This post is contributed by Burtch Works’ marketing research and consumer insights recruiting specialists.
We know you’ve probably heard the recommendation that you should always keep an updated resume on hand, but finding the time and motivation to put pen to paper can be a challenge. And it can feel especially tempting to put it off if it’s been a while since you were last on the job market.
We know it’s not easy, but with the hiring market for researchers showing no signs of slowing down, you never know when a great opportunity may arise. So why not grab a head start on the process?
As a Research & Insights-focused recruiting team, we work closely with organizations looking to hire strong talent and we also advise marketing researchers on how to maximize the impact of their resume, so we’ve picked up some inside intel along the way. With today’s strong hiring market and researchers in such high demand, we wanted to address some of the most common resume questions we get and share some resume tips specific to the research field.
10 Key Research & Insights Resume Tips
1. Use your summary section to highlight skills and methodologies
We don’t see as many “Objective” sections on resumes these days, so unless you’re looking to make a drastic career change that requires explanation, we recommend using the space just below your header/contact information for a summary section. This could be an easy-to-read bulleted list or columns that highlight relevant methodologies, skills, and tools you’ve used. Make sure you provide applied examples to support this section later on in the body of your resume.
General guideline: Instead of listing broad or vague categories like “market research” or “quantitative research”, focus on specific areas of expertise to illustrate your experience. This content will vary based on your specific skillset and will likely expand throughout your career:
2. Highlight your industry or category expertise
The market research and insights landscape can cover a wide range of areas, so make sure to show your reader where you’re most experienced! If you’re a client-side researcher, your industry experience may be obvious depending on where you’ve worked, but on the supplier-side in particular, you may need to provide some context. Do you have experience in Retail? CPG? Tech? Pharma? Media? Make sure your areas of experience are clearly communicated, especially if it aligns with a particular role you’d like to pursue.
And if possible, take it a step further: Is your CPG experience with brand activation, innovation/brand, or both? Or is your pharmaceutical experience in a particular therapeutic area (oncology, immunology, OTC medicine)? Be specific!
Or if you’re a supplier-side researcher, including examples of clients and companies you’ve worked with, or industries you’ve touched, can illustrate the breadth and depth of your experience.
3. Consider the purpose of your resume bullets: strategic vs. tactical
Research & Insights often requires strong communication and storytelling skills, so potential employers will assess your ability to present information throughout the hiring process, and your resume is no exception. If your resume reads like a job description simply listing the tasks and responsibilities of your positions, it’s likely not doing your experience justice. Carefully consider every item and bullet you include to make sure it has purpose and tells a part of your story. Make sure each bullet also showcases the strategic elements of your role and clearly explains not only what you did, but how you did it and what impact you had (more on that next!).
Tactical: “Led quantitative and qualitative research initiatives.”
Strategic: “Partnered with global tech company to lead a major rebranding initiative ; leveraged custom segmentation to identify primary targets, in home ethnography work to build out personas, and quantitative research to optimize new messaging strategy.”
4. Show the impact of your research and insights work
What have clients or companies done with your recommendations? How has your research impacted a product hitting the shelf or the company’s long-term strategy? Whether you’re on the supplier- or client-side of things, it’s important to show how your research has influenced the business or how your clients have used your insights to guide their decisions. Showing your track record leading work with impact is especially important as you get more senior in your career.
Note for supplier-side researchers: It can sometimes be more difficult to measure impact since you might not always know how clients use your recommendations! If possible, consider checking in with your client contact a few months after the project wraps to see if they can share an update on how they used your insights. At the end of the day, you only need a few good examples so the effort to follow-up can really pay off.
5. Show how your career has advanced over time
Employers appreciate career development and your resume is the perfect place to show your progression over the years. Especially if you’ve stayed at the same company for some time or worked your way up within an organization, make sure to list your different positions or titles to better demonstrate how you grew and picked up skills or responsibilities across your tenure.
