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Your UCP: National October 13, 2003

Fact Sheets

Writing and Formatting a Scannable Resume

What Job Seekers with Disabilities Need to Know

Because we are living in an information age where technology drives most interactions, resumes sent via E-mail and traditional paper are likely to be scanned for key information by a machine, not a human being.

What It Means to have Your Resume scanned by a Machine

Because employers receive more resumes than they can process efficiently, they are switching to text-searching or artificial intelligence software to track resumes. These systems use optical scanners to put resumes into the computer which then searches for skills that match a job description. Optical character recognition–OCR–software looks at the image to distinguish every letter and number and creates a text file. Such systems are important because they significantly lessen the time it takes to search for qualified applicants to fill a job. These systems can also help employers by creating a centralized resume pool in companies that have a decentralized human resource function.

Why Scannable Resumes are Important to Your Search

In order to efficiently review resumes, an increasing number of employers are letting computers take the first crack at selecting a first round of applicants for certain jobs. Because computers are programmed to search for certain words, every word in a resume is important in the selection process. Artificial intelligence software "reads" the text and extracts important information such as your name, address, work history, experience and skills. A clear resume allows the scanner to obtain a clean image in order to maximize "hits" (when one of your skills matches the computer search).

How to Prepare a Resume that Will Scan to Jobs You are Seeking

Following are important tips on making your resume "scan-friendly."

  • Use a standard typeface such as Courier, Helvetica, Futura, Optima, Universe or Times with a point size of 10-14.
  • Use black ink on white 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. Do not use colored paper.
  • Use only capital letters or boldface to emphasize important information.
  • Do not use italics, underlining, boxes, graphics, or horizontal or vertical lines.
  • Avoid a two-column format or resumes that look like newspapers or newsletters.
  • Use only a laser-quality printer.
  • Do not fold or staple pages.
  • If faxing, use fine resolution and follow up with a mailed original.
  • Avoid "formatting peculiarities." If you use E-mail, save your file as "text only" or "ASCII" to avoid the possibility that your word processor and your prospective employer's word processor are incompatible. E-mail a copy of your resume to yourself to make sure it looks the way you meant it to look.
  • Use "key-words"phrases, terms, industry jargon, and titles to describe your abilities. Describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague terms. Be sure to use state-of-the-art terminology to describe yourself. If you have been out of the job market awhile, research new developments in your field and use up-to-date terms to present your skills. Savvy job seekers often mimic the words a company uses in its help-wanted ads. The more skills and facts you provide, the more opportunities you have for your skills to match available positions.
  • Be concise and truthful. Use more than one page if necessary.
  • If you have extra space, describe your interpersonal traits and attitude. Key words could include: time management, team player, dependable, leadership, and responsibility.
  • Use a keyword summary of your skills at the top of your resume to get the attention of robotic and human inspectors. For example, if you are looking for an entry level position in architecture, your keyword summary might include: BS in Architecture, internship experience with large commercial project, knowledge of AutoCAD, PhotoShop, AccuRender, 3-D Studio. Place your name on its own line at the top of the page. Use the standard format for your address below your name. Then list each phone number on its own line.
  • For job search purposes you may choose to have two versions of your resume:
    • One to send for the computer to read (scannable format and detailed descriptors).
    • One for people to read during an interview (a creative layout, enhanced typography, and summarized information.)
  • Be sure to proofread your resume before sending it.
How Hiring Managers and Recruiters Use Electronic Applicant Tracking Systems

Typically, hiring personnel set up a search request and tell the computer whether certain qualifications are required or desired. Many resume-scanning systems then rank the candidates they select from the system. Some of the leading systems place a number or percentage next to a candidate's name indicating how many of the manager's requirements are reflected in the resume.

As we move into the 21st century, it is important to use technology to find a job. If you push yourself to go the extra mile in your job search, you will find the opportunity you are seeking.

This tip sheet was prepared with the help of EDS. EDS participates in the Office of Disability Employment Policy's Business Leadership Network (BLN), a business-led initiative that aims to stimulate best disability employment practices and enhance employment opportunities for job candidates who happen to have disabilities.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disabilitiy Employment Policy

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