There’s no getting around the fact that researchers aren’t always great at being concise. It’s easy to get used to academic writing style. In particular, writing like you have a captive audience you know are interested in all of the details of your work. However, when applying for a research position you can’t make that assumption.
Sure, there’s a good chance an expert will give your resume a look-through at some point, but your main audience is not likely to be an expert in your field. You need to carefully consider who that audience will be and ensure your resume is written for them.
Before you start worrying, this guide is designed to help you do just that. We’ll be pulling experience from researchers and professional resume writers to ensure you can balance both for the perfect researcher resume.
What this guide will show you:
- How to analyze researcher resume examples for inspiration
- What you need to know about ATS
- How to appeal to recruiters
- The best formatting rules to follow
- How to list your education more effectively
- What will make your achievements stand out
- The best qualifications to include
- How and why to begin with an objective or summary
- The best hard and soft skills to add
- How to target your resume for a specific position
- How to use a resume builder to get better results
Research resume template examples
Imagine writing a research proposal without ever having seen one. It’s anxiety provoking just thinking about it. But why then do so many researchers simply throw all of their information on a resume and start submitting it without studying what their resume could and should look like first?
To get better results, you need to take creating your resume seriously. That requires beginning by taking inspiration (and notes) on top quality researcher resume examples. Have a look at the samples we’ve provided below and note what you like and don’t like about them. Those notes can then serve as a starting point for your own resume. Also be sure to evaluate them from the perspective of someone looking to hire them and not as a fellow researcher.
How to write a researcher resume that will get your phone ringing
For many researchers, submitting proposals and resumes for positions can get fairly routine. You may occasionally update your resume and tailor things for a specific position, but you’re likely doing it often enough that you’ve stopped thinking hard about the details.
Time to change that.
By writing a resume that clearly considers the person reading it and gets all the critical details right you’ll be increasing your chance of landing the research position you really want. Trust us, it’s worth the extra time and effort. But where should you start?
What you need to know about ATS
ATS stands for Applicant Tracking Systems. These are tools created by dozens of different companies which allow recruiters to sort through huge numbers of resumes at scale using artificial intelligence. While these systems are less likely to be used for researcher resumes, if you’re applying at a large company for, say a pharmaceutical research position, there’s a decent chance your resume will encounter one.
Unless you’re very familiar with how the organization you’re looking to work for hires researchers, you need to be ready for ATS. After all, most companies already use it and that number is only increasing. But what does being ATS ready entail? We’ve boiled it down to these three key points:
- Only submit your resume as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file. Anything else won’t be able to be easily read by an ATS and will almost certainly get rejected.
- Use a resume builder to ensure your file is ATS-friendly. Sadly, not all of these files are created equal, the way the data is structured within the file has an enormous impact on whether an ATS can easily read it. But don’t worry, no need to get too technical, just be sure you use a resume builder which has been designed to produce ATS-optimized files.
- Get smart with how you use keywords. Remember, ATS are smart but not that smart. They’re given a set of keywords, skills, experience, etc. to look for on your resume. If you’ve phrased your skills differently, the ATS might not realize what you mean. That’s why it’s critical to use the description of the researcher position as a guide for which keywords to include and how to phrase them. This maximizes the chance an ATS gives your resume the go-ahead to move on to a human reviewer.
How to give recruiters what they’re looking for
If you’ve ever been in an academic lecture where the lecturer clearly doesn’t care that the information and way they’re presenting aren’t connecting with the audience, you know what it feels like to be a recruiter. Most resumes don’t take a moment to think about the person reading them and what they need from the resume.
This means that by considering the person reading your resume, you can have a substantial leg up. Once again, this begins with the description of the research position. Instead of using a generic resume for each application, customize your resume to fit one position, making it easy for the person reading it to say “yes” to hiring you (more on how to do that later).
Also consider whether the person reading your resume is a specialist in your field or not. This should affect the language you use. It should be easy for them to read and understand everything on your resume. The easier it is, the more grateful they will be for the time and effort you’ve saved them.
