|By Jeremy Shapiro
Pretend for a moment that you find the perfect job in the
classified section. It's with a big Fortune 500 company - and
they'll be getting hundreds of resumes. You decide to spruce up your
resume for the job. You add a fancy font to the resume, elegantly
italicize each position that you have held and top it off with an
aesthetically pleasing black border surrounding each side of the
paper. Your descriptions concisely sum up your skills using lots of
actions verbs to describe yourself. You xerox it on a blue resume
paper, staple a cover letter on it and send it off.
Then, you never hear from the company.
You were qualified for this position and should have been called
for it, but the hiring manager never got to see your resume. Why?
The computer system they use could not read your resume.
A computer reads resumes?
More and more large companies are using computers to help them
manage the volume of resumes for their job openings. It's called
"electronic applicant tracking". This new system is basically a
database of resumes with a built in artificial intelligence to read
and extract information. However, if the text of the resume is hard
for the computer to read, much of the information in the resume does
not get into the database.
In our example, there are several big mistakes that will make a
resume difficult to read. Let's start with the layout and format of
Formatting and Printing Your Resume
When the computer system receives your resume, it scans the
resume into the system and then the computer literally reads it. The
computer needs to be able to distinguish between the letter "m" and
two "n"s placed closely together. Letters on a page can sometimes be
blurry and fonts can be hard to read. The computer also likes to get
information in a certain order. One software company suggests the
following to optimize a resume:
When you prepare your resume:
- Avoid fancy text styles like italics, underlining, shadows,
and reversed colors
- Stick to commonly used fonts like Helevetica, Times, Palatino,
Courier, and Universe
- Keep the size of your font between 10 and 14 point (but don't
use 10pt Times)
- Do not condense the spacing between letters
- Do not use vertical or horizontal lines
- Do not use a two column format (like a newspaper)
- What should go first on the page?
- Put your name at the top of the page. It should be the first
thing on the page
- Use the standard address format:
- Joseph C. Newburgh
123 Cherry Lane
Lancaster, PA 11223
- Bold or capitalize section heads (like Employment, Computer
- List each phone number/fax number on its own line
Printing the resume and sending it
When you print your resume, use a white or light colored paper
stock. Paper size should be standard U.S. 8.5x11. Send the company a
laser printed original or your resume or a high quality xerox. A
resume produced from a typewriter does work well with the computer
system as long as the ribbon is dark.
When sending off the resume, don't staple pages together. When
faxing, make sure that the fax machine (or fax software) is set to
Use Nouns instead of Verbs
While writing your resume, use nouns to describe your
qualifications, not verbs. When the hiring managers search through
the database of resumes, they can only search by key words, and
those key words tend to be nouns. For instance, "SQL Database
Programmer" is generally easier to find in a database than writing,
"Designed and implemented departmental database." Make sure that you
use nouns that are usually used to describe your industry. Jargon is
perfectly OK, as long as you spell out abbreviations. Put yourself
in the manager's place. What words would you search on to fill a
programming analyst position?
A resume which would have said: " Worked closely with writers and
account coordinators in the development of client promotional
Should read: "Art Director creating four color brochures,
Director multimedia presentations, and newspaper ad books."
Where to go From Here....
You may be asking yourself how you know if the company uses a
computer system? If it's a very large company, they are probably
using the system. Sometimes the address where you send the resume
will be a central depository. And, you can always ask a recruiter!
Does this mean you need 2 different resumes? No, it does mean
that you should have two *versions* of your resume. One, should be
the one for people to look at (one that is probably more
aesthetically pleasing) and one to send into computer resume
The above format, printing and content guidelines will give you a
strong start in optimizing a resume for computer systems. Resumix,
one software company who makes the "electronic applicant tracking"
software, has developed a form to convert the format of a resume to
a format that is optimized for their system. You can find the form
Resources: Resumix, AT&T's Resume Advice, Intel's How to Prepare
Your Resume, How to Write an Electronic Resume, Electronic Job
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