Tips On Preparing Résumés

That Will Be Computer Scanned

To help cope with a flood of applicants many companies are now using computer software that scans incoming résumés. 

The program looks for the occurrence of certain key words, classifies them accordingly, and then adds them to a company résumé database.

This means that, depending on how you design your résumé, it may or may not be assigned the right level of desirability or even come to the attention of  the right person.

At first the computer-based scanning of résumés may seem unfair and based solely on cost-cutting measures. 

While this may be largely true, these companies also know that the process can represent a bit of a screening test which favors more technologically aware applicants -- the kind they are looking for. (And the kind that reads articles such as this.)

When a job opens up, key words are entered into a database search and résumés are then brought up for consideration.  At some point you might be surprised to learn that you are under consideration for a job that you didn't even know existed.

How to Catch the Computer's Eye

So how do you impress a computer?

First, pay attention to some résumé style and substance elements. 

1. Use plain white paper.  Although the textured surfaces and interesting colors may look impressive to the eye, when they are photocopied or scanned into a computer the result can range from a muddy look to totally indecipherable text.

2. Use basic fonts like Helvetica, Arial or Times Roman and not fancy fonts that can loose decipherability in optical scanning.  If you know for certain that your résumé will be computer scanned, limit or eliminate italics, bold face and underlining. Most of these programs ignore them.

3. Include a list of general skills near the top of your résumé. Elaborate later.  This way the computer will be able to immediately pick up on key words in your skills and experience.

Plus, later references will increase the number of "key word hits." Keep in mind that résumé scanning software is programmed to give greater weight to résumés that contain numerous references to specific skills and experience.

4. Keep the language simple and don't use nonstandard, "creative" ways of  referring to skills and experience.  Say that you were a "director" for a particular series rather than "you were entrusted with directing responsibilities."

5. Although there has long been a "one page rule" with résumés, computer scanning eliminates the need to get your information across in the 20-seconds or so that most personnel managers devote to evaluating a résumé.  In this regard computer scanning can actually work to your advantage.

If you know that computer scanning is being used, summarize your skills and experience with a few lines at the beginning of your résumé and then go into more detail later.  Spilling content into two or three pages can increase the number of key word hits.  But watch out; if a human being is screening your résumé this can work against you.  If in doubt, try to call and find out.

6. Finally, since résumés designed for computers can look a bit dull, put together a second, more creative and attractive résumé to take with you for an interview.

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