Resumes in an Electronic Age: Tips and Tricks

As the job market evolves to meet the demands of an electronic age, so must the savvy job seeker. Larger employers are now scanning electronically the hundreds of traditional resumes that they receive. More and more prospective employees are mailing their resumes to companies that openly solicit submissions via the Internet.

Thus, a resume sent electronically will most likely end up in a database with hundreds of others. It is widely advised that you maintain your resume in a style and format conducive to automated retrieval systems. You do not necessarily have to rewrite your existing resume, but consider creating scannable and plain-text versions for more flexibility.

Scannable Resumes

Objective: Two elements are important to keep in mind--scanners can misread complex formatting and employers will attempt to retrieve resumes that contain desired key words or phrases. Maximize the computer’s ability to read and subsequently to find your resume once stored in a database. Use:

  • white, standard size paper
  • standard address format at top
  • one phone number per line
  • flush left with no tabs
  • plenty of white space
  • keywords, rather than verbs
  • industry jargon, acronyms, and software known*
  • columnar layouts (like this!)
  • condensed text (letters touching)
  • italics, underlining, and boldface
  • vertical and horizontal lines
  • folding and stapling (mail flat)

*e.g. A traditional resume might say: "Worked closely with writers and account coordinators in the development of client promotional materials." A resume intended for scanning should read: "Art Director creating four color brochures, multimedia presentations, and newspaper ad books."

Plain Text Resumes

Objective: There exist dozens of resume banks on the Internet. More and more employers accept resumes directly via e-mail or electronic forms on their Web pages. Create a plain text version that can be sent in its entirety via e-mail or cut and pasted as needed into e-forms.

  • ASCII (plain) text format
  • line length limited to 65 characters
  • ** and – instead of bullets
  • keywords, rather than verbs
  • formal cover letter as introduction
  • sending resume as an attachment to e-mail
  • surprises—mail your resume to yourself first in order to check the formatting
  • sending multiple versions of your resume to one employer

Note: An HTML (Web-based) resume or reference to a personal Web page on your resume can also complement your employment application. However, be wary of including information or links that might cast a negative light on how you are perceived by a prospective employer. For more information about resumes and how to do them, check out the the other resources on the website at Resumes & Cover Letters page -->© Brian DeHart, DePaul University Libraries