Penn State University: Joe Schall's Style for Students Online: "Chapter 8: Resumes"

This chapter describes an effective resume as "...principally an objective summary of your skills and achievements, secondly a subtly clever argument that you are worth hiring, and finally a reflection of your individuality." This chapter describes several types of resumes and offers samples of each type. You might be asked, for example, to submit a Curriculum Vitae (CV) rather than a conventional resume for an academic job. To learn more about the difference between a CV and a resume, study "The Graduate Student and Post-Graduate Resume" section and view the sample of each type of resume. You will also benefit from the provided list of common action words used to describe your job experience.

Around campus, folklore abounds about unorthodox methods for landing jobs. Students swap stories about how one woman got her job with a major pizza franchise by having her resume delivered in a pizza box, while another guy fresh out of college took the George Costanza approach—lying his way through the interview, even faking his age. Another one I’ve heard is that a software company had hired a skilled hacker, impressed by his ability to access the company’s confidential files.

Whether these tales are fact or fiction, I attribute them partly to wishful thinking—we want the hiring process to happen easily, almost magically, without having to do research or traverse hoops. We want the task of landing a job to be as simple as calling in a favor from Aunt Julie, or exchanging a chatty e-mail with an alum who knows of an opening. Mostly, we want to avoid having to write in order to get a job. But the fact remains that a perfect resume is usually essential for getting your foot in the door. Happily, lots of advice is available to guide you as you tread.

No one expects you to invent your resume from thin air; in fact, employers reading your resume expect you to know and follow the accepted conventions. Remember, you are often competing with hundreds of similar documents at a time, so you want yours to fit in yet stand out for the right reasons. Further, you must treat your resume as a living document that you will revise for the rest of your life. Most professionals change jobs five or more times, so their resumes are always in flux. So begin well by studying the conventions and basing your resume on a good model. And recognize that plenty of options and variations are available within the conventions. This chapter will help you to study the conventions, work within them, and write a winning resume.


Writing the Conventional Resume

I learned about resume writing from my students. The students with the best resumes, I found, were those who understood that a resume is principally an objective summary of your skills and achievements, secondly a subtly clever argument that you are worth hiring, and finally a reflection of your individuality. The key is to work within the conventions while building a resume that only you could have written. The best way to begin is to study the conventions, then mimic the qualities of a good model, with an eye for places where your individuality can emerge. With the help of your peers, I have provided you with excellent advice and resume models in the following pages. Finally, I should note here that employers sometimes use the terms "resume" and "curriculum vitae" (or CV) interchangeably, and both terms loosely mean "life summary."

The conventional resume is organized according to the sections that follow, moving from the top of the resume to the bottom.


The Heading

There is no title for this section; it’s simply your name and contact information at the top of the page. This section is always presented at the top of the resume, taking up anywhere from two to five lines. Think of this section as highly readable data about yourself, and format and efficiently word accordingly, following these principles:

  • Do not title this section; simply provide your legal name, addresses, and phone numbers as shown in the examples. No matter how attached you are to it, do not use your nickname—use the formal name under which you will be cashing your paychecks.
  • Either beneath your name or address, provide relevant e-mail addresses.
  • Boldfacing and capitalizing your name is reasonably standard, though not required, and making your name stand out with a larger or fancier font is acceptable, but beware of graphic overkill.
  • Never use titles such as "Resume" or "Personal Data Sheet" on the top of the page—redundant and silly; your name centered at the top automatically tells readers that the document is a resume.
  • If the phone number you provide for contact information is a cell phone, note that information efficiently as you present the number. It's useful for readers to know whether or not they're calling a cell phone, because that fact can change their expectations slightly.
  • If you’ve created a personal webpage or online portfolio, you might offer the URL so that readers can visit it for further information. The material at that URL should go beyond the resume and be professionally presented, of course.


