These days, it is expected that you'll be asked to submit your resume electronically.  Often you can send it as an attachment to your e-mail (such as a Word attachment) but sometimes you'll see that employers want you to submit resumes using ASCII text only. If you don't know what this means, or have no idea how to send an electronic resume, then this section is for you!

ASCII text is plain text.  ASCII text contains no formatting (eg. no bold, no bullets, no underlining). ASCII text allows employers to read the resume you send them via the internet, no matter what computer, e-mail program or word processing package they have.  Some employers also prefer that resumes by sent by e-mail as they scan them electronically and do searches using keywords.  Others prefer ASCII plain text as they don't want viruses that are sent along with attachments.   And be honest... when was the last time you updated the anti-virus software on your computer!  Attachments can also sometimes get messed up when the receiving computer tries to decode the information in a different way than your system coded it.  In other words, there are many reasons to learn how to create effective formatted ASCII resumes.

To create an ASCII resume, simply type or retrieve your resume with your regular word-processor and then save it as a text-only document (this option is usually located under your "save as" command). Alternately, use a simple text editor (such as Notepad) to write your resume. After saving your work, check the extension at the end of your document - it should be ".txt" - make sure it is, as this ensures that the recipient will be able to read it.  While your resume may look dull in comparison to the layout you worked so hard to achieve with your word processor, rest assured that with ASCII text, at least the employer will be able to read it; the last thing you want to do is send in an unreadable resume!  Tip: e-mail a copy to yourself to see what it may look like when it is received by an employer.

Tips for ASCII and scannable resumes:

  • do not try to use bold, italics, underlining, or special fonts as these do not appear in ASCII text (try using capital letters for emphasis instead); keep things simple
  • do not use tabs (use the spacebar if necessary)
  • don't use bullets (you can use asterisks or dashes if you want)
  • left justification is standard; use hard carriage returns to insert line breaks and make sure lines are no longer than 65 characters in length
  • use nouns instead of action verbs to describe your skills and experience
  • consider putting a skills/keyword summary section near the beginning
  • proofread to make sure everything looks right after saving it to ASCII text

In other words, keep it simple!  If you know that the company you are applying to scans resumes (you normally don't!), you may also want to include a keyword summary in your resume to make sure your skills are noticed.  When you are ready to send your ASCII resume, simply cut and paste the text into the body of your e-mail message.  If you are permitted to e-mail your resume as an attachment, make sure you know what format is allowed - e.g. Word 97 (some organizations don't want to receive attachments due to the space they take on their hard drive and concerns about viruses).  If in doubt, call the company and ask, or just send it as ASCII text in the body of your message to ensure it is readable.  And always do a test first; send your electronic resume to yourself or to a friend with a different e-mail software package so you can see what it may look like at the receiving end.  And don't forget to include a cover letter in the same message.

You will likely want to save your ASCII resume after perfecting it so that you can cut and paste it to other advertised positions without the hassle of doing it all over again. And in case you don't know, ASCII is pronounced "askee".

If you are sending attachments, consider putting only your resume in an attachment and putting your cover letter in the body/text of the e-mail message.  Whatever you do, don't leave the body of the e-mail blank.  Otherwise the end result will be something like sending a photocopied resume; it will look like you though extra effort wasn't worth it (you don't really want a job with them; you just want any job).  Also be sure to type in a meaningful subject line for the message; again, don't leave it blank.

You can also put your resume up on the web by creating your own web site.  This will allow you to express your creativity but keep it professional ... if you are not familiar with creating web sites, you may end up making yourself look bad instead of good!  If you are concerned about privacy, consider providing an e-mail address only instead of your mailing address and phone number.

Many employers, especially large ones, now prefer all applications are submitted online using web forms on their corporate web site.  The reason for this is that all information submitted gets stored into their database for easy retrieval later, automated e-mail replies, etc.  Much of the information you will enter can be copied and pasted from your regular word-processed resume but do read the forms carefully and be sure to provide the information they ask for.

For more information about creating electronic resumes, see the following resources:

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