As an ACS Career Consultant, the most common problem I see with résumés is that job hunters don’t provide examples of their skills and accomplishments that will impress employers and make job hunters stand out from their competition. Yet doing so is essential in today’s highly competitive job market.
How can you stand out from other job hunters so that it is your résumé that is selected from the stack of other candidates’ résumés? How can you make a strongly favorable impression during employment interviews? The answer to these questions is to prove your abilities and accomplishments with examples, not just favorable adjectives used in your résumé and during interviews. By backing up your claims with proof, you are demonstrating that you can produce valuable results for the employer if you are hired.
Begin doing this early in your résumé. Look at the summary section near the top of your first page. Chances are it is a series of claims such as:
• skilled in the latest organic synthesis techniques
• excellent oral communication skills
• outstanding leadership abilities
These are very good but can be made much more memorable by backing them up with proof. Let’s add examples that make these attributes more memorable and convincing:
• skilled in the latest organic synthesis techniques. Used click chemistry with the Huisgen 1,3-cycloaddition to synthesize a series of 1,3-substituted triazole drug candidates in 99% yield.
• excellent oral communication skills. Won the Smilgoff Award for best presentation by a graduate student at the ACS 47th Northern Regional Meeting
• outstanding leadership abilities. As president of my ACS Student Affiliate Chapter organized a series of programs that helped to double chapter membership to 32.
These examples illustrate a challenge of using examples to create a strong impression: the approach does take up more space on your résumé. So you need to make your examples as concise as possible.
As the second and third bullet points above indicate, this approach extends beyond clearly demonstrating productivity and accomplishment in the laboratory. Today’s industrial chemist spends a lot of time outside the laboratory working in teams to scale up reactions, introduce new products to customers, and supervise others. Providing strong examples of these skills is essential in today’s crowded job market. If all you are is a lab rat, even a very productive one, what is the incentive for an employer to hire you rather than a new graduate exposed to the very latest in laboratory techniques?
For example, consider the following real-life example:
• developed a new product, Cla-Sta® FS to minimize rock permeability damage due to small particle migration thus increasing well productivity.
Consider how much more convincing and memorable the series following statements are:
• Developed a new product, Cla-Sta® FS to minimize rock permeability damage due to small particle migration thus increasing well productivity. Field results indicated four-fold increases in oil productivity maintained 8 months after well treatment.
• Wrote a technical bulletin describing field results obtained using the product.
• Presented field results at a national and two regional Society of Petroleum Engineers meetings and wrote a paper published in Journal of Petroleum Technology.
• Received awards from the Asociacion de Petroleros de Mexico and the Pittsburgh Division of Halliburton Services for the development of Cla-Sta FS.
You can use the same approach if you work outside the laboratory as a patent attorney, sales representative or in some other assignment. You can also use this approach to describe your accomplishments and set them in context during employment interviews. Again, the key is to be concise and focused in your statements.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.