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Give Your Resume the Electronic Edge

Give Your Resume the Electronic Edge

You’ve invested years of effort, time and money in earning your degree. Here’s a tip to help give your career a head start. Even if you are not looking for employment in a technical field, there’s a good chance you’ll need an electronic version of your resume to be competitive in your job search. In the past, paper documents highlighting experience and education served job hunters just fine, but these days new graduates are finding that traditional resumes aren’t enough to entice employers anymore. Now many companies prefer to receive computer-friendly scannable resumes and online resumes when searching for job candidates.
A scannable resume is created when your paper resume is electronically scanned or “read” by an employer’s computer and stored as a computer file. An online resume is one you create using word processing software and e-mail or post on the Internet. Each kind requires attention to particular guidelines.
Many companies now use electronic scanners to help process resumes they receive through a system called “automated applicant tracking.” Once a hard copy of your resume is scanned into a computerized database, an employer can use a software program to search for keywords to match your qualifications to specific job requirements.
There are several design points that can help get your resume noticed. First, keep it simple!  Scanners respond best to clear, concise language and simple layouts. Avoid fancy fonts and formatting that may not scan properly into a computer system. If the computer can’t read it, your resume will be lost in cyberspace. Use relevant keywords. These keywords must coincide with specific job requirements. Use nouns rather than verbs; keywords tend to be nouns or noun-phrases. For example, use “project supervisor” rather than “supervised project.” To become familiar with good keywords, check classified ads or talk  to members of professional associations in your field.
A scannable resume offers several advantages over paper resumes. Once your electronic resume is in a database, it can be retrieved easily during a keyword search. This serves you better than a paper file sitting idly in a cabinet, and it also remains in the database for an extended duration, making it available for consideration for a variety of openings over time.
An online resume allows you to use the Internet as another resource to gain exposure and assist you in your job hunt. Job seekers can e-mail or post their resumes online via company home pages, resume banks, professional association home pages, classified ads, bulletin board services and news groups. Employers can post job announcements and search for candidates using the same sites.
To develop an online resume, create it using word processing software, then save it as a generic ASCII text file. ASCII text is a universal text language, which allows different word processing applications to read and display the same text. This text is simply words; there are no formats such as fonts, margins, graphics or tabs. ASCII text enables your document to be retrieved and reviewed by prospective employers, regardless of the computer applications they use.
There are several advantages to e-mailing your resume. First, it saves money on processing and postage. Also, your resume will end up in the same type of computerized database where the scanned paper resumes are stored. As with the scanned resume, this allows your resume to be accessible during keyword database searches. Additionally, by e-mailing your resume, you exhibit your understanding of technology and make a positive first impression.
Resume banks are another online venue where job seekers can display resumes. These services act as an intermediary, matching applicant qualifications with employer needs. Some of these services are free; others are fee-based. Some require you to fill out a form, or they furnish software to enter your qualifications instead of accepting your version. Ask if the service can provide you with feedback and the number of times your resume was looked at or selected for review.
Paper resumes are still useful. Some employers don’t use computer scanning yet. Also, online resumes with ASCII text have a bland appearance, so it’s a good idea to have a fully formatted, more aesthetically pleasing hard copy for follow-up purposes, such as interviews.

— Dr. Maribeth Gunner is career resource coordinator and academic adviser at Regents College in Albany, N.Y.

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