What is a 'Scannable Resume'?

Title:What is a 'Scannable Resume'?

Author:Robert Lindsey, copyright. All rights reserved.

What is a scannable resume? Many companies are starting to use state-of-the-art information technology like STAIRS, a new business process, to electronically scan, evaluate and process resumes. Companies feel that these new scanning and processing systems are advantageous not only to the applicants, but also to the companies by speeding up the company's evaluation and hiring process. Here are a few reasons why many companies, and you, may think so:

  • You only have to write one resume to apply for positions at several locations or companies.
  • It is easier and faster to apply for jobs.
  • You identify your skills, not your place and dates of work and the names of previous supervisors.
  • There's greater objectivity in the referral list because a consistent process is used.
  • And the resumes are short and to-the-point, rarely are resumes over three pages accepted.

Some of these new information technology systems take your hard-copy paper resume and scan it into a computer system, then use OCR technology to convert the resultant graphic image into text, store it in a database, and finally run the resume database through a program to analyze it for skills. Other systems accept scanned or electronically-submitted resumes directly into either a flatform or relational database, and then process the resumes from there. The rapid growth of the internet and world wide web have hastened the use of these resume databases.

If you incorrectly submit your resume as an attachment to an email to one of these resume databases systems, then your resume may be rejected and you may not even know it. Even if you paste your resume as the text of the e-mail message, it may be improperly encoded/decoded in the transfer process between different e-mail carrier protocols. Always find, read and follow the instructions when using a new resume system. To get the best results when sending either hard copy or electronic resumes to companies and organizations that require scannable resumes, follow the instructions in this article.

How is a scannable resume different? All resumes should be clear, concise, and easy to read. When developing a traditional, hard copy resume, you would write to attract the attention of the reader - to catch their eye. Anything you did to make your resume visually unique, such as expensive paper, colored paper or fonts, unusual fonts or typefaces, or graphics, helped to do this. However, these visual attractants confuse a scanner and what goes in, does not necessarily come out. In fact, it may be counter-productive. "Uniqueness" in a resume may cause the computer to misread it, and you may fail to receive credit for all of your experience. At best, the spelling in your resume may end up looking as if it were typed by an impatient five-year-old child, and at worst, whole sections of your resume may be illegible or merged together incorrectly.

Your resume may go directly into an imaging and database system untouched by human hands and unseen by human eyes! You can do a lot to help these systems select your resume more often. These systems are used extensively by professional recruiters and are becoming increasingly common as more and more companies use them for managing large groups of documents. An imaging system is a database that stores both an image and an OCR file of your resume for full text database manipulation. It will typically accept input from fax, email, internet, paper, disks, and CD-ROM. Older systems may be fickle about accepting fancy graphics, layouts or type faces. New systems can accept and process a much wider range of input. For best recognition use standard typefaces, standard layouts, and electronic transmission. If you must use a fax, use the "fine" mode and avoid shadings and unusual graphics and typefaces.

Even when completing a Federal government application, i.e., an SF-171, OF-612 or optional resume form, it used to be that the more ways you described the same kind of experience, and the more adjectives you used, the more credit you would receive in the rating or ranking process. Similarly, this principle still applies to resumes that are processed electronically. The important thing to remember is that the employer will be searching for candidates who have specific skills, so you want to clearly identify each of your skills. (Some types of "key" words to use are such as: UNIX programmer, AN/SQP Firefinder technician, etc., so when your resume is scanned into a searchable database it is more likely to appear during a specified term search in those skill areas.) Decide what types of positions you want. Ask yourself what words a recruiter might choose to search for people for that job? Use them in your resume.

Resumes are frequently sorted by the number of times a word or group of words is mentioned. Repeating a key word or phrase several times can move your resume to the top of the list. Search programs can sort files by specific words, by a thesaurus function (choosing synonyms of a word as well as the word itself), and by choosing concepts. A "concept" is a user created search routine. For instance the concept "military" could include army, air force, navy, and marines. The search could be set for all four, or any one, two or three. Think about how a recruiter would search to fill the position you want. Always mention the title of the position you want, even if you haven't held it. Saying you "reported to the General Manager" will bring up your file if they are seeking a "General Manager." By the same token, do not overload your resume with so many of these "keywords" that it is blatant! Eventually a real, live person will read it!

Most computerized resume imaging and database systems will accept resumes sent in different formats (by mail, fax or email), but you always want to make sure that your submission falls within their parameters. The most difficult resume for scanners to read is a poor quality copy that has large font sizes, graphics or lines, is too light, uses paper that is too dark, or uses side-by-side formatting like a newspaper article. For the best results we recommend that you:

  • Prepare your resume off-line, before you log on to a resume database system, to save telephone access charges.
  • Do not send in cover letters and additional documentation unless it is asked for, and only send copies of documentation (i.e., licenses, certificates, etc.), as you will probably not get them back due to the large volume of resumes and applications processed.
  • Limit you resume to three pages, longer resumes will usually not be accepted.
  • Use white 8.5 by 11 inch paper, printed in black ink on one side only.
  • Provide a laser printed or type-written original, or a high-quality photocopy if required.
  • Do not submit resumes printed using dot-matrix printers or colored inks.
  • Do not fold or staple the resume.
  • Use standard typefaces, such as Helvetica, Arial, Optima, Universe, Times New Roman, Palatino, New Century Schoolbook and Courier.
  • Use font size 12 (avoid Times New Roman 10-point).
  • Do not condense spacing between words.
  • Limit the use of boldface type or all capital letters to section headings and make sure the letters do not touch each other.
  • Avoid the use of italics, underlining, shadows, and reverse (white letters on black background).
  • Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics and boxes.
  • Avoid two-column format or resumes that look like newspapers or newsletters.
  • Left justify your resume.
  • Place your name at the top of each page.
  • Include your social security number on the first page (and any other requested information if completing an application for a Federal government job).
  • Use standard address format below your name.
  • List each telephone/fax number on it's own line.
  • Include your email address.
  • Attach as an addendum any KSA's (knowledge, skills and achievements) if completing an application for a Federal government job).

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