How to format your resume
The next most important way to appeal to the reader of your resume is with proper formatting. The core rule is to put the most important information towards the top. This seems obvious but you’d be surprised how often it gets ignored. This is why your resume should begin with an objective or summary with the most important information about you as a researcher (more details on how to write those below).
Then, your content should be in reverse chronological order. But beyond those simple rules, you also need to consider the ideal length for a researcher resume. This will vary a lot based on your experience and the norms in your specific research area. However, there is one rule of thumb you should follow: make your resume as short as it can be. The person reading it doesn’t want their time wasted, so taking a critical look and cutting unnecessary sections and information will be a welcome change for them.
The best sections to consider including on a researcher resume
- Resume objective or summary
- Research experience
- Hard skills
- Soft Skills
What makes a great researcher resume?
A great researcher resume is tailored. After all, a resume applying for a basic research position and one applying for a position researching something specific like the cure to a disease should be completely different. Getting this right begins with understanding the needs of the people who will be hiring you and showing that you can meet those needs.
What to include in your education section
Most resumes waste too much time on their education when it’s not relevant, but obviously a research resume is different. You’ll be expected to provide details. However, the way you present those details is still important.
MA in Political Science
The University of Virginia
-My thesis focused on how the 2009 financial crisis effected rural voters in Iowa, it found a .82 R value correlation between deceased economic activity and decreased voter participation.
-I worked on a variety of projects with professors
-I took courses focusing on rural politics
First, the choice is mentioning the R value is a bit odd. If your thesis is relevant enough to go into that detail it probably deserves its own mini section. Describing it in a single sentence while also going into details like that strikes and odd balance. The next two points listed are simply too vague and so they ultimately waste space and raise more questions than they answer. The incorrect use of “effect” vs “affect” also does not look good. This is one reason why it makes sense to have a friend (hopefully one in your field) review your resume before you send it off.
Let’s look at an improved version.
MA in Political Science
The University of Virginia
-Thesis title “The Economics of Rural Voter Participation, an Examination of the Effect of the 2009 Crisis on Rural Iowa.”
-Worked with Professor Alan Rao on his field research studying the relationship of Midwestern farmers to state and federal authorities.
-Focused on quantitative methods and statistical analysis
Here the thesis title is given, which if you’re only going to include a single point of information is generally the most important thing to mention. Otherwise the details focus on what this person did during their MA which might be directly relevant to research, who they worked with, what they worked on, and the skills they developed.
In general, the most recent and relevant a degree is to your work the more detail you can and should include. If you obtained your BS 15 years ago, you can mention it but it’s not worth going into too many details unless, for example, you worked with a famous researcher in your field.
How to highlight your most important achievements
Most academic resumes can be a bit vague about what they’ve achieved in their work. That’s why highlighting your achievements is one of the best ways to make your researcher resume stand out. Now these don’t just have to be achievements directly connected to the results of your previous research. After all, a researcher needs to be organized, diligent, a good communicator, etc. These are all skills you can emphasize by mentioning achievements.
Let’s look at an example to see what this might look like.
-Improved quantitative research methods while working as a marketing manager at Imbue Technologies.
While this achievement example is close to working, it ultimately doesn’t because it lacks any specifics. What does improving quantitative research methods mean? Were there any results from this? Let’s see another example where details make the difference.
-Developed a system for tracking and optimizing temperature, flow rate, and ratios for coffee as a manager at Hyperion Coffee, leading to a 14% increase in customer satisfaction with the coffee quality.
Chances are this person isn’t applying to be a coffee researcher, but this example shows a few key things. Number one, it demonstrates that they’re proactive and will look for ways to improve processes. Next, it shows a love of delving into the complex relationship between small details to get better overall results, another nice quality for most researchers. In other words, this workplace example is actually great to mention on a researcher resume.
