Preparing and Formatting Your Electronic Resume

Some employers request that candidates submit electronic resumes. The features of electronic resumes are described below.

Larger organizations or high-tech companies are more likely to require electronic resumes than smaller organizations.

Electronic Resume: ASCII Text Format

The primary difference between a paper and an electronic resume concerns the formatting. Electronic resumes are relatively plain and unattractive because they must be ASCII (also called .txt or Text Only) documents. Electronic resumes are stripped of all word processing codes so they transmit correctly in the body of an e-mail message or so they can be processed by the employer through a resume-tracking software program.

Keyword Emphasis

Using appropriate keywords throughout your electronic resume is important because employers often search electronic resumes for keywords that reflect the skills and other qualifications required for the job. Develop your electronic resume to include the largest possible number of keywords designed to generate positive hits from automated-search software.

Important Tips for Electronic Resumes

As you prepare your electronic resume, keep the following tips in mind:

1. Use standard section headings. Use standard headings like those in a paper resume; for example, Objectives, Qualifications, Experience, Education, and Related Activities.

2. Use keywords throughout. Using appropriate keywords throughout your electronic resume is essential. Spell these correctly. (Search software will not generate positive hits on your resume if the terms aren't spelled correctly.)

3. Emphasize nouns. Include noun forms of industry-specific terms, such as accountant rather than accounting. Also use nouns that describe strong interpersonal skills, such as team player. Search software frequently looks for noun forms.

4. Back up your files. Using a new filename, save your resume in ASCII format (on your hard drive and a disk or CD) so you can customize your electronic resume for specific employers.

5. Keep up to date on electronic resume technology. Technology changes quickly; keep your knowledge of scanning and electronic resume technology current by verifying employer preferences and updating your knowledge. Check out the Internet links and resources on the Your Career: How to Make It Happen web site.

Electronic Resume Formatting Guidelines

Get the edge on the competition by formatting your electronic resume correctly. Demonstrate superior knowledge and preparation. Use correct formatting so employers do not receive documents with wildly erratic line lengths and unreadable text.

Since all word processing codes are stripped out of electronic resumes, be sure to format your resume to compensate for the loss of bold text, bullets, and other formatting capabilities. Follow the instructions below to be sure your resume meets the employer's electronic expectations. These instructions assume your scannable paper resume was created with word processing software.

1. Follow employer directions. Obtain and read all employer instructions for creating and sending an electronic resume. If you have questions about the employer's preferences, send an e-mail message or call to request clarification.

2. In your word processor, open the file containing your scannable paper resume.

a. Highlight the text and change the font to Courier 12 point. This monospaced font is the most reliable one for accurate e-mail transmission.

b. Eliminate multiple columns.

c. Limit line lengths to 65 characters by setting the left margin to 1.0 and the right margin to 1.75. Longer line lengths often transmit unevenly.

d. Clean up the formatting:

    • Replace bullets with asterisks or hyphens.

    • Use all caps for headings.

    • Add blank line spaces between sections to make the content more readable.

    • Eliminate special characters, such as the copyright symbol (©), the ampersand (&), and mathematical symbols.

e. Use the Save As command to give this document a new name and to save it as "Text Only with Line Breaks."

f. Close the file and exit the word processing program.

3. IMPORTANT: Open the document in your standard text-editing program, such as Windows Notepad (not in your word processing program). This standard text-editing program creates the cleanest electronic resume.

a. Place your name on the first line with no other text. (Resume-search programs look only for a name on this line.)

b. Start all lines at the left margin.

c. Use uppercase letters for headings, but use standard uppercase and lowercase mix throughout the body of the document.

d. Place each telephone number on a separate line. Label each one, such as "home phone," "work phone," or "message phone."

e. Consider length. The specialized formatting may cause your electronic resume to become two or three pages long in your standard text editor program. Don't worry about keeping the resume to one page in this program; however, try to limit the document to two pages.

f. Save your resume again as a .txt document. Leave the file open.

4. Open your e-mail program and create a new message.

5. To ensure clean transmission, make sure your format is set to Plain Text format (not HTML).

6. Return to your standard text editor (Notepad), and select all (highlight) the resume text. Then copy and paste it into your e-mail message window. Or paste the text into the resume field at employer or recruitment web sites.

7. In the e-mail subject line, include the job title and/or reference number of the position for which you are applying.

8. Insert your electronic cover letter (see Chapter 10 of Your Career: How to Make It Happen). In the e-mail message window containing your electronic resume, place the cursor above your electronic resume and paste in a copy of your electronic cover letter. Do not send a resume without a cover letter or a short message indicating that your resume is included.

9. Key a line of asterisks underneath your electronic cover letter to mark the end of your cover message and the beginning of your resume.

10. Clean up any odd spacing or other formatting problems.

[For setting links in the box below:
a. Use the pdf file "ElecRes-Analyst1.pdf" as the linked content for the first "Click here" in box below. This is Donita Silva's electronic resume for Information Systems Analyst I.
b. Use the pdf file "ScanPapRes-Auditor1.pdf" as the linked content for the second "Click here" in box below. This is Donita Silva's scannable paper resume for the position of Computerized Accounting Systems Auditor I.]

View Electronic and Paper Versions of Two Resumes for One Applicant

Click here to view an electronic resume sample. (323 KB .pdf)

Click here to view a sample resume formatted as a word processed, scannable paper resume for the same applicant, but for a different job. (291 KB .pdf)

Transmitting Your Electronic Resume

After you have created your electronic resume and placed it in your e-mail message window with an electronic cover message, practicing transmission of the message is essential. Send your electronic resume and cover letter or e-mail introduction to a friend and to yourself to see how well the documents survive the cyberspace transfer before you actually send them to an employer. You may need to tweak the spacing and format a bit. If necessary, find someone with more experience in creating and sending electronic resumes to help you tweak your resume until it formats and transmits cleanly.

Posting Electronic Resumes Correctly

Follow the guidelines below for posting electronic resumes to the Internet (through the web site of an employer or a recruitment company that lists jobs and accepts online resumes from applicants):

1. Follow the web site instructions exactly.

2. If the web site provides an open block for your resume, highlight and copy your electronic resume and paste it into the block.

3. If the web site provides a fill-in-the-blanks online resume form, copy and paste appropriate sections of your electronic resume into the form. If you need to key in new text, proofread carefully before sending it.

Comprehensive Guidelines Available in Your Career: How to Make It Happen

To obtain complete guidelines for writing and formatting effective resume content, including keywords that attract employers' attention, and to see models of scannable paper resumes, electronic resumes, and web resumes, see Chapter 9 of Your Career: How to Make It Happen.