Objective

Some resume writers do not include an objective, either for reasons of space, personal taste, or because they want to hand out a lot of resumes at a career fair and think that an objective might not allow them to cast as wide a net. But most undergraduate resumes do include an objective, embracing these principles:

  • As a rule of thumb, include a job objective on an undergraduate resume. Keep it as short as is practical, with the goal of taking up no more than two lines of text.
  • If possible, use an actual job title ("forecaster," "engineering intern") and provide the specific type of employer or type of position that you are seeking ("internship at a research facility," "entry-level position with a consulting firm").
  • Avoid the overuse of phrases such as "a challenging position," "a progressive company," "an established firm"—you need not preach to the employer about its status or sound too picky. Your aim here is to categorize the role that you can fulfill.
  • Your job objective can be tailored a bit to the position that you are applying for, but avoid mentioning a company's actual name in your job objective—the objective is intended to define a role, not a specific job at a specific place.


Education

In this section, be at your most objective on the resume—simply report the facts. The order of information is up to you, but most writers begin by providing the title and address of their school. On the next line, provide your exact degree title, including a minor or program emphasis if relevant. Include your projected graduation date even if it is years away. Other material that might be included under "Education":

  • GPA. Generally, include if it is a 3.0 or better; include GPA in major if impressive. Recognize that opinions vary about whether or not your GPA should be included on the resume, and that even if it is excluded you may be expected to reveal it at some point to a potential employer anyway.
  • Dean’s List. Provide actual semesters or years.
  • Relevant Coursework. List actual course titles or offer appropriately worded categories. You could combine courses for efficiency (i.e., Statistical Analysis I and II). Typically, you only include courses that you’ve actually completed or are currently enrolled in, although you might include projected courses followed by their target semester of completion in parentheses.
  • Curriculum Description. This could be included to describe your background concretely. Turn to your school’s descriptions of course curricula to help you with wording.
  • Study Abroad. Always include it and provide the college’s name and location. Most writers include the dates or semesters of attendance as well.
  • Honor’s Program. Always include it as a representation of academic accomplishment.
  • Thesis. Always include it and list it by title. In place of or in addition to the actual title, even a working title or a summary of the thesis contents or objective is useful.
  • Certifications/Training. Consider a subheading under "Education" to reflect formal education that resulted in specialized knowledge or skills. Typical examples include CPR certification, OSHA HAZWOPER training, scuba diving instruction, and the completion of short courses.
  • ROTC/Military Training. Especially if military training involved short courses and took place on college campuses, include it and give vital details such as course names, number of hours involved, times of completion, and certifications earned.


Experience/Work Experience/Employment

This section is the heart of the resume—the place where readers are likely to spend most of their time. Readers here expect concrete detail, an accessible format, and selective interpretation of detail. Methods used to achieve these goals include the following:

  • Any of the above three titles is acceptable, though "Experience" is the most standard.
  • The convention is to use past tense throughout this section, even to describe jobs that you currently hold. Some writers elect to discuss current jobs in the present tense.
  • As a rule, list your work experience in reverse chronological order—most recent first—and provide the actual dates of employment. Go back several years, even early into high school if necessary. Provide exact job titles (invent them honestly if no actual titles were used), and give the locations of your employers. All jobs need not be directly relevant to the position you are applying for, but be sure that the descriptions of your job duties are worded such that they enhance your accomplishments and responsibilities.
  • Use action words to describe your job skills and make each job description specific and efficient. Especially if you favor the present tense in your descriptions, you might using the "-ing" form of active verbs ("performing" rather than "perform").
  • Do not feel compelled to describe every job duty ("waitstaff" and "newspaper carrier," for example, can be self-explanatory).
  • As a rule, do not include your supervisor’s name or phone number, unless you are seeking an internship (where formal applications are rare) and have express permission to do so.
  • Including job salaries is rarely a good idea, but providing the number of hours you worked per week can be helpful.
  • If computer skills were linked to your job duties, connect the work with them directly, even including software package names or describing what you used the computer programs for.
  • Use identical margins and format for parallel items (e.g., line up all of your job titles with each other, and if you boldface one then boldface them all).
  • As you describe your experience, be certain to answer these two fundamental questions: "What was done?" and "How was it valuable?"