What are ideal researcher job qualifications and how to list them correctly
In most cases, the main criteria you’ll need to focus on in your resume will be:
- Relevant degrees
- Knowledge of and experience with relevant research methodologies
- Experience in the research process
- Statistical methods
- Relevant technical software or tools
- Written and oral communication
Of course these will vary whether you’re a nuclear physicist or a political scientist. Whatever the most important qualifications are for your specific area of research, you need to ensure they are clearly visible on your resume. The person reading it shouldn’t be searching around to determine whether or not you meet the minimum criteria for the position.
How to list your skills more effectively
While listing the right skills is critical for getting past ATS, including concrete examples which demonstrate those skills is going to leave a far bigger impression on the humans reading your resume. While this isn’t as typical for most academics (frustrations with teaching evaluations aside), the role of a researcher is more results based and so this approach works well.
Listing a skill like this isn’t inherently bad, but can be substantially improved with an example.
-Inputted over 10,000 data points as a research assistant with Professor Compton
Here a simple example means that the reader will get a far better sense of what that skill means and how confident they can be in it. This also demonstrates that you're going out of your way to make their job easier by eliminating the need for them to stop and consider what that skill means in your case.
The best hard skills to include
While the specific skills required will vary tremendously for different research roles, these are some of the core skills you’ll want to include if possible:
- Statistical methods
- Data entry
- Experience with relevant equipment used
- Database management
- IRB experience
- Writing grant applications
The best soft skills to include
- Working well under pressure
- Passion for the field
- Commitment to and knowledge of ethical standards in the field
Why your resume should start with an objective or summary
Think of an objective or summary as a shortened version of an abstract. They should get across the most important information right from the start and help frame the more detailed information presented in the rest of the resume.
The difference between them is primarily about length. A resume objective should only be about one sentence and is ideal when you just want to list a few key bits of information about you and your goals. A resume summary is longer and better when there’s something you want to explain like your motivation for applying to this research position.
How to write a resume objective
Your objective needs to be clear, concise, and information dense. Let’s examine two examples to see what that should (and shouldn’t) look like.
I’m a recent graduate from UCLA’s Microbiology Masters program looking for a summer research position.
This example makes the obvious mistake of being written in the first person instead of the third, but more importantly it simply gives basic information which is easily available elsewhere on the resume. It’s relevant information, but this is extremely valuable space on your resume and should be used to greater effect.
Recent MS graduate looking to apply human microbiome research experience towards a position at AR Food Tech.
There you have a simple and straightforward resume objective. It gives the essential information about who you are and what you aim to achieve. The university you graduated from, for example, isn’t worth mentioning here, though the fact that this person is a recent graduate is.
How to write a resume summary
The thing to remember about a resume summary is that, like a research paper, just because it can be long doesn’t mean it should be. You still need to be careful and deliberate with the information you choose to include.
Experienced food chemistry researcher who has worked at industry-leading brands developing artificial colors, preservatives, flavor compounds, etc. Familiar with lab equipment and experimental techniques. Always looking for new ways to push teams to the cutting edge of food science.
What doesn’t work about this example is the information it chose to include and thereby emphasize along with its lack of detail. After reading this summary, instead of thinking “they sound impressive” a recruiter would likely be thinking “how many years of experience? Which industry-leading brands? Why did you mention familiarity with basics like lab equipment and experimental techniques?”
Your resume summary should create a strong impression and not simply raise more questions. So let’s see an improved version of this example to better understand what that should look like.
Food chemistry researcher with 8 years of lab experience with Nestle, Pepsico, and General Mills largely focused around preservatives and artificial flavor development. Looking to take industry-leading knowledge of experimental techniques and lab management to help Advanced Snax challenge industry leaders.
This example contains much of the same information, but frames it around a mission. That framing means that the recruiter won’t see hiring this person as simply getting another researcher, but as gaining a valuable team member to help the company achieve its goals. By framing their work in this large context, this resume summary will certainly stand out.
How to target your resume for each application
As we’ve alluded to throughout this guide, one of the most effective ways to improve a researcher resume is to target it to a specific position. Creating a single resume for yourself and sending it out to many researcher roles saves time and it shows. It does not make you look diligent, detail oriented, or that you care enough to put in the time and effort to do something right.
