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Quick resume tip: Negotiating resume scanning software

Do you know that something as simple as how you put your name on your resume can reject it from resume scanning software?

One of the biggest mistakes that job candidates make is assuming that just because they send a resume to a prospective employer, it will be read. Many people don't consider that, in many cases, that resume will be sent through some kind of resume scanning software. If the software doesn't "find" what it's looking for, your resume may not get passed to the hiring manager. In the coming weeks, we'll offer tips on how to get your resume through the resume scanner.

Tim Heard, the owner of eSearch Associates, a full-service search and consulting firm specializing in technology staffing, pointed out a detail that many people don't concern themselves with when creating an online resume: Your name.

Here are some of the common pitfalls that can keep a resume scanner from even getting your name off your resume.

Text boxes

Tim says, "Many resume databases don't have a mechanism for incorporating the contents of text boxes into the data that they grab." So even if your name is front and center on your resume like it should be, if it's in a text box it might be missed. He remembered one situation in which he received a resume from a very qualified job candidate but the resume scanner pulled her name as "Profile."

Headers

Tim says, "Placing your name in a header seems like a good way of saving space. However, some systems don't read headers when looking for contact information either." Also, since resumes often get reviewed without being printed out, and the reviewers have their word processor set so that the headers and footers don't show up, then you're out of luck.

Alphabet soup

You need to list your credentials (e.g., PhD, PMP, CCNA, etc.) somewhere in your resume, but placing those letters right by your name in the resume can screw up its identification.

Spacing

Some people add a space between letters of their name to space it out for graphical purposes, like this:

J o h n D o e

Tim warns, however, that this practice makes it impossible for most software applications to accurately parse out your name.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

24 comments
Jalapeno Bob
Jalapeno Bob

Does the scanning software presume that work experience will be listed in chronological form? Or doesn't it see that at all? The advice for people with service breaks used to be to use a functional resume. instead of a chronological. Is this form now a dead concept? If so, someone should tell the unemployment office job counselors...

Englebert
Englebert

If computers are scanning Resume's, then what's the point of listing all your spectacular achievements ? All of that text is being ignored. The future Resume will be a form with acronyms, buzzwords, dates and stats.

irozenberg
irozenberg

Toni, I am glad you opened this discussion after my hint.

Anjana Jain
Anjana Jain

Do you think text put in a table gets scanned by the software. I have seen resumes which use table cols to briefly describe their many years of experience.

Sforte
Sforte

This comes in very handy as I am just in the process of editing a couple myself. I am curiois though, as to where best to place personal information like age, sex etc and if they are at all necessary?

Dave0422
Dave0422

I don't know... seems to me if companies spend money (and probably quite a bit) to purchase a program that reads resumes... and that program can't read the resumes? The problem is with the software, not the resumes. I just have a problem with people having to conform to computers, instead of the other way around. Who the wants to read a resume in courier font written in notepad??

edh1215
edh1215

Even though I am in IT and love technology it is practices like using resume scanning software that make our world a cold place. People don't even have the desire to read your resume anymore. It's a sad thing. Good article though. It does help to know these things.

paguj
paguj

This article is really helpful. I would love to get mroe information on this article. so I can master to play with the software.

gksmith2002
gksmith2002

I was at a resume seminar and found out a lot about posting resumes on job boards. Did you know that if you have your name in a font other then Arial or Times New Roman or a font bigger then 12 pt. your name will be cut in half? Did you know that if you have a fancy border around the edge of your resume and post it on many job boards, it changes your contact information to a space and dash ( -)? Good luck getting found on that. Did you know that while a PDF file is great, it is about the worst thing you can use when posting a resume online? We have all seen job boards where you copy and past your resume from Word into a job board and then all of the formatting is messed up and the font is changed to Currier. Simple solution ? Make 3 versions of your resume. One in Notepad with no formatting. One in Word for posting on job boards with a font no larger then 12 point and either Times New Roman or Arial. One for printing can be with a border, PDF, largest font you dare use, images like your MCSE certifications, et al. This way the software and (maybe) people who are scanning your resume can actually scan your resume accurately. If you post with a resume, you can always follow up with the hiring manager with the pretty resume.

