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A Beginner's Guide to Cyber Resumes
by Pat Kendall, NCRW


The Internet - whether we like it not - is changing our world. The writing is on the wall: Within the next five to ten years, the paper resume as we know it will be phased out in favor of the electronic version. We can either fight the trend or ride the wave. Obviously, we can't fight it, so why not ride the wave? There's a lot to learn about Internet job searching, but here's a brief overview:



An e-mail resume is basically a plain text (ASCII) version of your resume without the formatting enhancements. (Just like this document!) Bluntly put, it's ugly! Appearance doesn't count, though, as the primary beauty of e-mail is its "compatibility" with other systems. An e-mail resume can be transferred through cyberspace to thousands of employers - and they can read it no matter what kind of system they have. Instructions on how to create e-mail resumes are provided below. 

Once completed, your e-mail resume can be placed in dozens of general or industry-specific resume databases for employers and recruiters to search. I've provided a book list (below) that contains a complete list of resources, including comparisons of job banks and resume databases. I would strongly recommend that you purchase at least one of them, as they'll save you HOURS of time and frustration. 


Keywords are basically "buzz words." If you're in sales, for instance, the keyword list might include: cold calling, account development, consumer products, territory development, customer service, product training, strategic marketing, computer literate. In a nutshell, keywords include the technical expertise, transferable skills and industry-specific knowledge employers are looking for. If your resume includes a qualifications summary or professional profile, it may already contain the appropriate keywords. If, however, you have a chronological format, consider adding a keyword summary to optimize your results. 

Basically, what you're doing is designing your resume so that a computerized scanning system can read it. Unfortunately, computers do not read resumes like people do! For example, if the computer has been instructed to look for "cold calling" it will not read between the lines and assume that a candidate has cold calling experience because he worked in sales for 15 years! We need to present qualifications as if the reader is simply comparing the words on the resume to a list of desired qualifications. 

Joyce Lain Kennedy's ELECTRONIC RESUME REVOLUTION provides detailed information on keyword strategy, a list of the most commonly requested keyword traits and keywords for specific professions. 


Instead of circling ads in the Sunday paper, you turn on your computer, log in to your Internet account, find the job bank of choice, type in the appropriate keywords - and within seconds, your computer screen contains a list of job leads. With another couple of keystrokes, your resume will be in the hands of your potential employers! No paper, no stamps, no delays! While Internet job searching is not for everybody, it's certainly a viable option for those who already own a computer - and is almost a necessity for job seekers in the high tech fields. Please refer to book list below for a complete list of resources. 


Technology is also changing the face of traditional resumes. Many of the larger employers are using resume scanning systems to read traditional resumes. In a study conducted by Peat Marwick, approximately one-half of all medium and large companies use scanning software to pluck data from resumes and store it in applicant tracking systems where it can be sorted, categorized and retrieved at will. If the trend continues, 80% or more of all medium and large-sized companies will use these systems by the end of the century. 

Follow these guidelines to transform your existing resume into a scannable format:

  • Change the font to Helvetica or Arial (10 point minimum, 14 point maximum)

  • Eliminate all underlining, bolding, italics and graphics

  • Avoid the use of ampersands (&) and percentage signs (%)

  • Submit an unfolded, unstapled, standard-size copy

  • Print the resume on white (or very light) paper

Some systems can digest vertical and horizontal lines, but don't count on it! Multiple columns, newspaper-style layouts, landscape printing and designer fonts are all on the no-no list. Unfortunately, scanning systems have different capabilities, so it's difficult to make recommendations that will apply to all of them. Some can read almost anything and others are baffled by bold text. So, unless you know the specific limitations of the system, keep the typography simple. 

Also - avoid faxing the resume to recruiters and employers who use scanning systems, as faxing substantially degrades the text and reduces the number of keywords that can be read. (I recently dealt with a major Portland-area employer who specifically requested a faxed resume - but then complained that it was unscannable because it was faxed!) So if you have to fax it, also mail a second hard copy.

Last but not least, always place your name as the first item at the top of the page, as the scanner assumes that whatever is at the top is the applicant's name.


First, make a copy of your existing "hard copy" resume. Give the new resume a different name, then go ahead and make any needed changes (such as adding your e-mail address or incorporating keywords, as described above). Next, remove all of the formatting - in other words, eliminate italics, bolding, indents and justified/centered text, so that it is left-justified. If you have bullets, you'll need to change them to dashes or asterisks (*). Next, use the SAVE AS function in your word processor to save it as an ASCII text file. Before e-mailing this new document, it's a good idea to check it out first. You can do this by using the directions below and sending a copy of it to yourself. Print it out and see what it actually looks like. In most cases, you'll need to do a bit of "clean-up" work before you send it to an employer.


In my Windows-based AOL program, this is how it's done:

1.) Go to "FILE" at the top left in AOL, press "OPEN"
go to the directory where you stored the document and
click-on/open the file). A copy of the document will
appear on the screen.

2.) Copy the resume to your clipboard: Skim over the entire
resume with your cursor, press SHIFT + DELETE, then press
SHIFT + INSERT to put the original back. You now have a
copy on your clipboard. 

3.) Open "Compose Mail" and press SHIFT + INSERT to insert
the document into the mail screen. 

4.) Type in the appropriate address and press the SEND button.

I know this sounds cumbersome, but once you get the hang of it, it will only take about 30 seconds to complete.


The following books provide complete information about online job searching, comparisons of different resume banks, Internet classifieds, online recruiters, etc.

  • Electronic Resumes - Gonyea & Gonyea 

  • Netjobs - Michael Wolff & Co.

  • Hook Up, Get Hired! - Joyce Lain Kennedy

  • Electronic Resumes for the New Job Market - Peter Weddle

  • The On-Line Job Search Companion - James Gonyea

  • Be Your Own Headhunter Online - Pam Dixon & Sylvia Tiersten

  • Electronic Rsum Revolution - Joyce Lain Kennedy & Thomas Morrow

Good Luck!

Copyright 1998 by Pat Kendall, a Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) with over 17 years of experience in resume writing and job search consulting. Pat owns and operates Advanced Resume Concepts, a resume service based in Aloha, Oregon. For information about services, prices and consultation fees, please contact: 

Pat Kendall, NCRW
Advanced Resume Concepts
Ph: 503-591-9143
Fax: 503-642-2535

Copyright 1998, Pat Kendall, NCRW

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