The best way to go about targeting your resume is to begin with the keyword technique mentioned in the beginning of this guide. Then, employ your research skills. Look at the organization which will be hiring you, what are their needs, their goals, what problems might they be having with their research? Once those have been identified, identify and emphasize how you can help them address those needs. After all, hiring another researcher is great, but hiring a person who can solve a specific problem or improve a bad process is far more enticing for most organizations.
Lastly, mentioning the organization or the role in your resume objective or summary works well to quickly indicate to the person reading it that you’ve taken the time to customize your resume, thereby making a stronger first impression.
How to make your resume stand out
Besides all of the tips mentioned so far in this guide, the final piece to the puzzle of a standout resume is the visual design. A clean modern design on your resume does a couple of things. First, it shows that you took the time to do a good job. Next, it’s easier on the eyes of the poor person who needs to review dozens of resumes for a researcher position.
Finally, it communicates that you’re not content doing things the same way they’ve always been done. If you’re a young and ambitious researcher, it’s an aesthetic which reinforces your core qualities in subtle but powerful ways. But if you’re not a designer, how can you get that design?
The importance of using a resume builder
Obviously, you’ve got a lot on your plate when it comes to creating the best possible researcher resume. That’s why it makes sense to use the right tools to take some of that pressure off. A resume builder allows you to be confident that your resume will be ready for ATS, makes it easy to get a clean and modern look, and helps in organizing all the custom versions of your resume for various researcher roles.
Resumebuild.com’s powerful but intuitive builder has been designed from the ground up to help you with all of these needs and more. It takes care of the technical and design challenges so you can focus your attention where it will have the most impact: on the content.
- Collect and analyze biological data about parasites and their genome, keeping in mind their relationship with the host.
- Analyze experimental data and interpret results to write reports and summaries of findings.
- Monitor laboratory work to ensure compliance with set standards.
- Clean, maintain and prepare supplies and work areas.
researcher / surveyor
- Conducted both quantitative and qualitative research for market area analysis and disparity studies
- Analyzed and disseminated collected data to identify statistical disparities that exist in governmental contracting practices
- Performed quality control duties in database to ensure the accuracy of information being collected
- Assisted with the formation and publishing of disparity and market area reports submitted to governmental audiences
- Conducted market area surveying as a primary means for information gathering
- Served as part of support staff for database management and project management
- Hosted public participation meetings with fellow staff for the purposes of gathering input from contractors, as well as the general public
- Secondary research and analysis of investigator details involved in clinical trials.
- Responsible for checking the Quality Assurance for investigators profiles and achieving the targets according to RAG dates mentioned with Quality and data accuracy.
- Sourcing and scanning the investigators with respect to particular indication using various journals, conference, articles, universities , companies and medical centers etc.
- Devised new strategies for data collection of investigators which enhanced the number of profiles (productivity) and completion of project within expected time.
- Handled new tasks with regular work such as IC and database mapping.
- Documented SOP’s, reports and prepared presentations
- Mentored and gave training to new joiners as a QC lead.
- Consolidate findings from vast pool of research studies in the subject of implicit biases and heuristics and extend it for implementation on our digital platform
- Outreach in terms of content creation through: Blog Articles and Comic Scripts
- Represent the company in offline workshops and exhibitions (E.g. NHRD 2017)
- Successfully led & completed primary research in association with the Behavioral Science Lab at IIM Bangalore
- Work on the Research Paper for publication in esteemed journals
- Interacted with participants in my research studies in diverse ways, including preparing for examinations, obtaining consent and collecting specimens.
- Performed qualitative as well as quantitative research over the course of two months and documented all findings.
- Performed research into study topics to increase knowledge and ability to provide valuable contributions.
- Wrote research papers, reports, reviews and summaries regarding my research collaborated with leadership team to identify relevant questions and determine the best methods of collection.
- Managed projects according to schedule and budget demands while handling complex concerns in an independent manner.
- Gathered and organized information for research purposes.
- Used SPSS to determine data-set correlations while initiating qualitative functions.