How To Format Your Resume For Internet Job Searching
Email resumes…Web resumes…HTML resumes…Scannable resumes… Keyword resumes…Text resumes…ASCII resumes…PDF resumes…Word resumes…Traditional resumes…
A resume is a resume, right? But then, what are all these different types of resumes you keep hearing about? If you are confused and not quite sure what is being referred to when you hear all these different names for resumes, you are certainly not alone!
Over the past decade, the most common resume-related questions asked by job hunters have progressively shifted. While still of major importance, the majority of queries are no longer about functional versus chronological resume styles, whether to keep or remove experience from twenty-five years ago, or whether to include dates of education. With the advent and subsequent explosive increase in the use of the Internet during the job search, questions have turned overwhelmingly to issues of electronic resume creation and transmission.
What are the different types of electronic resumes?
What are the differences between an e-mail resume, a scannable resume, and a web resume?
How do I know which resume format to use?
How do I format my electronic resume to ensure that the recipient can read it?
No wonder there is so much confusion! In just a few short years, there has been a complete revolution in the tools and techniques of job hunting. As applicant tracking technologies have come into common use among headhunter firms, large corporations, and even mid-size and small businesses, recommended resume formats and methods of transmission have rapidly evolved with the advancing technologies. Further complicating things, have been the increasing availability of personal web space for online resume portfolios and biographies.
What does this mean for today’s job hunter? While the Internet has opened unprecedented doors of opportunity in the job search process, for those who have not taken the time to learn and apply the rules it can mean disaster!
While few job hunters have time to spend months studying the most recent technologies and recommendations for the creation of electronic resumes, before venturing onto the Internet with your resume it is critical that you take the time to learn and understand a few simple concepts. Knowing your audience and the formats most acceptable by those audiences are essential pieces of knowledge for the Internet job hunter.
The human reader – The traditional, printed, hard copy resume (yes, it does still have a primary place in job hunting!) is created to attract the human eye and attention. With the advantages of word processing applications, sophisticated formatting is possible and should be applied strategically to create eye-appeal and draw the readers’ attention to key qualifications.
The computer reader – The electronic or computer-optimized resume is designed, first and foremost, to be readable by the computer. There are several types of electronic resumes, but the common element of all is the ability to be searched by keyword. Of course, once your resume has been tagged as matching a keyword search, it will be reviewed by a human. So compelling, easy-to-read content is just as important in the electronic resume as in the traditional resume.
Miss these points and the effects could be devastating…you might send out hundreds of resumes only to sit at home and wonder why nobody, not even one company or headhunter, has called you for an interview. There are fundamental formatting differences between traditional and electronic resumes. If you do not understand these differences, your resume will make it into very few – if any – resume databases.
What are the differences between keyword, scannable, web, traditional, and text resumes?
Traditional resumes are designed, as already noted, to compel the human reader, through persuasive language and design, to take further action and call you for an interview. Layout and page design are critical and should be planned strategically to draw the eye to areas of emphasis. The most effective traditional resumes are focused on achievements and written in powerful, active language that captures and holds the attention of the reader.
Scannable resumes — also a printed, hardcopy format — are designed primarily for accurate scanning into a computer. Captured as an image, scannable resumes are fed through OCR (optical character recognition) software that reads and extracts the text. The extracted text is databased for storage and later recalled by keyword from an applicant tracking system. Scannable resumes are very rarely requested any more. If you are asked for a scannable resume, the most efficient option is to email the requestor your plain ASCII text resume (described next).
Text resumes (also referred to as ASCII resumes) are just what the name implies, an ASCII-formatted version of either your traditional or scannable resume. Text resumes are universally readable on all computer systems and platforms and are the preferred format when you are emailing your resume. An ASCII resume received in email can be entered directly into an applicant tracking system without the added step of needing to scan it. Entry into the system is fast, easy, and accurate and so many employers and recruiters prefer this format.
The phrase “keyword resume,” as it was first used, referred most often to either a scannable or text resume that incorporated a focus on nouns and phrases that employers were likely to use when searching for an applicant. Sometimes the keyword resume had a section at the beginning or end that listed the keywords separated by commas or periods. Today, there is no need to maintain both a keyword and a non-keyword resume. Keywords have become such an essential element in resumes that you should ensure that every version of your resume, whether meant for the human or the computer reader, incorporates the keywords most important in your field or industry.
Still confused? My recommendation is to simply maintain two separate versions of your resume:
Traditional resume – If you wish to send a hardcopy, paper version of your resume you should send your traditional resume. Traditional resumes are most often stored on your computer as a computer file and printed on an as-needed basis. For example, you will want to print at least several copies of your resume to carry with you and hand out at interviews. You may also be asked to send your traditional resume via email to a recruiter or employer. In these cases, you should have your traditional resume saved in the two most commonly asked for file formats: MS Word and Adobe PDF. You can then attach the requested file or files to an email message and send it to the requestor to be printed on the receiving end.
By far, you’ll find that the most requested format for your traditional resume is MS Word. If you comply with the request, be aware that your formatting may be incompatible with the recipient’s system. While usually still readable, fonts and bullet sizes and styles may be different from what you intended. These problems can be minimized, although not always eliminated, by embedding the fonts into the document. This is a simple process, and the MS Word help files will guide you through it. You should also take care, while writing and designing your resume, to use design elements that are default and standard on most systems. For example, it is not wise to use a fancy, custom font on your resume that you know will be emailed. Default fonts such as Garamond, Helvetica, Book Antiqua, or Verdana are better choices.