Computer Skills

Computer Skills is not a mandatory resume section, although many students include it, knowing that employers are typically interested in your computer expertise. Present the material efficiently, as follows:

  • Consider an overall approach that suits your skill level. Some students discuss computer skills in narrative form, others simply list their experience with specific hardware and software packages, and others combine computer skills and other types of skills into one section.
  • If relevant, include the version number of software packages, programming languages, and operating systems you’ve used.
  • If you worked on websites as part of your job or as a hobby, consider including the specific URLs so that the reader can access them. If you created an online portfolio that you’re proud of, certainly offer that URL, perhaps even in the heading.
  • Computer skills might be presented in a simple list or in the form of an informal table, depending on your level of expertise and space constraints.


Activities/Honors/Volunteer Work

For this section, choose whichever title or combination of titles above best fits your examples. "Activities" is the most commonly used. Honors could be presented separately if they are impressive enough or if there are simply too many to include within the "Activities" section. In addition, follow these tips:

  • Dates are highly recommended, in that they illustrate your level of participation in activities, but some writers do exclude the dates and favor a simpler approach. Be consistent within the category in relation to whether or not dates are included.
  • List the most noteworthy extracurricular activities and include offices that you have held. Include any honors you have received, especially scholarships, but do not repeat items that were included in other sections of the resume.
  • Choose descriptions of your leisure activities wisely and sparingly, even to the point of presenting them all on one final line for the sake of efficiency.
  • Try to include a conversation piece. I know students who have gotten into great discussions in interviews because they listed beekeeping or piano playing or their golf handicap under "Activities."
  • Use high school activities if needed, but avoid letting them sound too "high schoolish" as you present them (better to name your school sports team than to simply list "high school basketball"). Where possible, link your activities to a community or business ("Volunteer, Bear Creek Nursing Home") more so than to a high school, even if those activities took place when you were still in high school.
  • The bottom line in this section: Provide a window into your uniqueness, whatever that uniqueness is. A volunteer firefighter, Eagle Scout, or licensed pilot can stand out as much as a scholarship recipient or professional sorority officer.


References

Employers generally like to see this section included as a convention and a courtesy, but in truth it is optional because employers already know that you can provide them with references. When you do include a References section, heed this advice:

  • Keep the section highly efficient, perhaps just one line long, i.e., "References available upon request."
  • As a rule, do not include the actual names of your references on your resume unless you have their permission to do so and are simply seeking an internship or scholarship; for a full-time permanent position you want your resume to inspire the employer to contact you and specifically request your references. Employers are often looking for specific kinds of references, and you do not want to hurt your chances by listing references who might not be quite right for their needs, or giving an employer the opportunity to call or write one of your references without your knowing about it.
  • When references are formally requested, type up their full contact information, including address, phone, fax, and e-mail, on a page separate from your resume.


Quality Checking Your Resume

Once your resume is composed, it must be quality checked. Three prominent issues that arise in a quality check are content, format, and computer-related problems.


Reconsidering Content

  • Look over the resume and be certain you have considered effective wording and strong candidate material within each category, as detailed in the previous page of this manual.
  • Consider accuracy and professionalism. If you simply volunteered at a position two hours per week, make sure your wording reflects this. Do your examples and wording reflect someone with a professional attitude or are they too informal or potentially vague?
  • Look over your job descriptions carefully. You should be reporting exactly what you did and how it was valuable. Make sure we can see that your work was of use to someone and that performance was a concern.
  • Browse for any major time gaps between jobs or other activities. If there are any, fill them in or otherwise eliminate them if possible.
  • Review your Activities section with the idea of choosing an overall picture that reflects you and you alone. It should essentially contain an objective listing of information—data, and perhaps some description—unique to you. Your goal in this section is to make the reader want to meet you—to see you as an interesting and worthwhile person.
  • Ask yourself: Have I only included content that I would feel comfortable discussing in an interview? At an on-site interview, your resume might be right on the interviewer’s desk. Expect that you could be quizzed specifically about any resume content, and if you aren’t sure you could pass such a quiz, eliminate the content.


