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An e-friendly résumé in 5 easy steps

  • Story Highlights
  • Many employers will ask you to submit an electronic résumé online or via e-mail
  • Use clear, sans-serif fonts, like Courier, Arial or Helvetica
  • Instead of bullets, use such standard characters as an asterisk or a dash
  • Practice sending your new résumé via e-mail to yourself, and friends to test it out
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By Eric Presley
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Today's Internet-driven world has changed the way we look for and apply to jobs. Gone are the days of handwritten cover letters, typewriter-printed résumés and hand-delivered job applications.


Many employers don't want a hard copy of your résumé. Instead, they'll ask you to submit an electronic résumé

Given the increasing number of online job boards that require Web-based applications, many employers don't want a hard copy of your résumé. Instead, they'll ask you to submit an electronic résumé, either online or via e-mail.

Electronic résumés are plain text or HTML documents, which can also be included in the body of an e-mail for job applications online.

It may not be as attractive as your word-formatted résumé in all its bulleted, bold-text, fancy-font glory, but it gets the job done.

Why you need one

When an employer asks you to submit your application materials via e-mail or online your résumé will be entered into an automated applicant-tracking system. These systems don't care what your résumé looks like physically, which is why it's imperative you re-format yours so the database can read it.

The system will scan your résumé (along with hundreds of others), keeping those with keywords similar to their job descriptions and discarding the rest.

Make sure you keep a hard (and visually appealing) copy of your résumé on hand -- not all employers are up-to-date on the latest technologies and may still require a paper copy. Plus, you'll need one to give to employers at all of your interviews.

Here are five easy steps to format your existing résumé into an e-friendly work of art:

1. Remove all formatting from your original résumé.

Unfortunately, the same formatting that makes your résumé nice to look at makes it almost impossible for a computer to understand.

To remove the formatting, open your word-processed résumé and choose the "Save As" option under the "File" tab on your toolbar. Save the document type as Plain Text or Text Only. In the following dialog box, choose the option to insert line breaks.

2. Use Notepad, WordPad or SimpleText to reformat.

Close your original résumé document and re-open the text version using Notepad, WordPad or SimpleText. Your text version should be free of most graphic elements, like fancy fonts, lines and bullets. Text should be flush with the left side of the document.

3. Stick to a simple font and style.

Use clear, sans-serif fonts, like Courier, Arial or Helvetica. This way, the computer won't mistake your fancy lettering for a jumbled word.

Use a 12-point font; anything smaller won't scan well. Also, stay away from italics or underlining. Rather than using boldface type, try using capital letters to separate sections like education and experience.

Instead of using bullets, use such standard keyboard characters as an asterisk or a dash. Instead of using the "Tab" key, use the space key to indent.

Make sure all headings -- like your name, address, phone and e-mail -- all appear on separate lines, with a blank line before and after.

4. Apply keywords.

Applicant-tracking systems scan résumés for keywords that match the company's job descriptions. Fill your résumé accordingly with such words (as they pertain to your experience), but remember that using the same word five times won't increase your chances of getting called in for an interview.

Place the most important words first, since the scanner may be limited in the number of words it reads. Use nouns instead of action verbs. For example: "communications specialist," "sales representative" or "computer proficiency" is better than "managed," "developed" or "generated."

Additionally, avoid abbreviations as best you can. Spell out phrases like, "bachelor of science" or "master of business administration."

5. Test it out.

After you've re-formatted your résumé into a text document, make sure it really is e-friendly. Practice sending your new résumé via e-mail to yourself, as well as friends who use a different Internet service provider. For example, if you use AOL, send it a friend who uses MSN Hotmail.

Send your e-résumé pasted in the body of an e-mail, rather as an attachment. Have your friend alert you of any errors that show when they open it, like illegibility and organization. After getting feedback, make any necessary adjustments.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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