Not all resumes are initially read by human beings. Indeed, many large companies and many government offices automatically use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to scan all resumes they receive. These programs enable human resources departments to quickly store hundreds, indeed thousands, of resumes in databases, as well as sort and retrieve them by keywords.

If you know your resume is likely to be scanned (call the prospective employer to ask about the firm's intake, retrieval, and screening/review processes), be sure your resume conforms to these 15 basic rules for writing and producing a scannable resume:
  1. Print your resume on standard 81/2" x 11" paper.

  2. Produce the resume on 20 lb. white paper with black ink.

  3. Use a laser printer that produces crisp and clear print.

  4. Put your name at the top of each page.

  5. Include a standard address format, on a separate line, under your name at the top of the first page.

  6. Use a simple design - no photos or graphic elements such as boxes, reverses, or shading.

  7. Avoid columns, vertical or horizontal lines, and abbreviations, other than common ones such as BA, MA, or PhD.

  8. Select a standard type style, such as Times New Roman or Courier, with sufficient space between letters; make sure the letters do not touch, which sometimes happens with tight proportional fonts.

  9. Keep the point size between 10 and 12 points.

  10. Avoid using common emphasizing techniques such as underlining and italics.

  11. Include numerous keywords - rich nouns rather than verbs - that emphasize your major skills and accomplishments.

  12. Left-justify only.

  13. Maintain at least a 3/4" margin around the resume.

  14. Do not fold or staple the resume.

  15. Double-check for any possible spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors.

SOURCE: Adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, The Savvy Resume Writer: The Behavioral Advantage (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications, 2000), pp. 106-108. All rights reserved.