Reviewing Overall Format

  • With few exceptions, an undergraduate resume should be limited to one page. Those that go beyond one page should seek to fill two pages neatly so that we don’t end up looking at a large block of white space.
  • Maintain at least one-inch margins on all four sides of the page, and spread your information out so that it is visually balanced. Do not be afraid of white space as a formatting tool.
  • Be sure you have used identical margins and format for related information. Keep parallel information parallel in form. For instance, treat all major headings in the same way.
  • Exploit punctuation marks—especially dashes, semicolons, and colons—to present your material efficiently.
  • Be line-conscious, especially horizontally, considering how much material can fit on a single line. If you are fighting for space and you see that just one or two words are gobbling up an entire line unnecessarily, revise accordingly.
  • Remember that readers look at your resume left-to-right. Where logical, go to a new line for prominent new information. For instance, most writers put their degree name on a different line than their school name. Avoid line breaks that allow a single description of important information (say, your degree name or a course name) to spill onto more than one line.
  • Present the final version of your resume on durable white or off-white paper. Absolutely avoid odd colors such as purple, green, or pink.


Making the Computer your Ally

  • Change fonts types or sizes if needed to fit the resume to one page, but use just one or two fonts throughout the resume—Times, Chicago, and Helvetica are popular resume fonts—and go no lower than 10-point and no higher than 12-point for the bulk of the resume text. Many writers do choose a larger or fancier font for their name at the top of the resume, but be sure it’s readable and attractive.
  • When lining up material, use tabs rather than space bars or even line up like columns by creating a table; otherwise, your output may appear differently than it does on the screen, or print differently from one printer to the next.
  • If you need a bit more space horizontally for just a line or two, see if you can "stretch" the relevant lines by resetting the margin on the ruler at the top of the page just for the lines in question.
  • Absolutely work with a hard copy of your resume. Do not trust that the way it looks to you on the computer screen will exactly match the output.
  • Proofread with perfection in mind, even having someone else proofread the resume too. Do not rely just on the spell checker, and certainly not on the grammar checker—neither will ever be capable of proofing a resume effectively.
  • If you need to submit the resume by e-mail to an employer, do not count on a Word version of the resume looking the same on someone else’s computer as it does on yours—fonts may not translate perfectly, tabbed material may be misaligned, and line length may be compromised. The safest bet is to convert the resume to a pdf, check the resulting pdf to be sure it’s exactly how you want it to look, and then e-mail the pdf file.

As a final quality check, seek collective agreement that your resume is perfect. Other readers—your peers, professors, parents (gasp!), and the staff at your school’s Career Center—can add fresh perspectives (and even corrections) to your resume. You get the last word, of course, but be sure that more than one other person agrees that you have presented yourself in the best possible way on paper. It pays off.


Common Action Words Used to Describe Job Experience

List of common action words for resumes


Sample Conventional Resumes

The sample resumes that follow, which you can download by clicking on the link below, all came from student writers guided by tried-and-true conventions of content and form. All of these writers use the left margin for their headings followed by a new margin for the descriptions about one-third of the way across the page. Though the overall form of these resumes varies slightly, the resumes all include the traditional, expected sections of "Objective," "Education," "Experience," and "Activities," but the writers make sure to tailor the content to their background by making choices such as combining language skills with computer skills and activities with honors. Several of the writers chose to include material related to high school, both to fill out the page and because their high school experience was so recent. Note also that not everything detailed under "Experience" is a paid position—the resume by the first-year student smartly gets mileage out of volunteer experience at a campus weather service and a homeless shelter. Finally, the types of activities and honors showcased at the bottoms of the resumes range from fraternity awards to blood donorship to water-skiing, showing that these writers are interested in representing individual and interesting traits about themselves. By studying these conventional resumes and examining their likes and differences, you have models on which to build your own, whether you’re a first-year student or a graduating senior.

