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Not Your Grandpa’s Resume Format


Oh, for the days gone by. You remember those days, don’t you? The salad days, the days when a job-hunter crafted one single, glorious, all-encompassing resume, printed 200 copies on high quality paper (my personal favorite was an ivory-colored Southworth), hand-wrote personalized cover letters and was done with it. It brings a tear to the eye.

Today, the name of the job hunting game is Versioning. As in – a tailored version of your resume that speaks directly to the job you seek, the unique needs of the company you seek it with, and delivered in the preferred method of the hiring manager you must persuade. Add to the equation the optimum format that highlights your uniquely winning skills and experience, and the sheer number of possible combinations is mind-numbing.

Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that you seek one single type of work, with one single company who has a single hiring manager culling through the applicants. So you write your resume and cover letter. Now you need to decide if you should develop multiple versions of your resume.

Let me back up for a minute here and explain.

Most of the major employers – among these, more than 90 percent – take the resumes they receive and place them into searchable databases. They do this because a) people give them their information voluntarily and b) when put into a database, they create a virtual pool of potential employees at their fingertips. So in a month, or two months, when they have a new job opening, they can search for themselves among the resumes they’ve already collected, and possibly save themselves some time and advertising money.

An equal percentage of employers will only receive resumes via email – each with their own file format preference and/or capabilities. A prepared job-searcher will have at the ready:

  • A printer-friendly formatted resume that can be delivered as an email attachment
  • A text-based, minimally-formatted resume that can be cut/paste into the body of an email or online job board submission form

Some employers prefer text-based versions versus attachments because they are concerned about program compatibility or the possibility of virus. Others prefer the reader-friendly attachment but have requirements about formatting or delivery. And now, we’ve arrived back to my earlier point about deciding how many resume versions to create.

You may have just found the job posting of your dreams, meet all the requirements and qualifications and can’t wait to throw your proverbial hat in the ring. But before you go firing off any email application, read the instructions carefully. Very often, the employer will tell you exactly what kind of file to send, or will specify how to copy/paste your resume into their online form. Follow those instructions, because sending the wrong kind of document is a sure-fire way to eliminate yourself from being considered for the job. I repeat: Always, always, always read and follow application instructions and know what type of resume format is preferred or required.

Some of the most commonly preferred formats are:

  • Text (ASCII) resume — facilitates easy grab & drop into databases because it removes all formatting (i.e. bullet points, text treatments, lines)
  • Portable Document Format (PDF) resume — very commonly used attachment format because of its consistency and compatibility
  • Web-based resume — uses hypertext markup language (HTML)

The job-search landscape may have changed a bit, but one thing is steadfast: the candidate who is prepared, who reads and follows application instructions will have a better shot at the prize than the one who doesn’t. If you read the posting, tailor your (awesome) resume and follow the application instructions, your chances for success are greater.

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