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Write a scannable résumé

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A growing number of employers are using résumé scanning systems to read, access, and store résumé information. Résumés are optically scanned into the computer as images. The computer reads the résumé and creates a database of the relevant education, experience, skills, and achievements by using key words.

Employers are then able to search by keywords for the résumés they want. When done right, your well-written, well-prepared résumé will contain all of the necessary keywords to attract attention. You are most likely to encounter this trend when applying to large organizations. You may want to ask whether they scan résumés. It is easy to prepare an effective scannable résumé, and in fact, many of these considerations should already be incorporated into your résumé.

Follow these guidelines for format and content to make the perfect scannable résumé:

  1. Use standard serif and sans serif fonts (Helvetica or Arial).
  2. Avoid ornate fonts and fonts where the characters touch. Font size is also important.
  3. Use sizes between 10 points and 14 points.
  4. Italics and underlining cause problems for the scanner, especially if combined.
  5. Use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS for emphasis.
  6. Vertical or horizontal lines should be used sparingly. When used, leave at least a quarter of an inch of space around the line.
  7. Avoid graphics and signs, shading or shadowing.
  8. Do not compress or expand the space between letters or lines.
  9. Do not double space within sections.
  10. The résumé you submit should be an original.
  11. It should be printed on one side only, with a laser printer on white or light-colored 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper.
  12. Résumés which have been folded, stapled, or otherwise mutilated will not scan well.
  13. Scanners do not read faxed résumés. If you have to fax your résumé, send a second hard copy in the mail.
  14. Always place your name as the first item at the top of the page since the scanner assumes that whatever is at the top is the applicant's name.
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