Click here to download a pdf of six sample conventional resumes.


More Advanced, More Daring Resumes

Even though technical fields favor conventional and old-school rules, many students, particularly those with extensive experience or a diverse background, stretch the limits slightly—and smartly—when creating their resumes. Creative format and content choices on your resume certainly are permitted, as long as they enhance rather than detract from utility and appearance.


Creative Format Choices

Although format must remain accessible so the eye can readily scan the resume both horizontally and vertically, creative format choices such as the following can enhance resume content:

  • Jazzing up the heading. If nowhere else, many writers give the heading of the resume a bit more dazzle by using different fonts and sizes, perhaps even drawing a line or using an underscore beneath the heading that crosses the entire page.
  • Experimenting with tabs and margins. By experimenting with format options for the entire document or for portions, you can change margin settings in order to get more information onto a particular line or onto the entire page. Informal tables and the use of tabs also economize on space. Still, aesthetically, avoid using less than one-inch margins at the page’s edge or more than three different indentations within a single line.
  • Providing visual emphasis. Obviously, capitalization, boldface, underscore, and italics enhance both the appearance and hierarchy of information on the resume. Beware, though, of graphic overkill, and keep in mind the intuitive hierarchy we employ as readers: Capitals and boldface typically represent important information, while underscore and italics imply subordinate material.
  • Using a resume template. Resume templates, which tend to offer a variety of fonts, preset fields for blocks of text, and even sample text itself, can certainly make a resume look pretty. Keep in mind, however, that resume templates do have constraints in format, they often put categories into a different order than they would be on an undergraduate resume, and the resulting resume may not be suited to the conventions of your field. If using a template, be sure you manage resume content and appearance in a way that suits your circumstances and keeps you in charge of form.


Creating Special Sections

One way to elevate your resume is through difference. Special sections highlighting specific traits that employers seek can make your resume rise above the crowd. Typical approaches writers take include the following:

  • Creating a special section based on specialized experience. Common special categories include "Leadership Experience," "Military Service," "Professional Qualifications," "Communication Skills," "Teaching Experience," and "Research Experience."
  • Taking a "skills" approach. Drawing from the model typically used in post-graduate professional resumes, some writers open the body of the resume with a "Skills Summary" or similarly titled section, detailing their skills and how they acquired them. A common strategy is to think both quantitatively ("Four years of experience programming computers using . . .") and qualitatively ("Superior customer relations skills acquired through . . ."). The skills approach can go beyond simply one section, with other section titles including the word "skills" and work experience descriptions focusing on the skills acquired. The focus should be on outcomes and personal and professional attributes that would apply to any job performed, regardless of your field of study.


Sample Advanced, More Daring Resumes

In the six sample resumes delivered by pdf when you click on the link below, you’ll find students who present their material creatively, experimenting a bit with form, tailoring the resumes to suit their background or circumstances, and stressing their skills and experiences to help them stand out from the crowd.

The first resume in the group stresses two related experiences by creating the category "Internships," which are presented with such thoroughness that the writer has the courage and wisdom to treat three unrelated jobs with only three lines. The second resume also stresses experience and skills by creating special categories, while the third resume—from a student with three professional experiences within her field—decides to spread the text out completely over the horizontal space of the page so that she has room to stress the details and value of her various internships. Her resume also ends strongly with special categories for leadership and additional professional qualifications—she even goes so far as to give the date on which she received clearance for Top Secret information.

