Resume Guide

Putting a job applicant's best foot forward remains the central function of a resume. A psychology resume serves as an introduction between a candidate and the hiring manager, laying out a psychologist's credentials and accomplishments. An active job market means that each resume competes with a dozen others. This makes it imperative that your resume stands out in a crowd.

Psychologists must ensure that their resume remains concise and unambiguous. The resume must immediately grab the attention of the reader by clearly highlighting the candidate's work experience and competencies. It prominently notates what area of psychology you specialize in and your clinical and professional experience. It clearly shows how the psychologist's specialized credentials closely match the particular needs of the employer's client list, setting them apart from other candidates. A resume's strength determines whether the candidate makes it to the top of the pile of interviewees.

  • Do Your Research
    Never write one-size-fits-all resumes. Look into the operations of each employer to get a sense of their history as an organization, their work environment, and what the employer looks for in applicants for this particular job. Identify what skills or certifications they seek so you can match them to your credentials. You should also assess the compatibility of the workplace and your professional and personal needs.
  • Write Down the Key Points
    Begin developing your resume by writing down all of the key points you want to include. Create an outline of your strengths and weaknesses, considering what kind of impression you want to make. When you identify weaknesses, identify how your strengths in other areas to compensate for deficiencies. Research good psychology resume samples from candidates who match your qualifications and expertise. Do not, however, use a resume template; this way, you avoid formatting issues and unoriginality.
  • Format Your Resume
    The format of the resume should serve two functions: grab the attention of the reader and succinctly highlight credentials. Use complete sentences, clear headers, and a simple business font such as Arial or Times New Roman. The resume should not include any flashy graphics. Choosing the type of psychology resume helps determine what kind of format to use.

Types of Psychology Resumes

Many psychologists and other psychology majors use a curriculum vitae to apply for academic teaching positions, fellowships, or grants. The CV serves as a detailed chronicle of the psychologist's academic accomplishments, publications, presentations, and research. A resume, meanwhile, serves as a snapshot of a person's career and how their credentials match the requirements of a given position. Those using a resume organize information with a specific format. Choosing the right format depends on a number of factors, particularly the strength of the candidate's employment history and the stage of the psychologist's career.

Reverse-Chronological: This format remains the one most used by psychologists not using a CV. Employers prefer this option since the format facilitates the easy scanning of your resume by recruiters and software programs. The format begins with a psychology resume "executive summary" that serves as your 30-second elevator pitch and summarizes your credentials and objectives. A listing of most recent jobs follow. Underneath the most recent job, the candidate lists other jobs in reverse chronological order. This format best suits job seekers with a strong employment history and consistent employment. Those beginning their careers should use a resume that highlights skills and experience. This format also facilitates easy customization and updates.

Functional: While reverse-chronological resumes focus on work history, this format focuses on the applicant's skills and experience as a psychologist, including clinical and therapeutic skills. The format suits job seekers in the early stage of their career, those with employment gaps, and career switchers who can show how their specialized skills transfer to a particular job.

Combination: At the top of this resume, the candidate lists their skills and qualifications followed by a chronological work history. Like the functional resume, this format does not focus on work history. It gives the candidate a way to highlight unique experience and skills specific to the job. This remains a useful way to address red flags such as employment gaps or outdated skills. A psychologist with an employment gap may choose a functional-chronological resume to highlight both the specialized skills and work experience they bring to the position.

Required vs. Preferred Qualifications

Required qualifications serve as the minimum academic credentials, job experience, or skills a candidate must possess to receive a job interview. The employer usually lists these required qualifications on the job posting, though candidates may access requirements through the organization's HR department. Just as required qualifications generally rule out those who fail to meet the minimum, employers use preferred qualifications to rule candidates in. Most candidates rightly deduce that the more preferred qualifications a candidate possesses, the better the odds of an interview. However, the odds also depend on the pool of candidates and what qualifications they bring to the table.

In today's tight job market, employers expect candidates to boast most of the required qualifications while giving leeway for the preferred ones. A candidate may possess equivalent qualifications that compensate for any deficiencies. For example, a job may require a doctorate in psychology and five years of clinical experience, but a psychologist with 15 years of clinical experience and master's may get an invite because of their breadth of experience.

Even when a candidate possesses all of the required qualifications and most of the preferred ones, employers still may not not hire them. Sometimes all the candidates in the pool possess the required and preferred experience, leaving HR to use some other criteria.

Education and Training

The psychology resume provides a full accounting of your education, degrees received, and training. Do not include graduation dates to prevent an incident of age discrimination. If enrolled in a degree or training program at the time of application, exclude the fact that the school has yet to give you your degree. Highlight your GPA if you hold an above-average score and highlight any specialized training to your credit, especially if it closely matches the needs of the position.

Experience

This area provides the forum for the applicant to showcase experience using the reverse-chronological format. Begin with the most recent job and add the company's name, location, your title, and employment dates. When highlighting duties, use short and clearly written phrases. This space requires the use of action verbs to begin each sentence or bullet point. Use positive adjectives as you outline your specific duties in each sentence or bullet point. The combined use of action verbs and positive adjectives dynamically tells what you did in the position. Overall, use the present tense for current positions and the past tense for ones you no longer hold.

