Tips for Creating a Scannable Résumé

by Kim Isaacs, M.A., C.P.R.W., N.C.R.W.

A résumé can be attractive and still be scannable. Since companies use different scanning hardware and software, it is impossible to know for sure how to format a résumé. The best way to ensure that the document is formatted properly is to call the company’s HR department and find out if they have specific guidelines. If you don’t have this information, there are steps you can take to optimize scannability:

* One of the most important factors is whether or not letters touch each other. Scanning systems have difficulty interpreting characters that are melded into one, so make sure that no characters touch each other. Italics and bold are both fine, as long as the letters do not touch.

* Choose a common, non-decorative sans serif font (such as Arial or Optima) and keep the font size between 10 and 14 points.

* Underlining and horizontal/vertical lines are okay, as long as the lines do not touch any of the letters.

* Avoid columns (the OCR reads the text from left to right).

* Do not use round, hollow bullets (they may be interpreted as the letter o). Instead, choose round, solid bullets.

* Do not use ampersands, percent signs or foreign characters (they may not translate properly).

* Add a space in between slashes so that the slash doesn’t touch the letters (e.g., IT / IS).

* Use light-colored paper (white is best) and avoid paper that contains dark speckles.

* Do not staple your résumé.

* Mail your résumé in a flat envelope. If you fold your résumé and the crease lands on a line of text, the laser toner may flake off and render the entire line unreadable.

* Make sure you have keywords throughout your résumé, so that you will be found in a database search.

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