Creating An Online Resume

Learn how to convert your online resume to ASCII format to take advantage of today's Internet job search strategies.

Once upon a time, job seekers circled job leads in the Sunday newspaper and then mailed their perfectly designed resumes to the appropriate hiring managers. Today some job seekers still use that plan, and they even land promising interviews that way. But the Internet and email have significantly changed the job hunt process for both job hunters and employers. So if it's been a few years since you last looked for a job, keep reading to learn how technology can help (or hinder) the chances of your resume doing its job of getting you an interview.

Many employers expect, and even prefer, to receive resumes via email. This is certainly easy, right? No expensive resume paper, virtually instantaneous delivery, and no postage costs either! But it may not be that simple. Have you ever opened an email message and found it to be littered with odd symbols or annoying line breaks? Differences in web browsers, monitors, personal settings, and email programs can alter the appearance of documents from one's outbox to another's inbox. Your resume""-the key to a job interview""-is far too important a document to fall victim to this techno-confusion.

Furthermore, at very large companies, resumes may not even be read by people, but rather by optical character recognition (OCR) scanners. And if you've done any job searching online, you've probably seen those resume databanks where you can post your resume and recruiters from anywhere can access it. In these cases, recruiters perform keyword searches to find possible candidates for specific openings. For example, a recruiter looking to fill a sales position might search using the terms sales, niche marketing, new business development, cold calling, and lead generation. The computer searches its database and pulls up the resumes that most closely match the recruiter's requirements. Obviously, you want your resume to be "read" well by the scanners so that it turns up on those keyword searches. These scanners are thrown off by traditional formatting techniques such as italics, underlining, bullets, and columns. So you need to strip your resume of the fancy stuff and bring it to its bare basics.

Review the Basics

First, be sure your resume content is worth sending in the first place. Some of the old rules still apply: put the most relevant information first; list accomplishments wherever possible as opposed to duties or responsibilities; omit personal information such as age and marital status; and be sure to correct all spelling and grammar errors.


For resumes that will be read by scanners or submitted to online databanks, you may want to add a "Keyword" section. This is where you list all of the skills, job titles and tasks, software programs, and other terms that describe your qualifications. List them as nouns in straight paragraph form separated by commas. If you're changing careers, read relevant job descriptions or help wanted advertisements to discern what keywords a recruiter in the field might be searching for.

Convert to ASCII

ASCII (pronounced ask-ee) stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Nearly all computers worldwide understand this form of data. If you send your resume in ASCII, it will be read in ASCII. So, when potential employers receive your resume via email, for example, they won't need to navigate through confusing symbols and jumbled lines to see the brilliance that is you on their computer screens. The scanners like it too because all the elements that they find distracting (boldface, tabs, unusual fonts, etc.) are eliminated.

Converting your current Word resume into an ASCII format is simple. Start by opening your current resume. Then click on "file" then "save as" and give your resume another file name (for example, resumeplain). On the "save as type" menu, choose plain text. Then click on "save." You will likely be warned that some of your formatting will be lost if you save. This is what you're aiming for, so click yes to proceed.

Next, open your new document. It will open in a text editor, such as Notepad. The first thing you'll notice is how plain and, yes, ugly it appears. Remember that by converting to ASCII, you took away all of the formatting enhancements that make your traditional resume so appealing. Now you need to do a little post-conversion cleanup:

* Be sure your name and contact information is at the top and are easy to read.

* Change bullets to asterisks (the symbol above the number 8).

* Look for and eliminate any unusual symbols, such as question marks or squares.

* Use capital letters to highlight section headings (EDUCATION, WORK HISTORY, etc.).

* Leave a blank line between sections.

* If your original resume was longer than one page, eliminate any references to "page 2" or "continued" as well as the repeated contact information.

* Proofread your new document thoroughly for anything that appears odd and, of course, for spelling and grammar.

Save your changes and then give your new resume a dry run by emailing it to yourself and to a friend to see how it appears. Be sure your email program is set to send in plain text, not HTML.

This new document is the one you will send to employers when they ask for an ASCII or a plain text resume. Don't send it as an attachment; many people fear computer viruses and won't open them. Instead, simply copy and paste into the body of an email after a short introduction. You would also use your new ASCII resume for the online resume databanks and on employers' own Web sites if the option is provided.

In spite of all of this technology, your traditional resume still has a valuable place in today's job search. The design and formatting enhancements certainly make it the right choice for those employers who request snail mail resumes; they're more appropriate for giving to friends, family, and acquaintances as you network for job leads; and you'll want to bring a few copies with you to give to potential employers when you meet them at interviews.

Yes, creating another version of your resume is more work. But in a job search, you want to make the most of every opportunity to be noticed by the people who are hiring. And the reward you reap from sowing this extra effort just may be a new job.

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