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Resume Tips

Whether you plan to submit your résumé via e-mail or snail mail, résumés today should be designed to be scanned and indexed by computer.

Electronic and Scannable Résumés

Increasingly, companies are using computers to help manage the volume of résumés for their job openings. Electronic applicant tracking is a new process by which résumés are entered into a database using coding methods or artificial intelligence. The computer programs read and extract information from the résumé , then store the data in the corporate database for matching to job openings. However, if the résumé is difficult to read, much of the information in the résumé will be discarded.

Résumé format

Computer scanner software programs must be able to distinguish between the capital letter "I" (as in Ivory), the letter "l" (as in luck), and the number "1". This font clearly shows the difference. But look what happens with the same characters in Times Roman font: Ivory, luck, number 1.

Several factors can cause the scanner or Optical Character Recognition software to confuse these and other similar characters. Résumés printed by inkjet printers, or facsimile machines, may lack the sharpness and clarity required for scanning, or the fonts used may be too close together, too small or too fancy for the scanner or OCR software to read the characters properly. Here are some tips to help you format your résumé for computer scanning:

bulletUse common fonts like Times Roman, Courier, and Bookman.
bulletUse a font size of at least 11 points for Courier, and 12 points for Times Roman or Bookman.
bulletDo not use condensed or expanded spacing between the letters.
bulletUse left margin justification. Do not use both right and left justification because it stretches letter and word spacing.
bulletAvoid italics, underlines, boxes, shadow or shading effects, or reversed colors.
bulletEliminate braces, brackets, graphics, tabs or hard returns at the end of the line.
bulletDo not use horizontal or vertical lines.
bulletDo not use columnar formats (e.g. newspaper).

A common practice has been to put a headers such as "EDUCATION" and "OBJECTIVE" in a column down the left side of the page and the details or those heading in a column down the right side of the page. While this may be appealing to the eye, a computer scanning program will ignore the columnar format and merge the columns together into one line, reading it from left to right. Columnar formatting is also commonly used in the heading. In the following example, this eye-appealing format….

 

 

 

..….. will be misread by some scanner software as:

John Can D. Date
12362 Avenue J Res: 899-555-5555
Suite 640 Bus: 1-899-555-5558
New York, NY 10020 Fax: 1-899-555-9444

Because the scanners will not read tabs and columns, the telephone numbers run together with the street address. To highlight new section headings, use capital or bold letters for section headings (i.e. Objectives, Education, Experience, etc.), and place the section heading on its own line. The heading information should also be treated in a similar manner:

John Can D. Date
12362 Avenue J, Suite 640
New York, NY 10020
Res: 1-810-555-5555
Bus: 1-810-555-5558
Fax: 1-810-555-9444
jcd@isp.com

Some software programs will read common bullets like those seen on this page, while other programs will substitute other funny characters like the sum symbol "å ". Since you cannot be sure what character the company’s software will actually read and print for a bullet, it is probably wise to forgo the use of bullets. Highlight your accomplishments at each job (no more than 3 highlights per job) by indenting the line, using bold characters, small capitals or slightly larger font. If you must have bullets, use an asterisk *.

Print the résumé on standard 8.5 x 11 inch bright white paper using black ink. This produces a strong contrast and reduces scanning errors.

If you are mailing the résumé via the post office, send the résumé and cover letter unfolded in a large flat envelope. A crease though a sentence in your résumé might render the résumé illegible.

Paper clip, do not staple, the pages together, making sure that each page contains your identifying information.

Résumé Content

We recommend a combination chronological and functional résumé format. For example, use the names of your employers as a section headings then list your position titles below these as sub-section headings. Beneath each position title, write 3 statements that describe your qualifications or achievements. For example:

XYZ Company, Los Angeles CA
January 1993 - October 1997
Project Manager
Responsible for a team of software implementation specialists. As the project leader, assumed responsibility for the implementation and upgrade of the Financials version 7, utilizing full life cycle development including the use of RAD (Rapid Application Development) and JAD (Joint Application Development) methodologies.

* Approved recommendations for business improvements
* Conducted prototyping for Asset Management, Budget, General
Ledger and Costing
* Approved customizations or data conversion requirements.

Use nouns instead of verbs. Recruiters and Human Resource personnel use key words and code numbers to electronically search through résumé databases, and the keywords they use tend to be nouns rather than verbs. For example, use "Project Manager" rather than "managed software implementation project."

Some résumé writers recommend an opening paragraph summarizing your career with a 30 second ad or that captures the reader’s attention and encourages them to read more of the résumé . However, this paragraph is often written more for the job-seeker than the Recruiter or Human Resource person. Résumé writers often pack this paragraph with fluff— predictable clichés, action verbs and power phrases. For example, we often see power phrases such as "Results-orientated", "Solid leadership", or "excellent written and verbal communication skills. " But today, fluff doesn’t cut it. Computer databases catalog a candidate’s education, skills and experiences. Employers and recruiters never query a database for phrases such as "Results-orientated."

Other résumé writers suggest the opening paragraph be used to state objectives. Typically, they recommend the objectives be kept broad to avoid locking yourself out of positions for which you were qualified, but were not stated in your objectives. However, many résumés we see contain such broadly stated goals, they translate to "I’ll take anything that pays money." For example:

"A management position in a manufacturing environment encompassing professional development, personal achievement and the opportunity to share in the growth of the company and its employees."

After reading that paragraph, the reader still is without a clue as to what this person does or for what position he/she is looking. The average résumé reader spends less than 1 minute reading your résumé . The opening paragraph must set the framework for your career history and direction. Pack your opening paragraph with jobs titles and other nouns that will be used for keyword searches or will otherwise define your career history and future aspirations. For example,

"Award winning MBA Operations Manager, Certified Quality Engineer, first-tier Automotive OEM supplier, seeks position as Operations Vice President, Plant Manager or General Manager. Willing to relocate within the U.S."

Employers and recruiters now use sophisticated computer software to match job openings with résumés. Some software programs use coding methods or artificial intelligence to match the skill sets required for specific job opening to skill sets found in the résumé. The opening paragraph above assists H/R personnel in coding the résumé for computer matching, and it enables keyword data queries.

In today’s marketplace, a candidate is very much like a package on a shelf. Prospective employers shop the aisles in this market and select packages of skills that are needed to complete current projects. Whether or not you are selected depends on the company’s current requirements and how you quantify and advertise your skills.

Résumés that draw response are those that are easy to code or categorize. Difficult résumés are those that are vague in direction, or the stated objective simply isn’t supported by the education or experience. It is not enough to state where you have been or the positions you have held in your career. The résumé must quickly and clearly state your skill sets and the specific position or general direction of your search.

Lastly, forget about that old rule to hold your résumé down to one page. The computer programs scanning your résumé do not care if yours is 1 page or 3 pages. Cut the fluff out and pack in the keywords that will be used for searches. You might even consider a paragraph at the bottom of your résumé that includes nothing but keywords. The following keyword paragraph might be included in a résumé for a consultant that is seeking a position as a Project Manager for a company that is installing the enterprise-solution financial software package, Peoplesoft:

KEYWORDS: Project Manager, Implementation, Peoplesoft, Financials, RAD,  Rapid Application Development, JAD, Joint Application Development, Prototyping, Accounts Payable, Asset Management, Budget Administration, General Ledger, Project Costing, Windows 3x, Windows 95, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, PS nVision/Query, PS Projects, People Tools I & II, People Code.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work"
 -- Thomas Edison

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