In my last column I explained the many different types and formats of resumes. While an understanding of the intricacies isn't necessary, you should have at least a basic understanding of the formats before beginning your job search. For a refresher, you can read that column here.
Here are some quick and easy tips for creating the most common "digital" formats that you'll be asked for.
Remember - it is absolutely essential that you create resume content that is keyword rich regardless of the file format. It is not necessary that you maintain a separate keyword version of your resume. ALL resumes must include a heavy emphasis on keywords. Keywords are generally defined as nouns or phrases that an employer will use when searching for an applicant with your skill set. To maximize the recall of your resume in a search, you will want to use as many keywords in your resume as possible.
1. Keywords should focus on technical and professional areas of expertise, industry-related jargon, and your work history. Also, include the names of associations and organizations of which you are a member.
2. Whenever possible, use synonyms of keywords in different parts of your resume and if you use initials for a term in one section, spell the term out in another.
3. Always be specific. For example, while it may be fine to include the phrase "computer literate," you will also want to list the specific software that you are proficient in using.
This is one of the most common areas of confusion, so I'll state it once again...the content of a keyword resume does not need to differ from the content of your traditional resume. With careful attention to rhythm and flow, it is possible to prepare a resume that is keyword optimized, but that also includes the powerful, compelling, active language of a traditional resume. Not only will this simplify your resume preparation, but it will ensure that the content of all versions of your resume will be optimized for both the computer and the human reader. Furthermore, if you incorporate a professional summary and bulleted list of qualifications in the text of your resume, there is little if any need to prepare a separate keyword summary.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to recommend a specific list of the best keywords to use in your resume, as the "best" keywords are different for every individual and depend mainly on your unique career objective and background. What is certain, however, is that a well-prepared keyword resume is so critical to your success in a job market that largely relies on electronic applicant tracking systems, if you have any doubts at all you should consult with a professional resume writer.
ASCII RESUMES (aka TEXT RESUMES):
Preparing the all-important ASCII text version of your resume is not difficult, but it does require a learning curve. Once converted to ASCII format, you will be able to email your resume in response to an ad or paste it directly into web-based forms and submit it to Internet resume databanks. The specific directions will vary depending on the software you have installed on your computer. But, in general, to prepare your ASCII resumes properly, follow these simple steps:
1. Using your word processing program (most likely, Microsoft Word), open your word-processed resume and use the "Save As" function to save a copy as a "Text Only" or "ASCII (DOS)" document. Title your document with an easily distinguishable name; perhaps "resume_internet.txt"
2. Close your word processing program and re-open the ASCII file. You will not be able to see your changes until you have done this. Note that it has been stripped of virtually all original formatting.
3. Go through your new ASCII document line-by-line. Align all text flush to the left-hand margin.
4. Remove all "centering," "right hand margin," and "justification" alignments.
5. Although you should no longer see them, if visible, remove all graphics, artwork, and special character formatting.
6. Remove all tab characters.
7. Remove all columns.
8. Replace bullets with a simple ASCII asterisk (*).
9. Carefully check the spelling and the accuracy of your data.
10. If you wish, use ASCII characters to enhance the appearance of your resume. Asterisks, plus signs, or other keyboard characters can be used to create visual lines that separate sections of your resume and make it easier to read. The above steps convert your resume to ASCII without line breaks. When pasted into a web-based form or email message, your resume will automatically wrap to the size of the window.
Your new ASCII resume will be universally readable, no matter what computer system the recipient uses. It will also be easy to manipulate for entry into applicant tracking databases, eliminating the inherent difficulties of scanning and converting your paper resume with OCR systems.
There is no denying that the Internet has caused what was once a straightforward process to become complex and confusing to many job hunters. Yet, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Like never before, as a job seeker you have immediate access to announcements and advertisements of openings around the globe. You have the ability to conduct detailed research on companies of interest. And you have unprecedented opportunity to cost effectively promote your qualifications to hundreds or even thousands of hiring authorities for just a tiny fraction of the cost of doing so through traditional methods. While the new skills you must learn may seem daunting at first, by understanding the concepts and creating your electronic resumes, you are well on your way to an efficient, effective Internet job search.
by Michelle Dumas