Let’s face it – employers are increasingly utilizing resume scanning systems to act as the first set of “eyes” on submitted resumes – especially if you submit the resume online or through an employment website like Monster. If you’ve ever submitted a resume online and received a response within 2 minutes saying “thanks, but no thanks”, then your resume didn’t meet a score metric and was instantly rejected. This leads many job seekers to stress over keywords and making the resume “computer friendly”. Unfortunately, this singular focus often results in a resume that works fine for a computer, but does not appeal to an actual person.
Here’s a few ways to make sure that your resume meets the computer test while collecting praise from the HR manager.
1. Make sure your file is readable. Ideally, you should be submitting your resume as a text-enabled PDF file. This ensures that a software program will be able to retrieve the content, while retaining all of the formatting you’ve worked so hard on. Microsoft Word and plain text files are acceptable choices, but you take your chances when it gets to a human reader. Never, ever submit an image based PDF or and image file like a JPG, GIF or PNG.
2. Stick with a standard document size. In the United States, this means Letter (8.5 x 11) with anywhere from 1/2 inch to 1 inch uniform margins. No exceptions.
3. Fonts matter. As one of our writers stated in FastCompany, you should stick to conservative variations of common serif and sans serif fonts (we recommend Century Gothic, Palatino Lintotype and Georgia). This strategy allows your resume to be machine readable while still possessing attractive typography and visual distinction to appeal to and guide human eyes.
4. Don’t bite the (empty) bullet. Make sure that your bullet points are solid bullets; hollow bullet points or other symbols can be read as letters (like an “o” for example) and wreak havoc with your messaging. For the same reason, you should try to avoid the ampersand (though sometimes for space reasons, this is unavoidable).
5. Don’t forget your keywords. But don’t go crazy either. Remember, your writing style definitely matters, as it has to clearly and persuasively make a case for why you are worth a major investment. Our resume writers recommend that you use skills, industry terms and certifications extensively, and take your cues from the job posting. Make sure these words appear naturally in your resume and don’t appear stuffed in. While you shouldn’t make your resume match point for point with a job description, making your keywords mirror those in the job posting will definitely increase your changes of making it past the computer screen.
As long as you adhere to these standards, there’s no need to stress over writing your resume – you’ll still (mostly} be evaluated by human eyes.