Tips for writing a scannable résumé
HR departments nationwide are inundated with hundreds of résumés each month. In an effort to
streamline their résumé screening process, many companies have implemented "applicant tracking
systems". These systems scan your paper résumé and convert it to a computer file which can then
be maintained in a database. HR directors utilize keyword searches to locate résumés which fit their
In order to be a contender in this new age of scanning technology, your résumé must be formatted appropriately. Designing a scannable résumé is easy to do if you heed the following helpful tips:
1. Use common, plain fonts such as Arial, Times, Palatino, Helvetica, or Bookman.
2. Use a point size between 10 and 14 - never smaller.
3. Use bolding with moderation. Bolding characters can cause them to touch, which makes it difficult for OCR software to read.
4. Try not to use italics, script and underlines. They too cause characters to touch.
5. Avoid the use of horizontal or vertical lines. When you do include graphics lines, make sure that they do not touch any text.
6. Omit parentheses around the area code in telephone number. They also can be confused with the letter "l".
7. Avoid compressing space between letters in an attempt to fit all information on one page. Again, when letters touch, they can be misread by OCR software.
8. Use a high quality printer, preferably a laser printer. A 24-pin dot matrix is okay, but high quality ink jet or laser is better. Never use a 9-pin dot matrix printer.
9. Only use well known abbreviations on your résumé.
10. Frequently use jargon and abbreviations common to your industry, like CAD (computer-assisted design) and TQM (Total Quality Management).
11. Avoid complex layouts like the "brochure" format or double columns. Computers read the text left to right and don't know to stop at the end of a column.
12. Only print your résumé on standard 8.5x11 paper. When you use 11x17 or other odd size paper, the HR employees have to cut your résumé to fit the scanner, something they may not take time to do.
13. Print your résumé on light colored paper. White is best, but eggshell or light gray will pass. Good contrast between print and paper makes the résumé easier to read for the software. Also, only send original printouts or very good copies.
14. Your name should be the only thing on the first line of your résumé, followed by your street address, city/state/zip, and phone number, each on separate lines.
15. When faxing your résumé, make sure to send it at "fine" resolution. This, again, will make it easier for the computer on the other end to read.
16. Do not staple or fold your résumé.