In the last three resumes, all written by seniors who had recently graduated, physical prominence is given on the page to specialized computer skills, teaching certification and classroom experience, and an overall skills summary. The first writer, chasing a technical computing job, provides the URLs to which he has contributed so that readers can further investigate his credentials and affiliation, and he breaks down his computer skills into five separate categories. The next writer, seeking a teaching position, makes sure to spell out his specialized teaching background and shows how his volunteer experience involved teaching as well. The final resume, used by the writer to land an international sales job outside of her field, articulates her transferable skills and stresses her international travel and "Jane-of-all-trades" approach to life—a broad range which takes her from being a photographer for a large student newspaper to working as a kayak/mountain bike tour guide in Alaska.

All six of these resumes show that even the one-page constraint need not stop writers from exercising creativity of form and providing depth of content specific to their life circumstances. All of these resumes represent a high level of individuality, and our sense is that no one else but the writer could have composed them.

Click here to download a pdf of six sample advanced, more daring resumes.


The Graduate Student and Post-Graduate Resume

Undergraduates often tell me they are amazed at how long it takes to compose a resume (part of this is mere perception, I think, due to the weighty nature of the document’s importance). I tell them they should plan to spend between a few hours and a day every year revising their resume for the rest of their professional lives, and that an undergraduate resume with a strong foundation is their best preparation. Obviously, post-graduate and graduate student resumes are grounded in the same principles as undergraduate resumes, but new rules emerge with the new circumstances.


Differences Between Post-Graduate and Undergraduate Resumes

  • Length. Beyond your undergraduate education, you are no longer fettered by the one-page limit. Unless otherwise specified by an employer or selection committee, two pages and more are expected so that you can fully describe your background and list your accomplishments. However, seek visual balance on each page, and try to make each work independently, including your name on each page and a page number beyond page 1.
  • Organization. Unless you are writing a curriculum vitae (see below), education is less stressed than it is on an undergraduate resume. Often, this section is moved beyond the first page of the resume, and some writers even put it last. Also, an "Objective" section is not necessarily included, and if you are seeking a professional job outside of academia, you typically open your resume with a "Qualifications Summary"—an "in-a-nutshell" articulation of your relevant skills. You can think of this section as a "mini-cover letter," summarizing for an employer everything you have to offer.
  • Detail. On the graduate student and post-graduate resume, you are expected to expand in particular on work-related experience. Comment on the specifics of your work and interpret how it was useful to your employer. Especially in research-oriented fields, do not shy away from jargon, nomenclature, or specialized detail. Your goal is to portray yourself as an insider to those who have a technical, specialized understanding matching or surpassing yours.


Writing a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Unfortunately, many use the terms "curriculum vitae" and "resume" interchangeably, so writers are confused about whether there’s actually a distinction between them. Strictly speaking, a curriculum vitae (which translates to "course of life") is different from a resume in that it is aimed squarely at working within academia. Therefore, academic history—especially where it includes teaching, research, publications, and service—is fleshed out in much more detail than it would be in a resume. If you’re chasing an academic post with your CV, you need to stress the same "three-legged-stool" criteria by which tenure judgments are made: Teaching, Research, and Service. Some writers use these criteria within their CV headings, and all find ways to stress them within their descriptions. A section for publications—which helps reflect on both your teaching potential and research—is expected in a CV, and those who have not published might still provide a list of papers submitted, talks given, theses written, or conferences attended. The goal is to demonstrate professional involvement and the potential to serve a host university as a productive teacher, valuable researcher, and a person of service. Some schools and professional organizations provide sample CVs, and I urge ambitious graduate students to browse the web and model their CVs on those published by faculty in the program to which they are applying.


Sample Graduate Student and Post-Graduate Resumes

The samples written by the six writers featured in the pdf below help represent the differences between undergraduate and post-graduate resumes. One fundamental distinction to be made is whether the resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is tailored towards a professional job or an academic position. As the samples show, those seeking a professional job stress skills and achievements that will apply to the job being sought, while those seeking admission to graduate school or an academic position stress teaching, research, and publications.

