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Electronic Resumes
by Pat Criscito, CPS, CPRW

In order to manage your career today, you need a wide variety of tools and one of those tools is your resume. Just a few short years ago, that meant a simple paper document that listed your work experience, accomplishments, education, and a few other details. Today, it means a paper resume plus an electronic version that can be left in cyberspace to work for you twenty-four hours a day.

So, just what is an electronic resume? There are actually three kinds. The first is a paper resume that becomes an electronic version against your will when it is scanned into a computer. Second is a generic computer file that you create especially to send through cyberspace without ever printing it onto paper--an e-mailable version. And, third, is a multimedia resume that is given a home at a fixed location on the Internet for anyone to visit at will. Let's look at each kind in turn.

The Scannable Resume

Here's the scenario. You innocently create a handsome paper resume and mail it to a potential employer. Unbeknownst to you, the company has implemented a computerized system for scanning resumes as they arrive in the HR department. Instead of a human reading your resume and deciding how to forward it along or file it, a clerk sets your resume on the glass of a scanner bed and the black dots of ink are turned into words that are then stored in a computerized resume database. The paper is either filed or thrown away.

Also falling into this class is your paper resume when it is faxed to a potential employer. Instead of receiving a printout of your resume, a potential employer allows your fax to sit in a computer's queue until a clerk can verify and summarize the information into the same computerized database where the scanned paper resumes have been stored.

According to U.S. News & World Report, more than 1,000 unsolicited resumes arrive every week at most Fortune 500 companies, and before the days of applicant tracking systems and resume scanning, 80 percent were thrown out after a quick review. It was simply impossible to keep track of that much paper. Recent sources indicate that nearly half of all mid-sized companies and almost all Fortune 1000 companies are scanning resumes and using computerized applicant tracking systems. Smaller companies turn to service bureaus and recruiters to find potential employees for them, and these same service bureaus and recruiters scan resumes.

The E-mailable Resume

When you type words onto a computer screen in a word processing program, you are creating what is called a "file" or "document". When you save that file, it is saved with special formatting codes like fonts, margins, tab settings, etc., even if you didn't add these codes. Each word processing program (WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, etc.) saves its files in its own native format, making the file readable by anyone else with the same software or with some other software that can convert that file to its own native format.

Only by choosing to save the document as a generic ASCII text file can your document be read by anyone, regardless of the word processing software used. This is the type of file you must create in order to send your resume via e-mail. An ASCII text file is simply words--no pictures, no fonts, no graphics--just plain words. If you print this text, it looks very boring, but all the words are there that describe your life history, just like in the handsome paper resume you created to mail to a potential employer. This computer file can be sent to a potential employer in one of two ways.

First, you can send the file directly to a company's recruiters via an e-mail address. Always choose to e-mail your resume when an ad publishes an e-mail address. When you e-mail your resume directly to a company, you have total control over whether or not your information is correct. You are not at the whim of a scanner's ability to read your font or formatting. This is also the fastest way to get your resume into the hands of a hiring manager. Several times I have e-mailed resumes for my clients and received personalized replies within an hour!

Second, you can use this file to post your resume onto the Internet (to the home page of a company, to a job bank in answer to an online job posting, or to a newsgroup), an online service (like CompuServe or America Online), or a bulletin board service.

In any case, the file ends up in the same type of computerized database where the scanned paper resumes have been stored. Your resume will be accessible every time the hiring manager searches the resume database using keywords, so it will never again be relegated to languishing in a dusty filing cabinet.

Try posting this kind of resume onto the Internet at the "Big Ten" sites. Although there are literally thousands of resumes databases and job banks on the Internet, the following sites have either been around for a while or are so large that they are worth checking out first. They tend to have more jobs listed, represent more companies, and have larger resume databases, which attract even more companies.

The Multimedia Resume for Your Home Page

If you are a computer programmer, home page developer, graphics designer, artist, sculptor, singer, dancer, actor, model, animator, cartoonist, or anyone who would benefit by the photographs, graphics, animation, sound, color, or movement inherent in a multimedia resume, then this resume is for you. For most people, however, a multimedia resume and home page on the Internet can be an expensive luxury. In today's harried world, recruiters and hiring managers have so little time to read resumes that they are turning to scanned resumes and applicant tracking systems to lighten their load. They don't have the time to search for and then spend 15 minutes clicking their way through a multimedia presentation of someone's qualifications, either online at your home page or on a disk you might mail to them, so I wouldn't recommend spending much money having a home page developed or paying for server space to keep it online. However . . . if it's free, it never hurts to add this tool to your job search.

Most Internet service providers and commercial online services provide some space on their computers for subscriber home pages at no extra charge. American Online and CompuServe even offer free software that makes creating your home page easy. For instance, CompuServe allows each subscriber ten megabytes of space to establish a personal home page and Home Page Wizard to design it.

The Paper Resume Is Not Dead!

This brave new world of computers and the Internet will coexist with the more traditional job hunting techniques of paper resumes and human networking contacts forever. Therefore, you should think about having two resumes, one for human eyes (a good looking paper resume) and one for computer eyes (an electronic resume). Regardless of whether you are creating a scannable paper resume for large companies, an e-mailable resume for electronic submissions, or a home page resume, however, remember that your ultimate goal is to get a human being to read your resume, so don't neglect the quality of your writing . . . but that's a whole new story.

Copyright 1997 - Pat Criscito is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with 25 years of experience and resume clients in more than 42 different countries. She is president of ProType, Ltd., in Colorado Springs and the author of Barron's "Designing the Perfect Resume" (ISBN 0-8120-9329-1) and "Resumes in Cyberspace"
(ISBN 0-8120-9919-2).
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