Preparing a "Scannable Resume"

It's time to consider creating a "computer-friendly" resume. In some markets, technology is replacing humans in the initial applicant screening process. To handle the high volume of resumes, some organizations have started scanning incoming resumes into computerized selection systems.

In an electronic screening process, the computer ranks the resumes in the system based on the requirements of a particular job opening and recommends top candidates to the employer. So, how can you ensure that the computer selects your resume? You need to use words and descriptors the computer will recognize as being associated to the job for which you are applying: these are called keywords. If the computer pulls enough keywords from your resume during a search, you will be one of the applicants considered for an interview.

When writing a computer-friendly resume, your first step is to brainstorm as many keywords as possible that are related to both the position you want and your experiences. Once you have identified these words and phrases, you can incorporate them into your text under the appropriate headings. If you successfully integrate keywords into the body of your resume, then you will NOT NEED to create a separate resume for organizations that use scanning systems.

Tips for Maximizing "Computer Visibility"

  • Keywords tend to be nouns that show where and how you gained your qualifications. Use keywords to define your skills, experience, knowledge, education, and professional affiliations. Keywords are also appropriate for describing duties you performed in your job(s), equipment, hardware, and software you know, licenses, degrees, and certifications that you have earned.
    Keyword Examples:
    • Advertising Copywriter - advertisements, radio and television commercials, sales, goods and services, consult, marketing representatives, advertising, trends, consumer surveys, revise, promotional materials, speeches, bulletins, public relations firms, newspapers, magazines.
    • Sales Representative - sell, services, company, prospective, clients, telephone, business, directories, leads, associates, customers, territory, benefits, literature, demonstrations, referrals, cold-calling.
  • Describe your experiences with concrete words rather than vague descriptions. For example, it's better to use "managed a team of software engineers" than "responsible for managing, training,..." See the CAPE handout "Writing Action Verb Statements" to help you write effective statements.
  • Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry (spell out the acronyms for human readers).

In addition to ensuring computer visibility, you will need to make sure that your resume can be easily read, or scanned, by the computer. The layout of your resume is very important to its scannability.It will not matter how many keywords you use on your resume if the computer cannot identify them.

Tips for Maximizing "Scannability"

  • Use white or light-colored 8 1/2 x 11 paper, printed on one side only.
  • ALWAYS send a laser printed original.
  • Do not fold or staple.
  • Use standard typefaces such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Use font sizes between 11 and 14 points.
  • Do not condense spacing between letters. Letters should not touch each other.
  • Use boldface and/or all capital letters for SECTION HEADINGS as long as the letters don't touch each other.
  • Avoid highlighting with italics, underline, shadows, and reverses (white letters on black background). Also avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes.
  • Avoid two-column format (with the exception of courses) or resumes that look like newspapers or newsletters.
  • Keep date ranges on one line.
  • Place your name at the top of the page on its own line. Use standard address format below your name on page one. List each phone number on its own line.
  • If faxing, put the setting on "fine mode."

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