aroc
aroc

In the US at least, the functional format is still necessary for us old geezers to make it harder for them to figure out our exact age so we get half a chance to be considered, and so the employer can avoid being charged with that (even if they do apply it unofficially once they figure it out indirectly, or upon seeing your gray hair/wrinkles/liver spots/etc in the interview). Anyway, how would you know what date formats would be recognized and/or processed correctly?

gksmith2002
gksmith2002

I would not create a table in the resume you are submitting online. Read my "Keep it Simple Stupid" posting. It is better to make it simpler then harder. The tables are for your printable resume that you take to an interview or email directly to a hiring manager. I only use tabs in my posting resume. My printable resume and coverletter have tabs and bullet points. Get as fancy as you dare on a printable resume because you are handing that resume to a person to read.

ariv_Tech
ariv_Tech

Some sample, scanner failed resumes would made this the article more interesting

Tim Heard
Tim Heard

Nowhere. Don't put info like that on your resume. Employers don't want that information up front. They may ask you at some point after you have been identified as a qualified candidate to provide it because they may want to track it for government reporting purposes, but they really would prefer to have applicant screening processes that are "blind" to characteristics like age and gender.

djpierce0880
djpierce0880

It's probably like a lot of other software these days - it's developed offshore. Managers have no idea whether it works right or not - they don't bother to test it and they don't know what's being overlooked. They just buy the cheapest and/or flashiest package they can find.

love2000mak
love2000mak

I don't think putting your name in the header is a weird thing to do! You are using the MS Word features as it should be used...if the Scanning software fails to understand this...then it's a very stupid software...and I wounder who would purchase such a software in the first place... :-\

elangomatt
elangomatt

It seems to me that the software would have the most issues when people do weird things with their resumes. Why would anyone put their name in a header? What use is there putting s p a c e s in their name? Seems to me that the software would work ok if people just didn't do weird things with their resume.

tr
tr

if you want the job, do what you need to do.

edh1215
edh1215

Since most people I speak with send out their resumes in PDF format, you would think that the software companies use could utilize PDF... Another problem I have with notepad-base resumes is security. I upload my resume to many sites and have it available for download on my site. Why would I offer a text-based resume that someone could easily modify and post somewhere? At least with Word I can password protect changes and PDFs can't be modified.

gksmith2002
gksmith2002

When an employer posts a job on Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder or any job board, they receive 500 resumes in 3-5 hours. The only way to find the 10 people they want to interview out of that mass in a timely manner is to use scanning software. If they have a person (more likely several) scan these, they are looking at about 3 + weeks before they can even start calling the people they want to interview. Companies are looking to be through with the whole process by that time. How many of us job seekers are that patient? On several occasions I put in a resume and hear from the company several weeks later (one instance it was 3 MONTHS). By then I thought they had passed me over. With numbers like that you also have to be careful calling the company. Not only do they have to staff an army of people to scan the resumes, they have to staff an army of people to answer the 500 phone calls of "did you get my resume?"

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

I appreciate the advice. I have a really nice resume, but because the structure is complicated, I never post it on anything online. That is a copy that I would bring to the interview.

Gamdoor
Gamdoor

What is essential is getting your resume read. Do what is the best. No fancy stuff.

aroc
aroc

Use your PDF (I for one, hate it, and PDF's can be changed if not secured) format for "public" viewing, but have a "Notepad" format for sending to specific employers (supposedly, those would be the ones to be scanned). Just a thought...

gksmith2002
gksmith2002

When you are looking for a job, you can never be over exposed. It is actually a good idea to post your resume on all the job boards you can and update every week. Companies use different job boards so by not posting your resume online you are limiting your search. Again, have a resume for posting online and if possible, follow up with your pretty resume AND coverletter with the hiring manager after you apply for the job.