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Rewire Your Resume for the Internet

Do these look familiar?

  • jobs@vnet.ibm.com
  • resume@microsoft.com
  • jobs2@intel.com

You've probably noticed that many employers allow you to send your resume by email. They are now accepting email resumes more than ever, and the trend continues to grow rapidly. In fact, many technical employers now advertise exclusively on the Web because, among other reasons, they prefer email resumes over paper resumes. Here's why. Graphic and Text

Before interviewing, employers usually collect resumes and transfer them into computer databases. The software extracts important data, such as your contact information and keywords. When employers are ready to interview, they search their resume databases for these keywords. For example, if an employer searches on the keywords programmer and Cobol, your resume will likely pop up if you have included both of these words.

Resumes which employers receive by email and downloading are already in a format that the computer easily understands. They go straight into the computer and need only a tweak or two, if any. But paper resumes require an extra, scanning step. Although the technology is advancing, most optical scanners cannot accurately translate fancy formatting and graphics for the computer. So, if you submit a paper resume that includes such, it may not make it into the database.

Here, we focus on emailable and downloadable resumes. (For tips on creating a scannable resume, see Scannable Resume.) Regardless of which you are creating, the principle is the same. If you want your resume to make it into employers' databases, you must write it in–or convert it to–a format that the computer easily understands. This format is the American Standard Code for Information Interchange or ASCII (as-key) for short. But, it's not as scary as it sounds. ASCII, also called text only and plain text, is just that: Plain, like this.

Most email programs and online resume forms automatically convert your resume into ASCII, but you may lose some formatting in the process if you paste it. That's because ASCII doesn't support fancy formatting such as bold, Italic, and underscoring. It also doesn't support tabs and special characters like the é in résumé (an alternate spelling). Even so, it is widely accepted by today's technical employers, because of the way all computers universally recognize it. Impressing the computer instead of the human eye makes it easy on you, because you can forget about all that fancy formatting stuff.

But, there are some drawbacks. For one thing, you must know how to impress the computer with more than just plain text, by incorporating searchable keywords effectively. For another, you still may have to impress the human eye: Interviewers may print your resume, so they can make you sweat by scribbling notes on it while interviewing you. ASCII resumes aren't very pretty, even before interviewers muck them up. If you're in an occupation where formatting counts big time, such as technical writing or Web authoring, how do you spruce up your ASCII resume to impress both the computer and the human eye? Even if you aren't in one of those occupations, how do you make your resume stand out among the other "Plain Janes" without offending the computer?

This week, I let the online resume experts answer those questions and much more, but I also offer you some tips of my own.

Home · General Resume Help · Electronic Resume Help
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Copyright © 1997, J. Steven Niznik. All Rights Reserved.

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