Preparing the Ideal Scannable Resume
Tips for writing and formatting a scannable resume that computers can
There's a new technology that could help you find your next job. It's
called electronic applicant tracking, and it's being used by leading businesses
By using the latest in document imaging technology, your resume can
be scanned into a computer system and kept "active" for years. The computer
can search for nearly anything in your resume, which can help to qualify
you for jobs you may not have considered. The computer also keeps your
resume on file, making it simple to update your information.
Here's how it works. Your resume is scanned into the computer as an
image. Then OCR (optical character recognition) software looks at the image
to distinguish every letter and number (character) and creates a text file
(ASCII). Artificial intelligence "reads" the text and extracts important
information about you, such as your name, address, phone number, work history,
years of experience, education, and skills.
Why is it important for you to know this? When you prepare a resume
for the computer to read, you want it to be "scannable." A scannable resume
is clean so that the scanner can get a clean image. A scannable resume
has standard fonts and crisp, dark type such as a laser printer or a typewriter
with a new ribbon would produce - so the OCR can recognize every letter.
And a scannable resume has plenty of facts for the artificial intelligence
to extract - the more skills and facts you provide, the more opportunities
you will have for your skills to match available positions.
A Scannable Resume:
Preparing a scannable resume is easy; like a traditional resume, you focus
on both format and content.
Maximizes the computer's ability to "read" your resume
Maximizes your ability to get "hits" (when one of your skills matches the
To maximize the computer's ability to read your resume, provide a clean
original and use a standard style resume.
The computer can extract skills from many styles of resumes such as
chronological (list and describe up to six jobs in order by date), achievement
(describe achievements rather than job titles), functional (organize by
skills rather than job titles), and combinations of resume types.
The most difficult resume for the computer to read is a poor-quality
copy that has an unusual format such as a newsletter layout, adjusted spacing,
large font sizes, graphics or lines, type that is too light, or paper that
is too dark.
Use white or light-colored 8 1/2 x 11 paper, printed on one side only.
Provide a laser printer original if possible. A typewritten original or
a high quality photocopy is okay. Avoid dot matrix printouts and low quality
Do not fold or staple.
Use standard typefaces such as Helvetica, Futura, Optima, Univers, Times,
Palatino, New Century Schoolbook, and Courier.
Use a font size of 10 to 14 points. (Avoid Times 10 point.)
Don't condense spacing between letters.
Use boldface and/or all capital letters for section headings as long as
the letters do not touch each other.
Avoid fancy treatments such as italics, underline, shadows, and reverses
(white letters on black background).
Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes.
Avoid two-column format or resumes that look like newspapers or newsletters.
Place your name at the top of the page on its own line. (Your name can
also be the first text on pages two and three.)
Use standard address format below your name.
List each phone number on its own line.
The computer extracts information from your resume. You can use your
current resume; however, once you understand what the computer searches
for, you may decide to add a few key words to increase your opportunities
for matching requirements or getting "hits."
Recruiters and managers access the resume database in many ways, searching
for your resume specifically or searching for applicants with specific
experience. When searching for specific experience, they will search for
key words, usually nouns such as writer, BA, marketing collateral, Society
of Technical Communication, Spanish (language fluency), San Diego, etc.
SIt is thus important to describe your experience with concrete words
rather than vague descriptions. You can write your resume as usual; the
computer system will simply extract the words and information from your
Tips for Maximizing "Hits"
Use enough key words to define your skills, experience, education, professional
Describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague descriptions.
For example, it is better to use "managed a team of software engineers"
than "responsible for managing, training..."
Be concise and truthful.
Use more than one page if necessary. The computer can easily handle multiple-page
resumes, and it uses all of the information it extracts from your resume
to determine if your skills match available positions. This allows you
to provide more information than you would for a human reader.
Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry (spell out the acronyms
for human readers).
Increase your list of key words by including specifics. For example, list
the names of software you use such as Microsoft Word and Lotus 1-2-3.
Use common headings such as: Objective, Experience, Employment, Work History,
Positions Held, Appointments, Skills, Summary, Summary of Qualifications,
Accomplishments, Strengths, Education, Affiliations, Professional Affiliations,
Publications, Papers, Licenses, Certifications, Examinations, Honors, Personal,
Additional, Miscellaneous, References, etc.
If you have extra space, describe your interpersonal traits and attitude.
Key words could include skill in time management, dependable, high energy,
leadership, sense of responsibility.
You may wish to have two versions of your resume:
When faxing, set the fax to "fine mode"; the recipient will get a better
One for the computer to read - with a scannable format and detailed information.
Send this one.
One for people to read - possibly with a creative layout, enhanced typography,
and summarized information. Carry this one to the interview.