From a form standpoint, note that the writers did not constrain themselves to one page, and that they spread material evenly over multiple-page documents, providing the page number and name of the writer on those pages after page 1. A variety of font sizes and font types are used along with a generous amount of white space so that the material can be read easily, and parallel material (such as job titles and section headings) is treated in parallel fashion from one page to another. Finally, there are two different versions of a curriculum vitae by the same writer—one three pages long and one a single-page version—to demonstrate how a writer can provide a summary of material when a single-page CV is requested.

The content of these resumes and CVs is, by definition, specialized, assuming readers who want evidence of a high level of aptitude and performance. Therefore, the writers offer technical detail, and acronyms known within the field (IPM, ARM, TRIP, NCGE, ASTM, etc.) and practical outcomes are stressed. Even by the active verbs used within the resumes (co-authored, managed, oversaw, coordinated, taught, trained, investigated, etc.), we can see that roles involving authorship, collaboration, learning, leadership, and project management are showcased. With the graduate student and post-graduate resume, the goal is always to demonstrate advanced ability and a high level of accomplishment, witnessed by the specialized evidence presented.

Click here to download a pdf of sample graduate student and post-graduate resumes written by six writers.


Computer Scanning of Resumes

One of comic Steven Wright’s jokes provides a nice little lesson in irony: "I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place." Similarly, our work lives are rich in irony: Just as technology has enabled any one of us to build a resume that is stunning in appearance, blaring bells and whistles, the irony is that technology now also sometimes requires us to create resumes virtually stripped of form and dazzle. Companies, especially large ones, occasionally require job candidates to submit a "scannable resume"—that is, a resume written so that a scanner, using optical character recognition software, can code your resume into a database. Once in the database, the resume can be selected for the later viewing by human eyes (yes, irony emerges again) based on the number of "hits."

Presumably, if a company is scanning your resume it will typically announce that fact and give you guidelines for writing and submitting it. If there is any doubt, you could always phone, e-mail, or visit a company’s website to determine if the company scans resumes. Frankly, computer scanning of resumes was much more popular in the 1990s and has waned in the years that followed, so you may never need to be concerned about the issue. However, if you do need to prepare a scannable resume, you must school yourself in matters of format, content, and method of delivery.


Matters of Form

  • To curb potential problems of pattern recognition, avoid horizontal and vertical lines, bullets, boldface, italics, and underscoring.
  • Use common publishable-quality fonts such as Times, Helvetica, and Century.
  • Use a minimum of indentations, perhaps simply formatting all new lines at the left margin. Use the paragraph form to list information rather than the table form.
  • Keep the font size conventional—between 10 and 12.


Content of the Scannable Resume

  • Under your name and address, provide a paragraph of "Skill Keywords" designed to earn "hits" from the scanner. Build this paragraph from your background and the job ad.
  • Aside from the keywords section, provide the same material you would in a print resume.
  • Use jargon and keywords throughout freely, but avoid abbreviations and acronyms—they may be too specialized to be recognized.
  • To maximize "hits," favor nouns over verbs—"operator" rather than "operated."


Delivering the Scannable Resume

  • Avoid delivering a scannable resume by e-mail or fax unless specifically requested to do so; mail an original, unfolded.
  • When applying to a large company, consider sending both a print version and a scannable version of your resume along with a cover letter, which identifies them as such.


Sample Computer Scannable Resume

In the example provided via the link below, we see how a writer effectively adapted his resume to make it scannable by computer. Note that the writer favors the left margin, even for his name, and he provides a "Skill Keywords" section at the top to define his skills and maximize the number of hits that his resume will receive. Despite making sure the resume is scannable, the writer keeps his paragraphs short enough that they are still highly readable, and aside from the "Skill Keywords" section the content is the same as he would provide in a conventional resume.

Click here to download a pdf of a sample computer scannable resume.

Last modified: Thursday, June 27, 2019, 6:06 PM