The Electronic Resume Revolution


Joyce Lain Kennedy and Thomas J. Morrow

The authors of this book indicate that there is a revolution that has occurred, is occurring and will continue to occur. This is the revolution in resume processing that has produced what has come to be known as the "electronic resume." This revolution dictates that each job seeker adjusts his or her thinking concerning what was previously learned about resumes. Some suggested changes are minor. Others are major and in conflict with what the job seeker may have previously learned.

When you submit your resume to a firm using electronic scanning, the odds are reduced that it will be reviewed in the form you submitted. The resume will be placed in a scanner which will search for key words as indicated in the job order request by the hiring or referral authority. Pertinent details will be retained in the computer for further job search by the company and the output may be a mirror image of the resume, an exact copy of the resume with format changes, or an extract summary of the resume in a standardized format used by the company. Your resume will be identified as having "potential" or a candidate for "file thirteen." Which category it falls in depends on how well the computer is able to read your resume and how many of the key-words specified in the job order are matched.

The key-words or "buzz-words" sought are often placed in the categories (1) "must have" (2) "desirables" and (3) "nice to have." Obviously, if your resume has none of the first category of words then it is clear that you will probably not go beyond the scanning process. Candidates will be ranked according to the frequency of matches made in each category. This suggests that it is imperative then that the job seeker become skilled in identifying the key words the employer is seeking and incorporate these in the resume. But where do you find this information?

There are several sources. Look at the job ads and get in the habit of identifying key and repetitive words that are found. Try and learn all that you can from executive recruiters who are knowledgeable in the demands of this technological change. If you can, tap into the software companies that write the search software to find out the job titles used and the key words that exist in the database. Don't limit your list to just a given profession; fine tune it with the key words that relate to the industry grouping that you are searching. Finally, look for key words concerning personality traits. It seems to this reviewer that personality traits may be assuming additional importance under the computer revolution.

Your inclusion of key words in the resume suggests perhaps some change in the way you have been taught to think about resumes. It is suggested that you focus on NOUNS as opposed to the power words to which you may have become accustomed (verb past tense) and that you get used to labeling yourself accordingly. The authors suggest that the placement of the key word summary in the resume is of less importance than conventional thought suggests since it only takes the computer moments to screen a resume. This scanning time also lessens the importance of a condensed resume of one page although the authors still suggest that two pages should be sufficient for all but the higher level executive positions.

Perhaps the most dramatic changes suggested are in format, style and the manner in which you transmit the resume. Use a neat format with ample white space. And although the following recommendations depend on the sophistication of the scanning software used, to be on the safe side with the current state of technology, avoid BOLD, ITALICS, UNDERLINING, and minimize the use of lines, borders and shadings. Of course, this will all change as the technology advances but for the time being play it safe. It is suggested that white paper is the best followed by pale colors. Use standard size only (8 1/2" by 11"). Don't fold the resume as scanners may be unable to read it. Where possible use an original copy only. Also, if you transmit by FAX, use the fine setting.

So what should you do to handle the advances in the resume review process? The additional work of compiling a list of key words as they affect you has already been suggested. Learn which companies are using the technology and, if possible, what kind. (A list of some of the companies using the technology comes with the book.) For the time being, control your artistic tendencies on the resume even though it may be visually appealing to you. Keep the format simple and straight forward and make sure the first item on the resume is your identification information with your name first. Watch the abbreviations -- make sure they are acceptable. Use a common font with between 10 and 14 CPI with sans serif recommended. Read the book in its entirety if you have the chance. Good luck in the job search. Endure the additional pain of the computer revolution and make it work for you.

Book review by Buz Dunbar