Many job search sites, as well as larger corporations with their own career pages, are utilizing applicant tracking system (ATS) software. These systems are designed to allow keyword searching and automatic filtering of resumes based on skills, former employers, experience, and education. You are generally responsible for uploading your resume directly into these systems with a user-friendly front end on a website. However, making sure your resume format is acceptable before submission will save both you and recruiters a lot of frustration.
Thankfully, sites like Ladders provide free resume templates in a variety of formats that most of these sites readily accept, such as Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. Ladders also has a slew of career advice resources to help you optimize your resume format to make it through these technological hurdles and onto the interview process.
For the best electronic resume format, consider these resume writing tips:
- Don’t use an image format or include images
Most ATS software will not accept image files up front, so if your resume ended up in an image format like TIFF or JPEG, convert it to something else. The reason being that image files don’t contain embedded text the way other formats do, so the software cannot perform keyword searching, the whole point of using these systems. Even if you are using MS Word or PDF, for example, try not to include images such as logos or headshots. The images may be stripped out automatically anyway, or the file may be too large to upload.
- Make sure your browser is up to date
Before even attempting to submit your resume, update your browser. It doesn’t matter if you are using a Mac or PC, or using Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. You just want to make sure your browser is fully up-to-date, including “add-ons” like Java or Flash that some sites use to run certain applets. The site’s upload function may not work properly, or if it still allows you to upload, it may not display the text properly after uploading.
- Don’t encrypt your files
Cyber security and identity theft are huge concerns these days, and rightfully so. It may be tempting to try to upload your resume within an encrypted zip file or password-protected document to protect your personal information. Unfortunately, these resumes are processed by machines, so even providing the code within an included cover letter or sending a follow-up email will be of no use. Your resume will just be rejected as inaccessible.
- A bad format isn’t the end of the world, but don’t push your luck
If you accidentally uploaded a less popular version of your resume, the actual text may be available within the system, but it creates more work for a professional on the other side to get it back out (essentially copying and pasting into the right format). A reviewer likely won’t find your resume worth the trouble to massage. Do your due diligence up front, find out what the preferred formats are, and take a few minutes to save your resume into an acceptable file format before uploading.