Resumes have never been more important in the job search than they are today. They remain the primary screening tool employers use when recruiting job applicants, but humans aren't the only ones doing the scanning - computers are too. Many employers are utilizing computerized systems to scan, store, and evaluate the increasing number of resumes in circulation.

The types of organizations using these systems continue to increase - not just the Fortune 1000 companies but also federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as smaller organizations that use outsourcing services to scan their resumes.

If you are to compete effectively in the job search, it is crucial that you check with any organization you are interested in to determine whether you need to prepare a scannable resume.

The most effective scannable resumes clearly detail how your qualifications meet job requirements. When organizations utilizing scanning systems have a job opening, they set the computer to search for keywords that make up the job requirements.

The computer searches the database of resumes and identifies the strongest matches for the job specifications. The more keywords in your resume, the more likely your resume will make the preferred candidate list.

Keywords are technical, industry, and skill terms that indicate your skills, abilities, experience, education, professional licenses, certifications, and affiliations. They are common words in your occupation or industry, often referred to as jargon.

Your resume should include as many keywords as possible but avoid redundant use of the same keywords - it doesn't help in the selection process.

You should be creative in using synonyms and statements - for example, "Fluent in foreign languages" in one section and "Fluent in Italian and Spanish, conversant in French" in another section. Or, "three years of experience with spreadsheets" in one section and "proficient with Excel" in another.

When conducting your job search it is essential that you identify and follow all application requirements. You can locate these requirements by calling the human resources departments at organizations of interest or checking their websites.

Classified job advertisements in newspapers or journals detail what types of resumes to send and often include application instructions.


  • Prepare a well-written and descriptive conventional (paper) resume that clearly states the scope, depth, and breadth of your work experience and indicates what you accomplished and contributed.

  • Save the resume as a new document, remove all special effects, and convert to a standard typeface.

  • Identify desirable qualifications and requirements for the positions of interest by locating a job announcement, job description, or classified advertisements for similar positions.

  • You can use your network of contacts to add potential key words to your list.

  • Next, review all aspects of your experience, education, and background to add details that match the job requirements.

  • Course work and training can sometimes substitute for practical experience.

  • State "knowledge of" for areas with limited experience or skill.

  • Review your past work history carefully, as you may have acquired experience several years ago that you removed from your conventional resume due to space restrictions that now has relevance and should be included.
Scannable resumes are often longer than conventional resumes, but, again, check the application requirements because some companies allow five pages while others would like you to keep it to two. Resumes that scan best are original or high-quality copies on white paper.

For best results, don't staple; use a paper clip and mail your resume in a 9x12 inch envelope so it arrives unfolded.

If your resume is to survive the scanner, you will need to continue to save it as a new document for each job opportunity and re-target the resume to meet the new job requirements. Scannable resumes that attract the computer's attention must be customized for each position. In this job market, one size does not fit all.

SOURCE: Adapted from Robbie Miller Kaplan, Sure-Hire Resumes and Resume Shortcuts (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications). All rights reserved.