Digital Resume Format

Here are some tips I picked up in AIRS RealTools Newsletter today (written by Michael Foster). The article was specifically speaking of resumes you submit as an applicant that get input into a candidate database at a corporation and creating the best resume format under those circumsances:


The Digital Resume Format

Much of the time and cost savings gained by having applicants submit their resumes electronically is lost if your systems can’t read them and you have to pre-process them by hand. An effective e-resume is more than a simple transfer of text from an applicant’s old resumes into an e-mail message – and it’s well worth educating your prospective applicants about the best ways to create and submit them.

First, remember that you want a machine to read the resume and be able to interpret and retrieve it successfully. That means the message has to arrive in, or be converted to a plain text format. Also, search engines tend to stumble over graphics, fonts, bullets, indents and strange characters – so very simple and straightforward documents are best. Here are some formatting tips you can make your applicants aware of, to streamline your own workflow:

· Use only Helvetica, Arial, or Times Roman Fonts

· Use 10, 12, or 14 Point Size Fonts

· Make sure the entire document is left justified

· Set margins for approximately 65 characters

· Use spaces or dashes to emphasize text

· No bullets

· No graphics · No wing dings or special characters

Comments (11)

  1. No bullets? Damn. Guess I’ll have to resubmit mine to Microsoft. I’d already done all the rest but had forgotten about bullets.

  2. Jason Salas says:

    Hi Heather,

    Great tips! However, I was always taught that one should follow the common "format" for doing a great business resume, while also carefully working in those little "oomphs" that make it stand out…for example, some people print their hard-copy resumes on beige paper, some people use non-intrusive fonts (albeit non-standard ones), and such.

    Of course, this amps up the risk factor of being rejected on principle for not confirming to that de facto standard. I’ve been on both sides of the argument. 🙂

  3. Heather says:

    Yes, people should do what they feel they need to do to make their resume stand out. Keep in mind, the article was about "digital" resumes. The idea is that the tips make your resume more "scan-able" for resume databases (which means more readable for the recruiters accessing the resumes from the database)

    I don’t think anyone would be at risk because of the priciple. However, when the formatting is lost or some of the words aren’t readable because of the font used, you run the risk of your content not coming across to the person reading the resume (i.e., recruiter or hiring manager).

    Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I used a hard-copy resume given to me by a candidate. I print out resumes (that I receive digitally) on my own so I can take notes and every single one if on the same paper from our supply roon here. So everyone is pretty much on equal footing when it comes to paper.

    If someone has sent their resume to our database, I’m OK receiving an additional copy with all of the fancy formatting so it looks pretty (frankly, I like to have copy in word as well). But if you send something with different fonts, bullets and the like, it’s not going to look anything like that when it gets into the system. So you have more control over what the recruiter ends up seeing if you submit it in a simplified format in the first place.

    My bottom line recommendation (if you want my opinion): do one resume as a .txt file and one as a .doc. Use the .txt resume to submit to any job postings and the .doc when engaging directly with the recruiter.

  4. Drew says:

    I am not an HR professional, but merely a job hunter, however, I disagree.

    Since extracting text from a digital resume does not depend on the physical characteristics of the letters, it really should not matter what font and size the text is in. Although your list may be appropriate for scanning in a resume and using OCR to parse the data, it really should have no relevance to sucking the information from a pdf or even a Word document.

    Bullets should be limited to the ascii set, however, and should be one space away from the first word. Otherwise a search for the combination "MBA" might skip over ">MBA."

    Conversion from Word to ascii might mess up some of your other formatting, so you should see what it looks like when you convert your resume to text. For an added perspective on what the recruiter or manager will see, convert it to an ugly font, such as Ariel or Times New Roman, and print it out in 10-point. I’ve seen interviewers with such documents when I’ve sat down in front of them.

    In my current job hunt, I use four different formats. I have a web site ( with the resume in HTML.

    I have a version designed only for me to print out and hand or mail to the recruiter. This is designed to be hard to scan – anybody who gets it should have the following two versions in their in-box already. I don’t want anybody to scan my printed resume because I lose all control over the presentation and accuracy of the information.

    In my email, I append an ascii version of my resume to the bottom. This is for those people who either won’t accept attachments for fear of viruses, or whose databases can’t parse my attachment.

    Finally, I attach a Word or pdf version so the recipient will have the ability to print out a pretty copy.

    It is a real pain to keep them all current, but whatyagottado?

  5. Margin Guy says:

    65 characters? What does that work out to in inches?

  6. sharmila.D says:

    Need help to create a better resume format

  7. i am a graduate engineer in industrial & production engineering & presently persuing M.E. degree fro sgsits indore(mp),india.i want best format for my resume. please help me.

  8. andymohan says:

    Hey its good one to get more information about format resumes,resume examples and many more log on to

  9. Writing Professional says:

    Reread your manuscript out loud, either to yourself or to a friend or fellow writing partner, making sure that the words sound good and that what you are saying is sounding like you want it to sound.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    That's a good one! I do that with blog posts too 🙂

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