Preparing Electronic Resumes

In the age of electronics and downsized organizations, companies are processing job applicants at incredibly high speeds.  While the format chosen and the words appearing on a resume are important, it's equally important the document can be effectively scanned into a database.

In this article, we're going to start by explaining why it's important for electronic resumes to follow a prescribed format.  Next, we outline some guidelines to follow when preparing the document.  Finally, we'll provide some links to examples that demonstrate this technique at work.

Advantages of Electronic Resumes

The switch from paper to electronic resumes can be directly related to the increased use of scanners and computers in the workplace.  In mid-to-large companies, the human resources department may handle thousands of resumes every year.  Finding the best candidate, or a qualified job applicant, among the thousands of applications received is a tedious and error-prone process.

By switching to an electronic format, employees working in the human resources department can now quickly match job applicants to open positions within their organization.

Electronic Scanning

The process of collecting and storing electronic resumes in a database is fairly straightforward, and can occur in four ways:

  • Email:  appending it directly into the body of an email sent to the company.
  • Electronic Document:  attaching the resume to an email in the form of a word processing document such as Microsoft's Word or OpenOffice's Writer.
  • Online Forms:  filled in manually on an online web form, which is subsequently imported into the electronic database.
  • U.S. Mail:  hardcopies of the documents received by companies in the mail are subsequently scanned into the job applicant database.

Guidelines

Technology used to accurately scan an electronic resume faces two obstacles:  the organization of information on the document, and the characters or fonts used.  Scanning software also looks for certain keywords to tell it what type of information is being conveyed, such as work experience.

This scanning and storing of information allows for the rapid identification of resumes that match up against certain job requirements.  The formatting rules described below help this process by providing a clean and understandable layout.  These guidelines were used to produce the electronic resume samples provided later on in this article:

  • Restrict the use of fonts to Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica.
  • Use only one font size, preferably between 10 and 14 points.
  • Remove all underlining, bolding, and italics.
  • Remove any graphics or artwork appearing on the resume including shading, vertical and horizontal lines.
  • Make sure "name" is the only item appearing on the first line of the document.
  • Move all text to the left margin.
  • Bulleted items can confuse scanners; convert them to simple hyphens or asterisks.

Converting Resumes to ASCII Form

It's a fairly simple process to convert an existing resume into an electronic version.  Once again, the only software needed is a word processing application.  When using Word, the following steps can be used to convert the resume:

  1. Open the existing resume's file.
  2. Create a new file.
  3. Select all the text in the original document and copy it.
  4. Paste the resume into the new document using: Edit, Paste Special, Unformatted Text.  At this point there should be a plain text document without any bolding, underlining or tables.
  5. Close the original file so it isn't mistakenly overwritten.
  6. As required, manually replace tabs and remove bullets as noted in the guidelines above.  Some information may need to be rearranged.  For example, make sure the writer's name appears on the first line of the document.
  7. After all of the manual changes have been made, it's time to save it in the ASCII format.  This can be done by using: File, Save As, and then changing the Save As Type to Plain Text.
  8. At this point, a dialog box will pop up for File Conversion.  Under Text Encoding select Other Encoding, and then select US-ASCII.
  9. The document can now be saved in the ASCII format.

You may get a warning about text conversion, substitute characters if necessary.  Read the document to verify it converted correctly.  The file will be saved with a .txt extension.

Mailing Resumes

When submitting a resume by email or through the U.S.P.S., it's advisable to send two copies.  One copy can be the simple format the human resources department can efficiently and accurately scan into the electronic resume database.

The second can be the elegantly designed resume that uses bolding and italics to highlight the job titles and keywords the writer wants to emphasize.

Keywords

Since electronic resumes will be stored in a database, the screening process involves a keyword matching routine.  The hiring manager describes the skills and job titles that apply to the open position, and the human resources person queries the resume database for those same terms or keywords.  Resumes are then screened and ranked based on the matching algorithm.

The right keyword or key phrases must appear in the body of the document to make it through the screening process.  Resume keywords are the nouns and adjectives that are relevant to the position.

In fact, their placement has become so important that it is sometimes useful to place them in the body of the electronic resume.  This can take the form of a dedicated section labeled Keyword Summary that includes the nouns and adjectives believed to apply to the individual's work experience or the job posting.

Individuals struggling to identify keywords can use the following tools:

  • Job Postings:  look at the actual job posting itself or a similar one found online.
  • Resume Samples:  examine those of individuals believed to be qualified, or have held positions that are similar to the one of interest.
  • Thesaurus / Synonyms:  finally, nearly all modern word processing applications include a way to look up synonyms, or have a built in thesaurus.  A thesaurus can also help the writer to avoid repeating the same word or phrases.

Electronic Samples

The steps outlined above were followed to convert two resumes into the electronic format:


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