Example: If you’ve been at a company 10 years and you’re currently a Director, don’t just list your current title. Include how you were hired initially as a Research Manager, earned a promotion to Senior Research Manager, and have picked up even more responsibility and now lead a team as a Research Director. It’s not necessary to create a completely separate section for each role, but at least list your different titles to show you made progress along the way.
6. Adapt your resume to the specific research or insights role you’re targeting
While it may be tempting to save time by creating a single resume that encompasses all your experience and use that for every application, it’s critical to take the time to create a document that not only reflects your experience and skillset, but also demonstrates how your specific background aligns with the position you’re targeting. We recommend creating a “base resume” with the basics and key information that can serve as your starting point, and to then tweak and customize a final version for each different position as you apply.
When you’ve found an opportunity you’d like to pursue, carefully review the job description and make sure to highlight your relevant skills and experience for that particular role. Any experience that’s less applicable can be streamlined or minimized.
Example: If it’s VOC (voice of the customer) position, include detailed examples of different VOC programs you’ve built or worked on, different platforms you’ve used along the way, and how your work has informed the organization. Or if the apposition manages a research team, make sure you provide examples of any past leadership experience to show you can hit the ground running.
7. Keep resume length to 1-2 pages
While it’s important to be concise, you don’t want to sacrifice valuable content just to fit everything onto a single page, especially as you get more senior and have more years of relevant research experience under your belt. The old one-page rule was a more stringent requirement in the past when people printed out resumes, but that rule is not as relevant these days! We do, however, advise you to try to keep it to a maximum of two pages – anything longer and you may lose your audience.
General guideline: If you have under 10 years of research experience, try to stick to one page; if you’ve been working in the field for a decade or more and have relevant experience to highlight, go ahead and use a second page!
8. Deciding which section to put first: experience or education
If you’re early in your career (the first 5 years or so), we generally advise placing your education before your work experience. After you’re fairly established and have more than 5-6 years of experience, we recommend moving your education to the end. (And don’t worry about including your GPA – it’s no longer necessary once you’ve landed your first job out of school.)
General guideline: Keep your experience section focused on previous research or insights positions you’ve held. If you’re early in your career it’s okay to include some other roles, volunteer positions, or internships, but make sure to keep it brief unless it’s directly applicable to the opportunity!
And if you’re thinking about going back to grad school, check out our thoughts on whether researchers should get a Master’s or MBA.
9. Make sure to include contact info and location/relocation situation
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget the basics! The header of your resume should contain your full name, location, and contact information (current phone number and email address are crucial). If you’re applying for roles outside of your home city or state, including a few words to explain your relocation situation can help answer questions potential employers may have when reviewing your resume.
Example: Including a phrase such as: “Open to relocation” or “Relocating to Denver in August” can explain you’re open to other locations or targeting a specific area.
10. It’s okay to be creative, but use discretion
While design skills and creativity may be appreciated depending on the role or organization, be careful not to prioritize design over your resume’s content and readability! Chronological resumes tend to be the easiest to digest. And keep in mind that many companies use some form of ATS (applicant tracking system) for their hiring process, so your information may not upload properly if the design format isn’t compatible with the database.
General guideline: Keep in mind the type of role you’re pursuing. A digital or ad agency might be the perfect place to show off your visualization skills if it’s the kind of organization that values creativity, but make sure that the information you’re trying to convey is still clear and concise, regardless of format.
Infographic-style resumes may initially grab attention, but to function as an effective resume, it must still communicate your research background and skillset, your experience with a variety of methodologies in the field, overall career progression, and the strategic impact of your work.
BONUS TIP: Ensure your LinkedIn profile and resume are consistent!
Regardless of tailoring and tweaking, make sure that the information on your resume mirrors your LinkedIn profile. Employers and recruiters often look at both, so avoid any confusion about your work experience by making sure you have consistent information on both (especially titles and dates).
Ready for the interview stage? Make sure to check out our tips for researchers on how to ace video interviews and on how researchers can write impactful thank-you emails afterwards.
We hope this information was helpful! If you’re looking for new job opportunities yourself, or looking to hire marketing research or consumer insights talent, be sure to reach out to us: firstname.lastname@example.org