To eliminate issues with compatibility, if the recipient has the free Adobe Reader installed, Adobe PDF is the best format in which to send your traditional resume. The PDF version of your resume will appear on the recipient’s system precisely the way it appeared on your system. For this reason, if given the choice of sending an MS Word file and Adobe PDF file, always opt for Adobe PDF. However, many recruiters and employers still prefer the MS Word file format, because this is the format they are most familiar with.
ASCII text resume – If you conduct any portion of your job search on the Internet, ASCII-formatted resumes are critically important tools. Always have an up-to-date ASCII text version of your resume on your computer. This is the fastest way to contact potential employers and to apply for jobs advertised online. You must also have a text version of your resume if you wish to post in online resume databanks.
As previously noted, employers rarely request scannable resumes anymore. If they utilize an applicant tracking system, they will likely request that your resume be e-mailed, either as ASCII text or as an attachment. E-mail allows the recipient to enter your resume directly into the database, eliminating the extra steps of scanning and OCR.
How do you use these file formats and transit them to recipients via email? My recommendation is to actually attach the MS Word or Adobe PDF file to the email in its native file format. Then, ALSO copy and paste the text of your ASCII text resume into the body of your email (where you would normally type a message), along with a letter of introduction or other note explaining why you are sending the resume.
A final type of electronic resume is the web resume, also known as the online resume. Created using HTML, your web resume may be uploaded to space provided by a web-hosting provider. Eliminating the compatibility problems associated with word-processed resumes sent as e-mail attachments, web resumes offer the advantage of maintaining layout and design on the systems of anyone with a web browser. Available for viewing around the clock, conveying a technology-savvy image, and allowing the ability to add supporting content to your resume (effectively creating an online portfolio promoting your qualifications), web resumes are becoming a progressively important tool in the job search. The creation of a web resume or resume portfolio is far beyond the scope of this article, but if web resumes are an electronic format that interest you, be aware that many service providers have begun offering web resume design and hosting at affordable prices.
Preparing Internet Resumes
What do I need to know about writing keyword resumes?
Remember – it is absolutely essential that you create resume content that is keyword rich regardless of the file format. It is not necessary that you maintain a separate keyword version of your resume. ALL resumes must include a heavy emphasis on keywords. Keywords are generally defined as nouns or phrases that an employer will use when searching for an applicant with your skill set. To maximize the recall of your resume in a search, you will want to use as many keywords in your resume as possible.
1. Keywords should focus on technical and professional areas of expertise, industry-related jargon, and your work history. Also, include the names of associations and organizations of which you are a member.
2. Whenever possible, use synonyms of keywords in different parts of your resume and if you use initials for a term in one section, spell the term out in another.
3. Always be specific. For example, while it may be fine to include the phrase “computer literate,” you will also want to list the specific software that you are proficient in using.
This is one of the most common areas of confusion, so I’ll state it once again…the content of a keyword resume does not need to differ from the content of your traditional resume. With careful attention to rhythm and flow, it is possible to prepare a resume that is keyword optimized, but that also includes the powerful, compelling, active language of a traditional resume. Not only will this simplify your resume preparation, but it will ensure that the content of all versions of your resume will be optimized for both the computer and the human reader. Furthermore, if you incorporate a professional summary and bulleted list of qualifications in the text of your resume, there is little if any need to prepare a separate keyword summary.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to recommend a specific list of the best keywords to use in your resume, as the “best” keywords are different for every individual and depend mainly on your unique career objective and background. What is certain, however, is that a well-prepared keyword resume is so critical to your success in a job market that largely relies on electronic applicant tracking systems, if you have any doubts at all you should consult with a professional resume writer.
How do I prepare an ASCII text version of my resume?
Preparing the all-important ASCII text version of your resume is not difficult, but it does require a learning curve. Once converted to ASCII format, you will be able to email your resume in response to an ad or paste it directly into web-based forms and submit it to Internet resume databanks. The specific directions will vary depending on the software you have installed on your computer. But, in general, to prepare your ASCII resumes properly, follow these simple steps:
1. Using your word processing program, open your word-processed resume and use the “Save As” function to save a copy as a “Text Only” or “ASCII (DOS)” document. Title your document with an easily distinguishable name; perhaps “resume_internet.txt”
2. Close your word processing program and re-open the ASCII file. You will not be able to see your changes until you have done this. Note that it has been stripped of virtually all original formatting.
3. Go through your new ASCII document line-by-line. Align all text flush to the left-hand margin.
4. Remove all “centering,” “right hand margin,” and “justification” alignments.
5. Although you should no longer see them, if visible, remove all graphics, artwork, and special character formatting.
6. Remove all tab characters.
7. Remove all columns.
8. Replace bullets with a simple ASCII asterisk (*).
9. Carefully check the spelling and the accuracy of your data.
10. If you wish, use ASCII characters to enhance the appearance of your resume. Asterisks, plus signs, or other keyboard characters can be used to create visual lines that separate sections of your resume and make it easier to read.
The above steps convert your resume to ASCII without line breaks. When pasted into a web-based form or email message, your resume will automatically wrap to the size of the window.
Your new ASCII resume will be universally readable, no matter what computer system the recipient uses. It will also be easy to manipulate for entry into applicant tracking databases, eliminating the inherent difficulties of scanning and converting your paper resume with OCR systems.
There is no denying that the Internet has caused what was once a straightforward process to become complex and confusing to many job hunters. Yet, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Like never before, as a job seeker you have immediate access to announcements and advertisements of openings around the globe. You have the ability to conduct detailed research on companies of interest. And you have unprecedented opportunity to cost effectively promote your qualifications to hundreds or even thousands of hiring authorities of just a tiny fraction of the cost of doing so through traditional methods. While the new skills you must learn may seem daunting at first, by understanding the concepts and creating your electronic resumes, you are well on your way to an efficient, effective Internet job search.