image credit: Work illustrations by Storyset []

“The Resume’s Sole Purpose: Securing a Phone Call!”

The resounding consensus among the majority was, “Don’t get bogged down in listing every achievement!” Although it took a while to fully sink in, this nugget of wisdom was one of the most important takeaways.

A resume serves as a hook, a teaser, revealing just enough about you to pique interest, but not giving away everything. The goal is to provide sufficient information to prompt a call, with the rest unfolding during the conversation.

Multiple individuals pointed out that if I’m not receiving the initial HR phone call, it indicates either a misalignment with the position or a resume that fails to represent me effectively.

Recognizing that my resume needed the most attention, I transformed my 3–4 page academic CV into a concise 2-page resume, ensuring that the first page could stand alone if necessary.

People suggested that since many recruiters and hiring managers check LinkedIn after deciding to progress with a candidate, providing additional depth is good. This gives interested parties a choice to dig deeper into your profile if they wish.

This previously served as my academic CV, which I had previously attempted to condense into three pages. Prior to this iteration, the focus was predominantly academic in nature, featuring my educational background and publications at the forefront.

The Great Debate: One Page or Two?

By talking with many professionals ranging from directors to senior-level directors, it became clear that while a resume shouldn’t exceed 2 pages, the one-page versus two-page debate remains open.

My solution was to include all main details on the first page and reserve the second page for showcasing awards and publications, should someone wants a closer look.

Quantify for Impact: Numbers Tell the Story

Everyone asked for quantified impact! The primary suggestions were (to set the stage, I’m applying for user research positions):

  1. Emphasize consumer-related or revenue outcomes, a critical element in a resume’s composition if you have it!
  2. If you don’t have (1), the incorporate qualified outcomes, spotlighting instances where you influenced a product’s trajectory, research direction, or a goal’s attainment, even if not quantifiable, demonstrating your capacity for impact.
  3. Highlight the number of citations and papers instead of listing them.
  4. Numerate usability issues identified.
  5. Specify participant counts for interviews or surveys.
  6. For presentations, show audience specifics, shedding light on the event’s scale and the resonance of your delivery.
  7. Shift from “I developed guidelines” to “Accomplished X by doing Y.” Rather than just describing actions, emphasize their impacts. Admittedly, translating academic work with paper-based outcomes into business-related value remains a challenge I’m still navigating. New perspectives are more than welcome!
  8. There seems to be a correlation between seniority and the number of numbers in a resume. So it all depends eventually on who you are and where you are in your career path.

Storytelling for Machine Consumption

Regardless of your chosen format, ensure machine readability without sacrificing human appeal. Finding the right balance is essential since a human will eventually review the resume. So, a touch of humanity will add a significant touchpoint. Here are some suggestions to make this happen from my mentors:

  1. A top-of-the-page blurb proved essential. Summarize who you are and your standout strengths succinctly. Beneath your name, include key terms and a snapshot of your background. This enables quick digestion without diving into the entire document.
  2. Considering recruiters’ limited time and sometimes unfamiliarity with the role, aligning your resume with the job description is key. Tailoring your content, using familiar terminology, and even adjusting your title to match industry expectations can enhance the chances of making that coveted first connection.
  3. Establishing a connection with the company through shared values or job description alignment can be a great strategy. Infuse personal experiences into the professional narrative, creating a compelling story that embodies your skills and identity.
  4. While my four-year experience as a software engineer holds a special place in my heart as a fulfilling and productive phase, I consciously chose to shorten its presence in my resume. Recognizing the need to prioritize recent achievements, I shorten it to just one simple bullet point. This strategic decision allowed me to channel my energies into magnifying the details of my latest role, ultimately enhancing the impact of my resume.
  5. For academics, interactions with reviewers and research collaborators can show persuasion and negotiation skills. These instances can mirror stakeholder influence and adept handling of challenging discussions.

Consider Using ChatGPT

The technique I employed, which has also been endorsed by others, involvesstrategically incorporating the predominant key terms found within the job description into my resume.

My approach includes leveraging ChatGPT by inputting the job description and utilizing the following prompt: “This job description is for a highly competitive role attracting over 1000 candidates. Design a resume with a 95% probability of being recognized as an impeccable match by ATS systems and the hiring personnel, make it fit in a single US letter-size page.”

I then cross-reference the produced resume with my own, ensuring I have included the essential elements. Noting that I focus on reframing rather than fabricating, given that the job already aligns with my qualifications.

I also use ChatGPT to assess my resume against a specific job description, asking for specific recommendations to elevate my chance of getting the position. While not every suggestion proves useful, the insights are sometimes helpful.

My New Resume

And, here is the final product (or see it on my website):

I appreciate any additional insights or guidance you might offer. Feel free to connect with me through the details available on my website.

My Journey So Far

The transformation of my academic CV into a polished resume has been a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and joy. The insights from my mentors, who generously dedicate their time to helping others, have improved my confidence in navigating the competitive job market and showcasing my capabilities to potential employers. I am thankful and grateful to my mentors for their guidance and time.

In my upcoming posts, I plan to dive into topics related to portfolio development and the job search process.

Mohammad Tahaei
Mohammad Tahaei
Research Lead

Research Lead