- Choose a white or light colored paper
- Use a standard size of paper
- Avoid using exotic typefaces, underlining, italics, small type, and graphics
- Fill your resume with keywords and technical jargon
- Use a laser or inkjet printer, never a dot matrix printer
- Avoid folding your resume
- Send originals, not copies
Employers are often inundated with resumes. To effectively manage a large candidate pool, more companies are now utilizing Electronic Applicant Tracking Systems that use imaging technology to scan, organize, store and retrieve resumes in an internal database. Resumes are scanned in as images and then "read" by OCR (optical character recognition) software. Screening is done by a keyword search. Not all scannable technology is the same. However, the more you abide by these "rules," the more you decrease your chances for misinterpretation and error, and increase your chances for "hits." Your resume is then typically forwarded electronically to the person with hiring authority.
Avoid boldface, italicizing, script, shading, graphics, borders, and underlining. Use asterisks, not bullets. A scannable resume is clean with crisp characters so that the OCR can recognize every letter. When your resume is being scanned, it is designed to read text not graphics. Do not use horizontal or vertical lines. Computers will try to read lines and may blur them into characters. Vertical lines may be confused with the letter "I." Omit parentheses or brackets around any telephone area codes. Use 10-14 point common sans serif fonts such as Helvetica, or use clean popular serif fonts like Times Roman or Palatino as a second choice. Avoid compressing spaces between letters, use spaces between lines as frequently as possible. Use a traditional reverse chronological resume format that avoids complex layouts, table sor columns.
Your name should be the first text line. Avoid styles such as "Joe Union, 123 Main Street, Schenectady, NY 12308, 388-6176." a keyword "Summary" paragraph at the top of your resume can identify important relevant skills and qualifications.
With scannable resumes, computers search on descriptive nouns such as manager, marketing, promotion, engineer and management as opposed to verbs such as managed, assisted, coordinated, and organized. Also, avoid slashes "design/develop." The more facts you include, the more chances your skills will be matched to available positions. Many scanning systems are programmed to understand standard abbreviations such as BA, BS, MS, MBA, PhD.
Maximize use of inudstry jargon and abbreviations.
It is logical to assume recruiters will instruct the search engine dictionary to pull up keywords specific to the job opening and field when trying to fill a position. Use specific buzzwords in your career field such as LAN (Local Area Network), CAD (Computer-Assisted Design), Lotus, systems integration. Include computer software and hardware skills, degrees, majors, GPA, job titles, employers, accomplishments and honors. Think about what are the essential characteristics required for the job: education, experience, skills. The more buzzwords you have, the more likely your resume will get selected.
Joyce Lane Kennedy, nationally syndicated career columnist and author of Electronic Resume Revolution, suggests that job applicants include a keyword summary on any resume they think may be scanned. It should immediately follow the name and address. A keyword summary should contain the targeted job title and altnerative labels, as well as previous job titles, skills, software programs, and selected jargon known in the targeted field. It should concentrate on nouns rather than on verbs or adjectives. To construct a keyword summary, mark all relevant nouns in the core resume. Also try to imagine what eight to ten words an employer might use to describe the desired job. Then select the 25 best words for the summary. Because interpersonal traits are often requested by employers, consult the box below. It shows the most frequently requested interpersonal traits, as reported by Resumix, one of the leaders in the resume-scanning software. The list of keywords may be titled "Keyword Summary," "Keyword Profile," or "Keyword Index."
Here's an example of a possible keyword summary for a junior accountant: KEYWORD SUMMARY - Accountant: Public. Junior. Staff. AA, Delgado Community College. BA, Nicholls State University. Payables. Receivables. Payroll Experience. Quarterly Reports. Unemployment Reports. Communication Skills. Computer Skills. Lotus 1-2-3. dBase. PCs. Mainframes. Networks. J.D. Edwards Software. Ability to learn software. Accurate. Dean's List. Team players. Willing to travel. Relocate.
Interpersonal Keywords Most Requested By Employers Using Resume Scanning
Ability to delegate. Ability to implement. Ability to plan. Ability to train. Accurate. Adaptable. Aggressive worker. Analytical ability. Assertive. Communication skills. Competitive. Creative. Customer oreinted. Detail minded. Empowering others. Ethical. Flexible. Follow instructions. Follow through. Follow up. High energy. Industrious. Innovative. Leadership. Multitasking. Open communication. Open minded. Oral communication. Organizational skills. Persuasive. Problem solving. Public speaking. Results oriented. Safety conscious. Self-accountable. Self-managing. Sensitive. Setting priorities. Supportive. Takes initiative. Team building. Team player. Tenacious. Willing to travel.
Source: Joyce Lain Kennedy and Thomas J. Morrow. Electronic Resume Revolution (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994), 70. Reprinted with permission.
Printing and Paper
Always send a standard 8-1/2" x 11" original laser printed resume which produces a sharper image for the scanner. Never use a nine-pin dot matrix printer. Use a one page format. If you have more than 10 years experience, consider using a second page, but make sure your name is at the top on all pages. For best contrast between the ink and paper, use black ink on high quality white paper. Off-white or ivory paper is acceptable.
Sending and Packaging
Faxes or overcopied resumes are more difficult to read. If faxing is a must, set the fax machine on "fine mode," rather than on "standard mode." Always use a paper clip; staples in your resume may cause the pages to stick together. Do not fold your resume, because if a crease lands across a line of text, it will confuse the scanner. Send your resume in a large flat envelope, ideally with a sheet of cardboard to keep it neat. If you are unsure whether the employer scans resumes, you can inquire or consider sending two resumes that have small removable Post-It Notes. Indicate one is a "Scannable Resume" and the other is a "Hard Copy Resume."