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Scannable Resume Guide


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Let Employers Search For You

Large companies often receive thousands of job applications at once. To speed up the recruitment process, computer scanning software is used to filter out sub-standard resumes. Formatting your own résumé as a scannable document lets employers discover you – an undeniable advantage for every job seeker.

So how does it work? To begin the process, resumes are first stored in a database. Specialised software then scans through each resume, searching for specific keywords and qualifications. If the right keywords are present, the applicant will progress through to the next step in the job recruitment process. If required keywords are not found, the applicant will be not be given further consideration.

What Makes a Resume Scannable – Old Technology vs. New

When describing new technology, the term scannable refers to any résumé that can be stored on a computer and ‘scanned’ by search software for relevant keywrods. Typical formats include text files, PDF documents and Microsoft Word documents.

When discussing old technology, scannable refers to a text-only résumé that can be scanned by an optical scanning machine.

In either case, a scannable resume is one that is only useful once converted to a digital format.

Once converted to a digital format, resumes are efficiently scanned by search software. This allows companies to use computer technology to sort through large volumes of résumés quickly.

How Your Resume is Scanned

Your resume may be scanned one of two ways:

  1. Digital Scanning: If you’ve ever submitted your resume to a job website using an online application form, you’ve already created a scannable resume. Whenever you cut and paste information from your original resume document into a web form, it is stored as pure text. Your text resume becomes one of many in a searchable database of job applications. When companies want to fill a new position, they query the database with keywords relating to the job on offer. If your résumé matches the search criteria, you may be offered an interview.
  2. Optical Scanning: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is fast becoming obsolete for resume scanning, but it is still used by some large employers. A document scanning machine is used to scan your hard-copy paper resume into a computer, storing it as a graphic image. OCR software then converts the image back into scannable digital text. This system enables automatic computerised searching, analysis and storage of résumé text. OCR technology was first adopted by employers to cope with large volumes of job applications, thereby speeding up the recruitment process. Optical scanning has been largely superceded by digital scanning.

How To Create a Scannable Resume

With proper formatting, your scannable resume will be shortlisted whenever a hiring company searches for candidates with your expertise. This qualifies you as a perfect candidate for the job. If you get the format wrong, you risk being overlooked or filtered out. Here’s how to create a scannable resume that works:

  • Use text only. Computer systems don’t search based on the appearance of your resume. There is no need to include photographs, coloured headers, tables or borders. You should also remove all font embellishments such as underline, bold, italics, etc. In fact, if your résumé will be optically scanned using OCR technology, non-text items may corrupt the optical scan completely. The end result is unusable – a complete waste of time. Job portals and job search websites that use digital scanning may provide a facility to create your own online resume. In this case, web forms restrict input to text, so you’re guaranteed a useful, scannable, text only result.
  • Use keywords. When employers search a resume database for potential candidates, they search with keywords. For example, a search for a senior taxation accountant may include keywords such as: senior accountant, CPA, taxation accountant, and tax law amongst others. Focus your resume content on keywords targeted at the position you are seeking. If you’re not sure, look at the job advertisement. Notice the words used to specify required qualifications, personal characteristics and experience. These are the keywords you should include in your scannable resume.
  • Follow guidelines. When submitting your resume for digital scanning/searching, always follow company guidelines. Pay specific attention to whether you should upload your resume via a web form, or whether you may submit a PDF document, a Microsoft Word document, or a text file by email. If you are required to provide an OCR-ready resume, always ask for correct formatting guidelines. For example, OCR documents should be limited to a single page on bright white paper with black text. Most OCR Machines are configured to recognise ALL CAPITALS as headlines and filled dark circles as bullet points. You should also restrict fonts to basic Times New Roman or Arial typefaces. Each OCR machine is different, so check with your prospective employer for exact guidelines.

Use Scannable Resumes to Your Advantage

Take every opportunity to make your resume available in a scannable, digital format. Many companies provide a page on their website where you can upload your resume to their database. Job advertisements often request an emailed resume. Job search websites allow you to create your own online resume. These are just three ways you can get your digital resume into the search path of prospective employers.

Not only will a digital resume benefit your immediate job search efforts, you may also benefit in the future. Once your resume is added to a database, it will be searchable for many years to come. You might find yourself in the enviable position of being ‘head-hunted’ for your skills, even when you haven’t been actively seeking new employment.

Make the most of your job search by allowing employers to search for you. Get found with a scannable digital resume.

Visit our Careers Resources section for articles related to your job search.

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