Guidelines for Preparing Electronic Resumes

The most difficult task for electronic resume software designers was converting the resume received from a job applicant into a form that the database understands. To make this process more efficient, electronic resumes are simply stored in what is called an ASCII format.

If you don't know what ASCII is, don't worry about it, the resume database takes care of converting the electronic resumes received into the ASCII format. What you need to remember is that ASCII is a very simplified way of looking at alphanumeric characters - it does not make use of formatting such as bolding, italics and underlines.

Guidelines for Resumes Being Scanned

If you're submitting a paper resume to a company and you think the resume is going to be scanned into an electronic resume, then you need to make sure the scanning process understands what you've written. Remember, the database is going to convert the resume into a simple ASCII format.

The tip here is to keep your resume format clean by following a couple of simple rules. For example:

  • Make sure your name is the only thing that appears on the first line of the document.
  • Remove any graphics or artwork on your resume including shading, vertical and horizontal lines.
  • Bulleted items can confuse scanners, so convert them to simple hyphens or asterisks.
  • Move all text to the left margin. Tabs, tables and centered text can sometimes confuse the scanning software.
  • Restrict your use of fonts to Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica.
  • Use only one font size, preferably between 10 and 14 points.
  • Remove all underlining, bolding and italics.
  • Use 8.5" x 11" paper that is white with black ink and print your resume only on one side of the paper. This will improve the contrast of your  text and help the scanner to read your resume.
  • If possible, do not fold or staple your resume. That means mailing the resume in 9"x 12" envelope.

Guidelines for Other Electronic Resumes

If you're submitting your resume electronically via email or as an electronic document, you'll also want to follow the same electronic resume guidelines mentioned above. That is to say, you'll want to follow the rules such as keeping the fonts you're using simple and aligning the text to the left margin.

In fact, you have an advantage when submitting your electronic resume by email: You can send two copies of your resume. One electronic copy can be the simple format that the human resources department can efficiently and accurately scan into the electronic resume database.

The second can be the elegantly designed resume format that uses bolding and italics to highlight the job titles and keywords you want to emphasize. And this brings us to our final point - the importance of keywords in electronic resumes.

Keywords in Electronic Resumes

Since electronic resumes will be stored in a database, the screening process involves a keyword matching routine.  The hiring manger describes the skills and job titles that apply to the job opening and the human resources person queries the resume database for those same terms or keywords. Resumes are then screened and ranked based on the matching algorithm.

If you want to make it through the screening and ranking process, then you need to make sure you have the right keywords or key phrases in the body of your electronic resume. Resume keywords are simply the nouns and adjectives that are relevant to the position to which you're applying. That means the choosing of keywords for your resume requires a thoughtful process.

Keyword Summaries

In fact, keywords on electronic resumes have become so important that it is sometimes useful to place a keyword summary in the body of the electronic resume. This can take the form of a simple section labeled Keyword Summary that includes the nouns and adjectives that you believe apply to your work experience or the job you're looking for.
If you're uncertain what keywords to include in your electronic resume, you have several options.

  • Job Postings - one option is to look at the actual job posting itself or a similar job posting you might find online.
  • Resume Samples - a second option is to look at resume examples for individuals you believe are qualified or have held positions that are similar to the one you're seeking.
  • Thesaurus / Synonyms - finally, nearly all modern word processing applications include a way to look up synonyms or have a built in thesaurus. A thesaurus can also help you include more keywords without making your electronic resume look like you're purposefully repeating the same word or phrases.

From "Electronic Resources,"

Electronic Resume Professional Example

David Rothenburg

10920 Wilshire Blvd.,   Los Angeles, CA  90024     (310) 222-2222


ergonomics, physical therapy, risk management,  healthcare,  occupational therapy


B.A. Occupational Safety & Health
M.S. Safety Management
Certified Strength Conditioning Specialist 1995


-  President ,  IEA, The International Ergonomics Association   2002-2006
-  American Physical Therapy Association  - California Chapter   2003- present


-  ergonomics work-site evaluations
-  ergonomics training and consultation
-  web-based ergonomics evaluations and tracking progress
-  supervision of safety specialists and ergonomics specialists
-  writing of concise, logical and analytical reports


-  expanded services to company in growth mode from 150 - 1,800 employees
-  designed and presented training for specialists; received award of excellence from I.H.A.
-  decreased workers’ comp claims by 70% through effective informational campaign


-   Walburn Industries, Seattle, Washington      1999 - present
Director Environmental Health and Safety: Responsible for  --------
Instrumental in helping the company to grow successful and reduce....

-   Westridge Enterprises,  Wolford,  California   1993-1996
Senior Physical Therapist:  Responsible for  -------
Several awards of excellence; outstanding reviews and above-average increases

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