How does electronic applicant tracking work?
Your printed resume is scanned into a computer as an image. A text file is then created and the computer is able to read the text and identify important information such as your name, address, phone number, work history, education, skills, honors, and activities. Employers can then search for qualified candidates by conducting keyword searches rather than filing through a stack of resumes by hand.
To enable the computer to read your resume it must be scannable, i.e. the printed words on your resume must be easily recognizable. Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) software is used to distinguish each typed character on your resume. In order to get the best results, you want to start with a clean, clear image. The following tips will allow you to produce a resume that will be easily scannable and increase your chances of getting noticed:
- Use standard fonts such as Times, Arial, Courier, Helvetica or Universe. Font sizes of 10-14 points work best, however avoid Times 10 point, as it may be too small and hard to read. Larger font sizes allow for easier scannability.
- Avoid dot matrix printers. Instead use a laser printer in order to get a dark, crisp print. This will allow the computer to clearly recognize every character.
- Use white or very light paper to ensure the sharpest image. Dark colored or flecked resume paper are difficult to scan. The computer will not be able to recognize the typed characters, and even the originals are difficult for employers to read.
- Do not create text lines that exceed 65 characters, as longer lines may not be completely displayed on the screen and alter the appearance of your resume.
- Do not use decorative options such as italics, script, underlining, shadows, or graphics to make a portion of the text stand out as these images often touch and will confuse the computer during scanning. Instead use boldface and/or all capital letters to distinguish headings of other text you want to highlight. It is best to avoid horizontal and vertical lines. However, if you use them, do so sparingly and allow at least 1/4 inch of white space around them. The computer will try to read the lines, however may blur then into nearby characters.
- Use plenty of white space. This allows the computer to easily recognize where one topic ends and the next begins. For optimal scanning, use one inch margins on all sides.
- Put your name at the top of your resume, but do not put your name and address on the same line. Instead, use a standard address format below your name. If you have more than one phone number, put each on a separate line. In addition, if you have an e-mail address, include it on a separate line as well.
- Do not staple of fold your resume and always provide an original to be scanned not a copy. A sharp image will enable easier scanning and reduce the likelihood of computer misinterpretations or errors.
Can I use my current resume?
Using your current resume is appropriate, however it is important to know that the computer will extract information from your resume based on the keywords and phrases selected by employers. Your goal is to create a resume that will generate numerous matches or “hits” with employer’s specific searches. Therefore, you may want to make some changes to your current resume in order to increase the number of possible “hits”.
Employers typically search for candidates possessing specific experience and skills. To do so they will search for keywords and phrases (usually nouns) which describe one's qualifications. Some examples of keywords include writer, teacher, BS, UNIX, Microsoft Word, GPA, honor society, Advertising Federation, management , and leadership.
Tips to Maximize Hits
- Describe your experiences with concrete words as opposed to vague descriptions.
- Make use of industry standard jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords as employers do the same when conducting searches.
- Consult classified ads, job listings, and job descriptions to identify the qualifications employers are seeking. Doing so enables you to do two things: 1) know what today's employers are looking for in a successful candidate, and 2) most of the qualifications listed are all scannable keywords that you should include in your resume in order to maximize “hits”.
- Use common headings such as Objective, Experience, Work History, Skills, Education, Professional Affiliations, Publications, Licenses, Honors and Activities, Certifications, and Strengths.
- Describe your interpersonal traits and attitudes. Include keywords such as time management, dependable, leadership, and detail oriented.
- Use more than one page if needed to describe your experience and skills. With electronic applicant tracking, it is not necessary to limit your resume to the traditional one page standard. You can focus on creating a neat and organized resume without worrying about space limitations.
Information for this article was compiled from the following resources:
- Minnesota SkillsNet Fact Sheet, Minnesota Job Service
- Resumix, Inc. -- Website, http://www.resumix.com
- Kennedy, Joyce Lain, (1995). Hook Up, Get Hired!, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
by Jewels Horvath