Career Advice

Formatting Your Resume for Email Use
The Engineer posted on December 15, 2010 | 2255 views

The Internet has dramatically changed the landscape of our daily lives. Everything from work life, social life and family life are now in some way impacted by the Internet. Searching and applying for jobs is no different. Handwritten letters, typewriter resumes and personally delivered job applications are a thing of the past. Instead job seekers are presented with an increasing number of online job boards and websites that use web-based applications or email to seek out potential new employees. The job board at ENGINEERING.com is but one example.

Unfortunately, most of these services require an electronic version of your resume, either in plain text or HTML. It might not look as pretty as a Word formatted resume, but it could be what lands you your next job.

Why Do I Need an "Electronic Resume"

Simply put, an electronic resume is more useful to an employer than a Word formatted resume. It allows them to weed through applicants using a tracking system that doesn’t really care how your resume looks by electronically matching keywords used in job descriptions and skill sets with submitted resumes. If your resume is formatted differently, the system will not be able to read your resume and you will be passed over.

Here are a few quick pointers on how to reformat your current Word resume into a text-based one:

    1. Remove your existing formatting from your resume As explained earlier, the formatting that makes your Word resume look nice also makes it impossible for systems to read. Therefore, you will need to remove your existing formatting. To do so, open your resume and choose "Save As" from the "File" menu. Save the document as Plain Text or Text Only. In the dialogue box that follows, choose the option to insert line breaks.
    1. Reformatting in Notepad, WordPad or SimpleText Close the original resume and open the newly created text version in a simple text editor like Notepad, WordPad or SimpleText. You will notice that most of the formatting such as graphics, borders and fonts have been removed and you may need to do some minor editing. Text should be flush with the left side of the document
    1. Font & Style When editing your Electronic Resume, make sure to use clear, sans-serif fonts, like Courier, Arial or Helvetica. This way, the computer won't mistake your fancy lettering for a jumbled word. The font size should be no smaller than 12 point. Otherwise, it will not scan well. Instead of using bold text, use capital letters to separate section like your education and experience. Bullets should be replaced with standard keyboard characters such as an asterisk or a dash. Instead of using the "Tab" key, use the space key to indent. Headings such as your name and address should appear on separate lines, with a blank line before and after.
    1. Applying Keywords Because applicant-tracking systems scan resumes for keywords that match the company’s job descriptions you should edit your resume to use the same and similar words as the company description when describing your education and experience. However, it should be noted that using the same word more than one time will not improve your chances of getting an interview. Try to use the most important words first, as some scanners are limited to the number of words it reads. Keywords are best used as nouns instead of action verbs. For example, "communications specialist," would be preferential to "communicated with coworkers". Finally, do your best to avoid abbreviations. Spell out phrases like, "bachelor of science" or "master of business administration."
  1. Testing Before submitting your new Electronic Resume, you should probably run it through a few tests to ensure it is e-friendly. Try emailing it to yourself, as well as friends. Make sure you use different service providers (Hotmail, AOL, ENGINEERING.com Mail, etc.) to see if there is a difference in the way each renders your resume. Because your resume is plain text, you should paste in the body of the email, rather as an attachment. Ask for feedback and make adjustments accordingly.
A Final Thought While making an e-friendly resume is a good practice, keep in mind that not all employees are up-to-date on the latest technology. For this reason, you should always have a hard copy of your resume that is formatted nicely. Plus, you'll need one to give to employers when meeting them face-to-face during an interview.

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