Is Your Resume Out of Style?

Just as clothing styles change over time, so do other styles.  While your resume still details your professional history, the overall look and specific content that employers expect to see changes over time.  If your resume style is outdated, that implies that you are out of touch with the current employment market.  Below are a few trends that have been observed in the chemical employment marketplace to test to see if your resume is “in style”.

Contact information

The first thing on your resume is your name and contact information, and that is probably never going to change.  However, as most communication is now electronic, including a physical mailing address has become less important.  All resumes should include an email address, but it is no longer necessary to include a street address, rather only the city and state which you reside. The email address does not have be your current employer’s (and probably should not be), but the username should not be flippant. Including the URL to your LinkedIn profile can provide more detailed information.

Executive Summary or Highlights

Instead of job objective describing the position you are seeking, more and more people are using an executive summary or highlights section.  This describes what you have done and what you can do, and will match a wider variety of possible openings.

Nouns and Verbs

People scan resumes for verbs, but computer keyword searches look for nouns, so include both.  For example, a person might skim for someone who has “managed”, while a human resources request might require a “manager”.  Including both words is better, and using them in context is even better for search engine optimization.  For example, “Manager Quality Assurance – ensured documentation, sample testing and calibration was conducted according to protocol and ISO/IEC 17025 standards as appropriate.”


In order to include all possible keywords, many candidates used a “Keywords” section where they listed 25 or so additional words that did not appear elsewhere in their document.  Since humans never read that section, and computers read the whole thing, it’s no longer a good use of space.  Keywords should be worked into the body of the resume.  For example, “NMR spectroscopist specializing in multi-dimensional analysis of protein structures” is better than, “NMR, proteins, structure”.

Paper is Out, PDF is In

The vast majority of resumes are sent electronically, read online, and never printed.  Therefore, how your resume looks when printed is not nearly as important as how the electronic version looks.  Sending an Adobe portable document format (pdf) version of your resume ensures that anyone will be able to read it, the formatting will remain as you wanted it, and no one will be able to accidentally edit it.

Keeping your personal data format (resume or CV) 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 (—Brought to you by ACS Careers.

19 Responses to Is Your Resume Out of Style?

  1. Great advice on resumes and what is in and out. The one thing I do talk about with my clients is to not do a PDF. I am hiring manager as well as a professional resume writer and when I receive a resume in PDF it is “clunky”, takes up more room and can be hard to open. It’s much easier on the hiring manager or recruiter to receive a word doc.
    Not sure what to do about your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile or how to get a job? Visit us and get some advice
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  2. John Nivas says:

    I found this advice poor at best. Here are a few things I have at issue with this article:
    1. I can’t imagine you not getting a job if you show your full address on your resume. I can imagine an HR person getting annoyed about not having your physical address handy at some point in the hiring process. Showing a linked in url sounds like a reasonable idea for convenience (a quick google search would presumably also show your linked-in profile way up there in the search results).
    2. Regarding an executive summary/highlights section. On November 30th, 2012 (today is December 5th) I spoke with a resume writing professional from a career services firm that has been around for 25+ years (well respected, charge upwards of $400 for a resume) and deals mainly with helping professionals at the manager and executive levels. On critiquing my resume, the firms representative suggested that I remove the executive summary, and be more specific about what it is that I am searching for in a position by providing an objective. Look, my point is, when it comes to providing either an executive summary or an objective, the choice really does depend on what you do below that, in the rest of your resume. I’d like to see a survey of hiring managers on this question. I’d bet my last dollar that there’d be a good mix of responses regarding this question, and not anything that resembles a trend.
    3. Nouns and Verbs. What is this mystical resume scanning software that companies are apparently using? As a scientist and hiring manager, I’d like to be able to assess this scanning software myself. Can you please give us links to the types of software being used? I’d be surprised, and even shocked, if companies would pay for document scanning software that could not recognize “Manager” and “Manage” as words belonging to the same skill set/experience group!
    4. Keywords section. Finally, a piece of good advice in telling folks to remove the “keywords” section from their resume. As a hiring manager myself, I could not imagine anything less professional than seeing a keywords section in a resume. I have never seen a resume with a “keywords” section land on my desk.
    5. PDF advice. It’s 2012, and it’s now trending to email your resume in pdf format? Now? Had I received anything but a PDF formatted file electronically, 10 years or more ago, I would have considered that as a sign that the applicant didn’t have the necessary computer skills to generate a pdf file. So the advice is reasonable, but this is not what I would call a trend, not in 2012 anyway. Furthermore, I simply don’t agree that your resume will not be printed out and that you should not be concerned about the way it looks in print. This is simply not true, especially if you look like an attractive candidate for the position. As a hiring manager myself, the first thing I do with resumes that appeal to me is to print them out so that I can start a hardcopy file of resumes of interest to me, to be able to make notes on them. If your resume does not print out nicely for me, that would not be a good thing. Which brings me to the other comment made prior to me posting this (by the “” representative). That person stated that pdf files are clunky? Can be hard to open? Take a lot of space? OK, if you’re PDF file version of your resume is clunky, hard to open and takes a lot of space, you might wish to invest in a new operating system for your computer, or maybe even a new computer? By new, I mean something later than a year 2000!

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