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Refreshing Your Résumé

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
July 2, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 27

Credit: iStockphoto
Take the time to make your résumé error-free. Even a minor mistake can relegate it, and you, to the rejection pile.
Stock photo of a resume.
Credit: iStockphoto
Take the time to make your résumé error-free. Even a minor mistake can relegate it, and you, to the rejection pile.

No matter where you are in your professional career, you need a résumé or curriculum vitae that’s up to date. The format may vary, but if you don’t keep track of your professional accomplishments, who will? Maintaining a comprehensive document will allow you to respond quickly when new opportunities come your way.

Update it. If you haven’t updated your résumé within the past few years, it’s probably due for an overhaul. During that process, you’ll want to keep the following questions in mind: Does it still accurately reflect your professional self? Does it indicate where you are heading? Should you consolidate older information to make room for your most recent accomplishments?

Make sure your educational degrees are listed along with your employment history, and list your most significant accomplishments using quantitative sentence fragments that demonstrate your impact. For example: “Developed new synthetic method for crucial starting material, resulting in 25% time savings and 35% cost reduction.”

Make it a habit to add new published papers, presentations, continuing education, awards, and significant professional accomplishments.

Create a “library” version of your résumé that’s comprehensive over your entire professional experience—and don’t worry about the length at this stage; you’ll trim it down later.

Keep the formatting simple, with plenty of white space so a prospective employer and other readers can scan your résumé easily. Don’t get too fancy with graphics and the layout, especially if you know your résumé will be scanned electronically. Keep your contact information current, and if you have a LinkedIn profile, include a link to it.

Everything on the résumé should be professional (no humorous e-mail addresses), and extracurricular activities should be included only if they demonstrate skills that are relevant to your work life.

Customize it. When it’s time to apply for a new job, undergo your annual review, or be nominated for an award, you will be ready to take the library version of your résumé and customize it as needed.

Research the specific job requirements, then put your most relevant skills and accomplishments first, place supporting information later, and omit irrelevant information to keep your résumé concise. Ideally, your final résumé should be no more than two pages.

You will be amazed at the benefits when you take the time to familiarize yourself with what the recruiter is looking for and tweak your résumé to match. Echo keywords used in the job description, and include outside activities relevant to the employer’s corporate values, making it obvious that you offer exactly what the organization needs.

Perfect it. No matter how many times you’ve read your résumé, you’re sure to miss something. Have someone with good editing skills read through your résumé and point out any errors or inconsistencies. Also ask some fellow chemists to read it to make sure all the information is clear, concise, technically accurate, and presented in the best possible light.

By keeping your professional data current and in one place, you will be ready to respond quickly to opportunities as they arise.

Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns on the ACS Careers blog (


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