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Don’t Recycle Your Résumé, Refresh It

by Brought to you by the ACS Career Navigator
February 2, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 5

Credit: Shutterstock
Keep your résumé up to date so you’re ready when an opportunity arises.
Stock photo of a person working on a resume.
Credit: Shutterstock
Keep your résumé up to date so you’re ready when an opportunity arises.

Your résumé is a permanent record of your professional accomplishments and often serves as your introduction to future colleagues. It should always be up to date: not only in terms of your jobs, dates, accomplishments, and skills, but also in your use of terminology and formatting. Take a few minutes now to make sure your document is ready to go when opportunity knocks.

Check the layout. A hiring manager will spend about 20 seconds looking at your résumé, so it is crucial that the most important information is easy to find and that the layout leads the eye from section to section. The top third of the first page will get the most attention. Once you write it, ask yourself: If someone reads only this section, would that person have a good sense of who I am and what I can do? Are the headers clear and consistent, and is there sufficient white space? Try squinting to evaluate the layout without the distraction of reading the words. Which section does the layout make look most important?

Update Your Accomplishments. Your résumé should include concrete, quantitative examples that paint a vivid picture of your most significant accomplishments. For example, instead of “excellent communicator,” you can say, “wrote 15 SOPs and seven technical reports in six months.” A résumé should cover not just your most recent activities but also those most relevant to your professional future. In any job, your duties change over time, so make sure what you have listed is still important and relevant. Are there different tasks and responsibilities that showcase your abilities? Should you update the terminology that describes your skills?

Quantify Your Activities. Don’t just list what you did, but also give an indication of how much you did. Did you synthesize four analogs, or 42? Was your combinatorial library 20 compounds or 10,000? Scientists like numbers, and providing a sense of scale gives the reader a much better idea of what you have done. If necessary, group your accomplishments: for example, “Managed 15 technicians over four product lines for more than two years.”

Make Technology Work for You. Did you include your LinkedIn URL? Hiring managers will check your LinkedIn profile, so make sure it expands and supports the professional image you convey in your résumé. Use tools such as Wordle to find the most common words in the job descriptions that interest you, and then echo those words in your résumé and online profiles.

Use Your Friends. Once you think your document is perfect, ask someone (or better yet, several people) to review it for you, looking for typographical errors and formatting inconsistencies. Ask your professional colleagues if it accurately reflects your current professional skills and also matches your preferred future direction for your career.

Maintaining an accurate and current résumé is one of your professional responsibilities. It means you will be prepared when an opportunity arises. Even better, critically evaluating the record of your career on a regular basis forces you to think about your career trajectory—where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go.

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 in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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