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Preparing The Ideal Scannable Resume

A Scannable Resume:

  • Maximizes the computers' ability to "read" your resume
  • Maximizes your ability to get "hits" (a hit is when one of your skills matches the computer search)

Preparing a scannable resume is easy; like the traditional style resume, you focus on format and content.


To maximize the computer's ability to read your resume, provide the cleanest original and use a standard style resume.

The computer can extract skills from many styles of resumes such as chronological (list and describe up to 6 jobs in order by date), achievement (describe achievements rather than job titles), functional (organize by skills rather than job titles), and combinations of resume types.

The most difficult resume for the computer to read is a poor quality copy that has an unusual format such as a newsletter layout, adjusted spacing, large font sizes, graphics or lines, type that is too light, or paper that is too dark.

Tips for Maximizing Scannability

  • Use white or light-colored 8 1/2 x 11 paper, printed on one side only.
  • Provide a laser printed original if possible. A typewritten original or a high quality photocopy is OK. Avoid dot matrix printouts and low quality copies.
  • Do not fold or staple.
  • Use standard typefaces such as Helvetica, Futura, Optima, Universe, Times New Roman, Palatino, New Century Schoolbook, and Courier.
  • Use a font size of 10 to 14 points. (Avoid Times 10 point).
  • Don't condense spacing between letters.
  • Use boldface and/or all capital letters for section headings as long as the letters don't touch each other.
  • Avoid fancy treatments such as italics, underline, shadows, and reverse (white letters on black background).
  • Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes.
  • Avoid two-column format or resumes that looks like newspapers or newsletters.
  • Place your name at the top of the page on its own line. (Your name can also be the first text on pages two and three).
  • Use standard address format below your name.
  • List each phone number on it's own line.


The computer extracts information from your resume. You can use your current resume; however, once you understand what the computer searches for, you may decide to add a few key words to increase your opportunities for matching requirements or getting "hits".

Recruiters and managers access the resume database in many ways, search for your resume specifically or searching for applicants with specific experience. When searching for specific experience, they'll search for key words, usually nouns such as: writer, BA, marketing collateral, Society of Technical Communication, Spanish (language fluency), San Diego, etc. So, make sure you describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague descriptions. The computer system will extract the words and information from your sentences; you can write your resume as usual.

Tips for Maximizing "Hits"

  • Use enough key words to define your skills, experience, education, professional affiliations, etc.
  • Describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague descriptions. For example, it's better to use "managed a team of software engineers" rather than "responsible for managing, training..."
  • Be concise and truthful.
  • Use more than one page if necessary. The computer can easily handle multiple-page resumes, and it uses all of the information it extracts from your resume to determine if your skills match available positions. It allows you to provide more information than you would for a human reader.
  • Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry (spell out the acronyms for human readers).
  • Increase your list of key words by including specifics, for example, list the names of software you use such as Microsoft Word and Lotus 1-2-3.
  • Use common heading such as: Objective, Experience, Employment, Work History, Positions Held, Appointments, Skills, Summary, Summary of Qualifications, Accomplishments, Strengths, Education, Affiliations, Professional Affiliations, Publications, Papers, Licenses, Certifications, Examinations, Honors, Personal, Additional, Miscellaneous, References, etc.
  • If you have extra space, describe your interpersonal traits and attitude. Key words could include skill in time management, dependable, high energy, leadership, sense of responsibility, good memory.


  • Some people may want to have two versions of their resume:
    One for the computer to read - with a scannable format and detailed information. Send this one.
    One for people to read - possibly with a creative layout, enhanced typography, and summarized information. Carry this one to the interview.
  • When faxing, set the fax to "fine mode"; the recipient will get a better quality copy.

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