What is the Best Format for your Resume?

What is the Best Format for your Resume?

Where can you find that balance between pretty and professional when it comes to creating your resume?

Some information that may surprise you is oftentimes your resume gets stripped of the pretty formatting you put so long into constructing during the application process. Many corporate or staffing agency ATS’s (Applicant Tracking Systems), and even recruiters, are often required to copy and paste the information from your resume into a new format that follows their procedure before forwarding it to the hiring manager.

So before they are able to deconstruct your hard work, make sure you are getting all the information you want them to have to them; copy and paste your resume into a new, blank Word document and see how it looks. Refrain from using pretty tables and graphs because they often don’t convert too well in the process. Also, make sure you don’t embed your name and contact info into the header of the document. The best thing to do is to keep it simple and clean. Try using the 97-2003 version of Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format, as these modest versions seem to translate the best.

Although there are exceptions, and some ATS systems will preserve your resume’s fancy formatting, the majority of companies use systems that don’t. The chance that your resume is viewed on a printed page or as an attachment that shows every little tweak you made to make your resume look the best it possibly could is very unlikely. More than likely, your resume will be viewed in a browser or system window, and if a recruiter or hiring manager can, they’ll often look at the preview or cached version of your resume. In both these cases, your pretty formatting will not translate over and be seen.

Of course, the most important thing about your resume is the information. So keep the presentation simple and professional and your resume will be more flexible to multiple instances.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is one of the main considerations you should be making for your resume. Every company you apply to has a database of some kind to store all their resumes. By using the proper keywords that pertain to your skill set throughout your resume, your resume will more likely be retrieved when someone searches the database for a viable candidate for your position.

Another helpful tip is you should have your resume stored somewhere on the internet. The World Wide Web is just one giant collection of databases, and with enough specific keywords—meaning don’t just use terms like “Manager”, use something that incorporates you specifically such as “Six Sigma Program Manager”—companies will be able to find you even if you aren’t a part of their internal database. Repeat these keywords frequently where they apply.

If you are using a resume writing service, then ask them for copies of your resume in different formats, so you are ready for anything. They will often make your resume extra fancy to “set you apart”, which there is nothing wrong with, but make sure you have a copy that works in any situation that may arise. Make sure to get an HTML version to put into your website or blog, and get a Rich Text Format version or Microsoft Word version with no tables or graphs that can be translated by the companies you will apply to. You may even consider putting a link to your fancy version that is online into your Rich Text Format or Microsoft Word version.

Don’t use .PDF format for your resume. Most systems don’t translate .PDF resumes well, while many aren’t able to translate them at all, and many of the systems that do translate .PDF resumes reasonably require a costly add-on.

The most important thing in your resume is the information. Keep it clean and simple, in multiple formats, and easily accessible. If a recruiter needs to convert your resume into the right format, then they will oftentimes put it in the back of the line. By making it easy on the recruiter with a crisp, to the point resume you are giving yourself a better chance at being hired.

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