Skills

Therapeutic, clinical, and research skills feature prominently in this section. But the section also highlights leadership and training, computer, or language skills. Clearly demonstrate how the psychology resume skills you list apply to the job description. Highlight any unique skills that set you apart from other candidates. One size does not fit all: tweak the skills portion of the resume to match the needs of each particular employer -- who may value one skill over another.

Licensure and Certifications

Note all relevant licensure and certifications you hold. List the full name of each licensure or certification, as well as the awarding entity. For each license, include the license number and expiration dates.

Awards, Accomplishments, Affiliations

Psychologists should highlight any prestigious awards and honors they hold. The resume should also include information about membership in relevant professional organizations. The creation of a special section at the bottom of a resume provides the forum in which psychologists highlight their accomplishments and affiliations. Target any information you provide to what the employer values.

Volunteer Work

Include volunteer work that relates to the position. Even if the duties of the volunteer position do not closely align with the requirements of the job, skills often transfer. Sometimes the volunteer position and skills do perfectly align.

What Should I Put on My Psychology Resume If I Don't Have Any Experience?

When your resume lacks the breadth of experience recruiters desire, highlight your education, qualifications, skills, and any licenses you hold. Never pad the resume and avoid extraneous information. Begin the resume with a chronicle of skills acquired from prior jobs or academic work -- such as research -- highlighting that which stands out as most relevant to the position. List this section above your work experience. Also consider that though some of your experience does not fully relate to the position, skills often transfer from one job to the other. Think: "how does this skill apply in this position?"

What Should I Put on a Psychology Research Assistant Resume?

This resume documents the research skills of the applicant at the top of document. It should include competencies in research participant recruitment (if relevant), data collection and analysis, and the use of statistical software and other relevant computer skills. A functional or combination research assistant resume best suits this applicant since their skills feature prominently, and some research assistants may not hold years' of experience.

What is ATS?

While many people craft their resumes for the eyes of humans, many recruiters use an applicant tracking system (ATS) (resume-reading robot) that sorts through the pile of resumes, including or excluding applicants based on established criteria. While humans search through resumes looking to reject applicants without sufficient experience, or for resumes with mistakes and typos, the ATS searches through resumes looking for keywords.

The use of ATS saves the recruiter time and money. It also serves as a great organizational tool for a variety of tasks, from responding to applicants to storing resumes for later use. Unfortunately, sometimes the ATS screens out qualified candidates whose resumes do not include the requisite ATS keywords. Be sure to include keywords from the job description in your resume so that the ATS clearly matches your work experience and skills. If possible, do not submit PDFs since some software cannot read them.

Tips for Outsmarting an ATS

  • Simple Headers
    Use straightforward terms such as 'professional experience', 'education,' or 'skills' on the resume so that the ATS can pick these up during the scan.
  • Clean Format
    Create a simple layout with clearly organized sections. Write your resume with a basic web-standard (computer-friendly) font such as Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman. Use no graphics or logos since they serve no purpose and may confuse the robot.
  • Keywords/Phrases
    Psychology, unlike many fields, remains diverse with many specialty areas. Highlight your area of specialization and expertise using specific keywords, terminology, and key phrases taken straight from the job description so the robots pick them up during a scan.

Tailor Your Resume: Make sure that every resume addresses the needs of the particular job. This extra care shows the employer that you took the time to create a resume just for them; a resume that demonstrates how your skills closely match the requirements of the position.

Save Your Resume Under a Professional Name: Save each resume with a title in keeping with the professional image you want to project. Use this format or a similar one: Firstlast_specialty_resume.doc.

Make It Easy to Read: Use a basic web-standard (computer-friendly) font such as Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman. Do not use graphics, logos, or colors to make the resume look busy.

Include a Cover Letter: The cover letter introduces you to the hiring manager and gives you an opportunity to make a great first impression. Since the use of ATS often relegates the resume to a technical document, include a cover letter to expand on your credentials, expertise, and accomplishments.

Keep It to One Page: Edit the resume to one page using concise writing. Remove obsolete content and consolidate contact information to one line. Use vertical bars to divide phone number, email address, and any social media addresses.

Common Mistakes Psychologists Make on Their Resumes

Typos: A typo-free and grammatically correct resume demonstrates the height of professionalism. Make sure to proofread the document multiple times, double-checking every detail. Get professional help from an editor if necessary.

Including Personal Information: Weigh the pros and cons of including an address on a resume. Many recruiters expect it, and some care very little.

Including Salary Information:</strong> Use every inch of real estate on a resume to highlight professional expertise and skills. Relegate all discussions about salary to a later stage of the negotiations.</p>

Using Nicknames: Keep your resume professional by making sure all names match up on the resume, email address, social media, and other areas recruiters check. Some nicknames such as "Charlie" for "Charles" do not negatively impact one's image. Never use unprofessional nicknames that do.

Using an Unprofessional Email Address: Recruiters assess every detail of job applications, including email addresses. An unprofessional one projects the wrong image. Create a new email specifically for job search activities when necessary.

First Person Pronouns: Do not use first person pronouns such as "I," "me," or "my" on a resume. These pronouns make the resume sound too informal and use up unnecessary space. Write your resume in a telegraphic way that concisely says as much as possible without first person pronouns.

Unprofessional Voicemail: A voicemail offering an interview serves as the next layer of introduction between you and the recruiter. If necessary, re-record the voicemail to ensure you make a good impression.