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Career Tips

Is Your Résumé Out Of Style?

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
November 5, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 45

Credit: Shutterstock
Résumé styles, just like those for clothing, can go out of fashion.
These are vintage styles of clothing
Credit: Shutterstock
Résumé styles, just like those for clothing, can go out of fashion.

Just as clothing styles evolve, so do résumé styles. Although your résumé should always detail your up-to-date professional history (C&EN, July 2, page 76), the overall look of the document and specific content that employers expect to see in it may change over time. If your résumé style is outdated, that implies you are out of touch with the current employment market. The following suggestions will help freshen up the look and feel of your résumé.

Contact information. Your résumé should start off with your name and contact information, and that requirement will probably never change. However, because most communication is now electronic, including a physical mailing address is less important than in the past. Instead, include an e-mail address as well as the city and state in which you reside. Remember to use an e-mail address that is serious and professional, but try not to use one based at your current employer. You can also indicate how to access your LinkedIn profile so that employers can see more detailed information about you.

Executive summary or highlights. Instead of an objective describing the position you are seeking, an executive summary or a highlights section is increasingly being used in résumés to describe key skills and accomplishments. Unlike a specific objective, an executive summary will help you adjust your résumé so it suits a variety of possible openings.

Nouns and verbs. Hiring managers scan résumés for verbs, but computer searches look for nouns, so including nouns and verbs will get the most hits. For example, a hiring manager might skim a résumé for someone who has “managed,” while a search engine might scan for the word “manager.” Also, using the terms in context is even better for search engine optimization. So including phrases such as, “Manager Quality Assurance—ensured documentation, sample testing, and calibration was conducted according to protocol and ISO/IEC 17025 standards as appropriate” is a good idea.

Keywords. Many job seekers use a keywords section where they list additional terms that do not appear elsewhere in their résumé. Because hiring managers never read that section, it’s not a good use of space. Keywords should be worked into the body of the résumé. For example, “NMR spectroscopist specializing in multidimensional analysis of protein structures” is better than “NMR, proteins, structure.”

Paper is out, PDF is in. The vast majority of résumés are submitted electronically, read online, and never printed. Therefore, how your résumé looks when it’s printed is not nearly as important as the appearance of its electronic version. Sending a PDF version of your résumé ensures that anyone will be able to read it, the formatting will remain as intended, and no one will be able to accidentally edit it.

Keeping your résumé or curriculum vitae current is one way to show potential employers that you keep up with the changing requirements of the employment marketplace. Making sure your style, as well as your content, is as current as possible is an easy way to make a great first impression and start you on the road to a new chapter in your professional life.

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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