Plain Text Resumes

What are plain text resumes?

Resumes that are e- mailed or posted to Internet databases are designed for computer use. These resumes must be written using the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), also known as plain text. Plain text contains no special formatting codes, so every computer can understand it.

To create a plain text resume, open your existing resume document with a word processing program, and save it as a text or ASCII file. This will eliminate formatting codes. You can use the computer’s built- in text editor application, such as Notepad for Windows or Simpletext for Macintosh, to edit the resume.

The success of your resume depends, in part, on the number of keywords it contains— the number of times its words match the words requested by a manager. You can add keywords to your resume by scrutinizing job announcements and, where appropriate, copying their exact words when describing your skills. Fill your resume with important nouns the computer will recognize, such as professional organizations and industry jargon. Each abbreviation you use should be followed by the phrase it stands for, with the exception of B. S. and B. A. for Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts.

List every keyword that applies to you; do not expect the computer to infer. For example, don't simply write "word processing: Microsoft Office." Instead, write "word processing: Microsoft Office, WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint." Rules about length are relaxed for digital resumes.

Writers of plain text resumes should not use any characters or formatting not found on a standard keyboard. Boldface, italics, and underlining are unavailable, as are tabs, bullets, and multiple font sizes. But alternative attention-getting devices are still useful; asterisks and plus signs can replace bullets, rows of dashes can separate sections, and all capital letters can emphasize headings.

The word wrap function is also disabled when writing in ASCII. Words will not automatically move from one line to the next. Instead, you must hit the enter key at the end of every line. A line should hold only 65 characters, or it may not fit on the reviewer’s screen. To be certain your line lengths are correct, count characters and use a standard- width typeface, such as Courier. Times New Roman is not a standard- width typeface, so 65 of its characters will not always translate to 65 of the reviewer’s characters.

Before e- mailing your plain text resume to an employer, e- mail it to yourself and a friend to see how it transmits. That way, you may be able to uncover some formatting errors. When an employer asks for an e- mailed resume, never attach a word-processed document unless specifically requested to do so. Employers may not be able to open a word-processed document. Even if they can, they may not want to risk receiving a computer virus. Always send your cover letter and resume as text in a single message. If you are responding to an advertisement or job posting, use that posting as the subject line of your message.

You can also post your plain text resume to Internet databases and apply instantly to thousands of companies. When you do this, the posted resume becomes public information. Take precautions, such as omitting your home address and the address of your current employer. The Internet can be part of a complete job search effort, but it should not be your sole job searching technique. Many companies still do not use Internet recruiting.

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