Because of the volume of resumes employers receive, most of them now use some kind of resume tracking or applicant tracking system. It automates many of the tasks necessary for tracking candidates, and also makes it possible for an employer to find a resume they received months or years later. As a result of the technologies used, it's important to keep your resume in a certain format that will be correctly read and interpreted by the systems. It used to be referred to as a “scannable” resume because of the hardware that used to scan paper resumes into the computer. Now, career websites and resumes received via email are "parsed" and stored in a database.
Once your resume is stored electronically, employers use keywords to match the stored resumes with their open positions. To find the resumes, employers (and recruiters) use keyword searches, usually a boolean search.
Because of the technologies involved in parsing the resume, it is important to keep the format of your resume very simple and somewhat plain. It means that you should generally avoid fancy fonts, graphics and other "special effects" that don’t always make it through the technologies correctly, at least for your electronic resume (you might want a more elaborate version to hand out at job fairs, but it really isn't necessary). A resume that is not formatted correctly won’t appear in a search for matching keywords, which greatly reduces your chances of landing interviews. I have seen some resumes come through with "gibberish" as a result of the writer trying to use charts or pictures on their resume.
Here are some practical tips for formatting your resume:
Use a Simple Font
Do not use a decorative font. Times New Roman and Arial parse most accurately and are the "standard" fonts for business communication, which your resume is.
Use a Standard Font Size
For business communications, fonts of 10 and 12 points are the norm.
Avoid Using Charts, Pictures, Tables or Graphs in Your Resume
These rarely make it through. If you have information that needs to be in that format, consider an addendum to your resume or, perhaps, a web page that you have created that stores the information, with a link to the web page from your resume.
If you are applying for a job where it's important to show off your formatting or creative skills to land a job, such as a Web Designer or Graphic Artist position, distribute copies of your fancy paper resume at interviews. Better yet, send both a fancy and plain resume format, or create a fancy Web resume and portfolio, and include the URL in your emailed resume or cover letter.
Resume Tips - Resume Keywords
The keywords that you use in your resume will determine how the employer finds your resume. Most of us know keywords as the terms we use in a web search. For our purposes, they are specific terms used in your job and industry. Keywords also include other terms employers and recruiters search for, such as those that describe education and experience. Examples:
Job Titles: Software Engineer, Project Manager, Quality Assurance Analyst, Programmer, Developer
Skills and Responsibilities: system administration, application programming, web development, budget planning, technical support, technical writing, drafting, team lead, manager, architect
Acronyms, Buzzwords, Computer Languages: HTML, XML, C#, LAN, TCP/IP, UNIX, Microsoft Project, C++, Java
Education and Certifications: BS Engineering, MSCS, MBA, Microsoft Certified Professional, MCSD, Masters Degree, PhD
In the tech industry, many of the keywords will come from your technical skills summary. It is important that you make this an accurate representation of your skills. Because this section can end up resembling a "laundry" list of techie terms, it should also be well organized.