Published on January 19, 2022 · Updated on August 10, 2022
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Are you ready to discover your college program?
Whether you're transitioning from working in academia to another psychology-related field or this is your first foray into the workforce, you'll need a resume to start your job hunt in psychology.
With more than 115,000 graduates of psychology degrees per year – just accounting for bachelor's degrees awarded in the U.S. – you're probably wondering how to write a resume that sets you apart from other applicants. Read on to learn some valuable tips to impress recruiters and help your resume stand out.
What Should I Include on a Psychology Resume?
While academic and clinical psychology jobs often require a curriculum vitae (CV) to apply, other psychology-related roles may ask for a resume. CVs allow you to expand on your academic accomplishments and experiences, while resumes serve as a condensed version of your career.
When building your resume, you should include the following sections. Put the headers in bold or slightly large font, no larger than 14 point font, to differentiate them from the rest of the text:
You may also include the following optional sections if you have relevant experiences to list:
- Licensure and Certifications
- Awards and Accomplishments
- Volunteer Work
Beneath each header, list your experiences in order of most recent to least recent (chronological order). Also, make sure to include the range of time you spent on each experience. Separating each listing with a bullet point makes the document easier for recruiters to read quickly.
What Should I Put on My Psychology Resume if I Don't Have Any Experience?
If you're a recent graduate or in the process of changing your career path, you might struggle to fill up space on your resume with relevant experience. But work history isn't the only factor recruiters consider when looking for candidates.
Here are some other items you can list to demonstrate your skills and interests:
Include a section near the top of your resume that summarizes your skills and career goals. This gives recruiters an instant understanding of your personal brand. You should tweak this statement to fit each employment opportunity you are applying for.
If you're a recent graduate, the work you've done in school is relevant to include. If you earned a high GPA or any academic honors, include them under your Awards and Accomplishments section. Papers and presentations you've made may also be worth mentioning, as long as they are relevant to the job description.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs), bootcamps, and certifications offered through professional organizations can be great additions to your resume. If you don't have any certifications yet, ask respected professionals in your network which certifications are respected in your area of interest. Many take less than six months to complete.
Volunteer work not only demonstrates your passion for a certain cause, but your dedication and reliability. Make sure to include the duties you had, the number of hours per week or month you volunteered, and the total length of time you spent at each experience.
Joining a professional association is a great way to demonstrate your interest and commitment to a particular niche within psychology. Each state has its own psychological association. You can also join national organizations related to various niches within psychology.
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Resume Writing Tips for Psychologists
When building out your resume, keep the following best practices in mind.
Customizing Your Resume
Customizing your resume for each job you apply for increases your chances of landing an interview. Altering your personal summary slightly to align more with the job can pique a recruiter's interest. This means emphasizing projects you've worked on and skills you have that relate to each job. You may also want to de-emphasize experiences that relate less to a job.
For example, if the job requires experience with a specific software you have used, include a sentence or two in one of your job descriptions explaining how you used this software. If a job doesn't require use of this kind of software, you may want to save space for expanding on a different area that relates more closely to the job description.
You should include accomplishments that showcase your skills, especially those that relate directly to the job you're applying for, in descriptions of your previous roles. Sentences that include a metric or quantifiable piece of information are ideal. You should also start with an action verb.
Here are two examples of how a candidate who works in industrial-organizational psychology might describe previous job experiences.
"I was in charge of improving employee satisfaction and the overall work environment. I also performed administrative duties, like answering phone calls and keeping the office organized."
"Analyzed and optimized workflow data using MS Excel. Surveyed employees using Kazoo and consulted with human resources about my findings. Improved productivity by 18%, increased employee satisfaction by 20%, and reduced turnover by 15% in a six-month period."
The first example gives a vague description of what the role entailed, but it doesn't provide any specifics or quantitative data. It also includes extra information that isn't relevant.
The second example gives the reader a clearer idea of how the candidate spent their time in the role by using action verbs, such as "analyze," "optimize," "survey," and "consult." It also names some of the specific software tools used, which could be of interest to recruiters. And importantly, it demonstrates how the candidate impacted the organization in a quantifiable way.
Making It Through an Applicant Tracking System
Many human resources (HR) departments use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to organize and filter through job candidates.
When writing your resume, remember that a software reader is often the first to see your resume – not a human. If your resume's layout is unintuitive – e.g., includes too many columns and graphics – it could confuse the ATS program and eliminate you as a candidate.
ATS software also places importance on keywords. Some enable HR teams to favor candidates that use a primary keyword many times. For example, if an HR worker tells the ATS software to prioritize a keyword like "CBT" or "DBT," a resume that lists these keywords 2-3 times will rank higher than one that only includes it once.
However, avoid "keyword stuffing," which describes overusing keywords in an obvious way. This could backfire and cause the software to rank you lower.
Common Mistakes Psychologists Make on Their Resumes
Below are the most common mistakes to avoid when writing a psychology resume.
- 1. Typos
Spelling mistakes are an easy way for recruiters to weed out candidates. Don't forget to check for typos that spell check won't pick up, such as your email address or phone number.
- 2. A Resume That Is Too Long or Too Short
Unlike CVs, resumes should be 1-2 pages to give recruiters a quick snapshot of who you are and the level of experience you have. If you can't fit your experience onto a single page, it's better to add a second page than to noticeably adjust the margins.
- 3. Irrelevant Skills or Experiences
Earlier on in your career, you may want to include every academic achievement or internship to fill space on your resume. But as you progress, you can leave out experiences that don't relate to your current career goals. This gives recruiters a better sense of who you are as a professional and makes your resume easier to read.
- 4. Vague or Misleading Information
Make sure to be honest and consistent about your experiences. While you should give the best impression possible, exaggerating your level of experience isn't worth compromising your reputation.
You should also be specific about time frames of previous jobs. Include the month and date you started and ended a role, for example "Jan. 2021 - Dec. 2022." If your dates are vague, like only providing the years "2021-2022," or don't align with your LinkedIn profile, it can raise a red flag that you're being vague or deceitful, even if it's unintentional.
- 5. Formatting
Try not to deviate too much from the standard resume format. While it can be tempting to add interesting design elements, the priority should be making the document easy to read.
Avoid using decorative fonts, distracting graphics, bright colors, etc. You should also try to leave some white space to not overwhelm the reader.
Sarah Holliday, MS
Sarah Holliday has years of experience working with nontraditional and traditional-aged students in areas related to career coaching, training, and development. Holliday holds a BA in English from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and an MS in instructional design and technology rom Walden University. Holliday is currently working on her doctorate.
Sarah Holliday is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
State, provincial, and territorial psychological association directory. (2022.)
Page last reviewed March 30, 2022