Résumé Diagnostics


We advise chemists and chemical professionals daily on job search strategies, formatting of résumés, interview techniques and other career change topics. One of the most frequent problems we see is a résumé that does not showcase the candidate to their best advantage.

If your listing in the ACS Careers Jobs Database is not resulting in any inquiries, the problem is most likely your résumé. It may be the format, the content, or you might not be highlighting your accomplishments in the right way.

If you have a long work history, don’t think of the résumé as a chronicle of your life journey. It is a marketing tool to highlight your accomplishments. It should be a quick read in bulleted format – no more than two pages. Most recruiters will spend no more than 30 seconds skimming your résumé. If they aren’t instantly hooked, they will be on to the next.

If you are just entering the job market, you will most likely use a reverse chronological listing of your accomplishments, but don’t limit it to a listing of classes you attended. Think hard about the things that make you special. Think about what sets you apart from your peers. Have you shown leadership through the ACS Student Affiliates program? Were you innovative in the lab or in your studies? Did you score higher or go further in a particular area than your classmates? If so, call out these achievements up front.

Make sure you cover the basics.

  • Create a Highlights section at the top with 3 bullets describing your most relevant achievements, skills or attributes.
  • Keep it short – two pages maximum.
  • Use bulleted text with action verbs to describe your accomplishments.
  • Keep it simple. Fancy formatting may interfere with computer prescreening of your résumé.
  • Have someone else proof your résumé for misspellings and other grammatical errors.

When highlighting your achievements use action verbs that imply an outcome. For example, “determined” is a better verb choice than “studied”. Anyone can study something, but it does not mean that they reached a conclusion. On the other hand, if you determine something, you have made an analysis and come to a conclusion.

Where possible you should also use quantitative or qualitative measures in your arguments.

  • Identified and optimized new synthetic route for aminated oligosacherides resulting in 10-fold greater yields with less waste.
  • Created new automated method for the analysis of sulfur in solids capable of running 24/7 with a 10 sample per hour throughput.

These examples are obviously made up to illustrate this concept, but you should notice that they are written to promote a person’s ability to produce results.

When you are being evaluated by a company, they are looking for what you will be able to do for their business. They will not necessarily be interested in a listing of things that you have done. This is a subtle but important distinction. Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter and re-read your résumé. Does it sell your abilities?

ACS members qualify for free career advice and résumé reviews through the Career Consultant Program. Our consultants are ACS members, many of them former recruiters. Add your ACS membership number to your profile to gain access to this program.

Visit www.acs.org/careers for additional career advice, resources and information from the American Chemical Society.

This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.

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