The Structure of an Effective Resume: Overview

The format of your résumé must follow some general guidelines. There are two basic formats: chronological and functional (or skills-based) résumés. As the name denotes, a chronological résumé presents your work history in reverse chronological order, and is the most common structure. A small number of people prefer a skills-based résumé, which allows you to emphasize what you can do, immediately focusing the employer's attention on your capabilities and de-emphasizing any career gaps or job changes.

While there's no single “formula” to create a good résumé, all résumés have the same basic framework to present your experience, accomplishments, and credentials

  • The Introduction includes the heading, your job objective or summary, and highlights of skills and experience you don't want the reader to miss.  This is the executive summary, that entices them into reading further.
  • The Background consists of your experience and accomplishments, your educational credentials, foreign language proficiency, and any technology skills.  This is the main focus of the resume, where you provide details of what you can do, by showing what you have done.
  • Supporting information is where you list “extras” such as publications, presentations, and professional affiliations, including any leadership roles or other assignments.  These are not as important, but round out the picture of you as a professional.

How you put together the various parts of your résumé to market yourself effectively will depend on your situation - that is, whether you are a recent graduate or an experienced chemical scientist. For the most part, the basic components remain the same, as described in the following subsections, and only the order of the sections changes. See the examples for more specific details.

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