. . How to Write a Resume

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Maintained by Harry E. Pence, Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Oneonta, for the use of his students. Any opinions are totally coincidental and have no official endorsement, including the people who sign my pay checks. Comments and suggestions are welcome (pencehe@oneonta.edu).

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Last Revised Feb. 1, 2004

Chem 398 - Dr. H.E.Pence - Spring 2004


REMEMBER, IT IS ILLEGAL FOR AN EMPLOYER TO ASK FOR AGE, SEX, PICTURE, OR MARRIAGE STATUS. If you include these, you look as though you don't understand how this game is played!

PAPER COLOR: May Be any Color from Ivory to White. Colored paper is not appropriate when applying for a science job.

BUY GOOD QUALITY PAPER AND PRINT YOUR RESUME ON A GOOD LASER-JET PRINTER. Some employers may evaluate how well you understand the situation by the "feel" of the paper in your resume. It may be convenient to share the cost of the paper by sharing the purchase with another senior.

TYPE FONT: The main thing is to make sure that it's easy to read. If there is any chance that your resume will be scanned or used in an electronic format, the font options are limited to those easily read by a scanner. This is now so commen that it is best to stick with classic fonts, like Helvetica or Courier and do not have more than two different fonts on the page. (Note: Different sizes are OK and even recommended to improve readability. For further information about electronic resumes, consult the web pages on this site.

LENGTH: For an Undergraduate Student, the entire resume should fit on a single page.

INTERVIEWS: The resume is not an end in itself. It is only a stepping stone towards getting a job. As soon as you are called by a company that is interested in your resume, begin to prepare for the actual interview. For information about the interview, go to the interview page on this site.

You should be prepared to explain anything on your transcript or resume that appears unusual. For example, if you received a D in a course, but generally had A and B grades in all the other courses, why did this happen? This kind of incongruity should attract a good interviewer. Be careful of this! Employers may not, in general, ask about your health status, but if you volunteer the information that your poor grades were the result of health problems, you may have opened the door to some uncomfortable questions.


Let's examine the various components of a typical resume for someone in chemistry. There are three main types of resumes: chronological, functional, or a combination of both formats. This presentation will only show the format for a chronological resume. A variation of this approach will be found in the electronic resume web pages on this site.

NAME AND ADDRESS (School or Home? Where can you best be reached?)

OBJECTIVE (Secure an entry level position that will allow me to ?????)

EDUCATION: Include your major and, if appropriate, your minor, GPA (3.0/4.0) - either overall or in your major, HONORS (i.e. Dean's List) and Awards (awards may be a separate section), Date of availability is very important, Remember that there is an employment cycle and entry level jobs are most likely to be available in May. If the fraction of the cost of your education that you paid for yourself was significant, you, may wish to note the percent contribution in your resume.

SPECIAL SKILLS: This is an optional section, but you must find some way in your resume to provide this information. It may be either instrumental methods, languages, or other skills. Be aware that an interviewer may follow up on this. That is, if you say that you are familiar with FT-IR, you may be asked some questions about using this type of instrumentation.

SPECIAL ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE: This section is also optional, but it can be very valuable. This is your opportunity to mention any special courses you have taken or unusual experiences that may make you more desirable. Some examples would include independent study, internships, and courses that are not usually taken by people in your major. It isn't news for a chemistry major to take physical chemistry, but if you take an upper level course in statistical analysis, that could be important.

RELATED WORK EXPERIENCE: Some obvious examples of related work experience would be teaching assistantships, summer jobs in your field, and any employment where you have specifically used your chemical background. This would be an alternative place to discuss any internships you have had.

OTHER WORK EXPERIENCE: These jobs may not have much chemistry involved, but they can still be important. The crucial factors are continuity (did they keep hiring you back summer after summer?), responsibility (Did someone trust you enough to give you responsibility over tools, etc. worth a significant amount of money?), and authority over others (especially if your level of authority increased over time).

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: You should include any college clubs (i.e. ACS student affiliate) or other activities, including any offices that you have held. Be prepared to talk about any of these activities, since good interviewers will often use questions about your spare time activities to break the ice.

REFERENCES: It is essential that you warn any faculty members or other individuals if you plan to use them as references. A typical faculty member may deal with 200-400 students each year. Don't expect him or her to remember you without at least a gentle reminder. It is also important for you to give any possible reference a chance to diplomatically be excused from writing for you. Be sure to read the Section on Letters of Recommendation, which is found in this site.

It is quite acceptable to note that "references are available on request."

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