What is a Scannable Résumé?
A scannable résumé can be viewed by a computer using the latest document imaging technology (know as optical character recognition, or OCR), allowing employers to store résumés in databases and search through many applicants electronically. As a personal summary of your professional history and qualifications, a scannable résumé is the same as a traditional résumé. Scannable résumé include information about your goals, education, work experience, activities, honors, and any special skills you might have. If you already have a traditional résumé, you can create a scannable by modifying the traditional one for scanning.
The two most important elements of a scannable résumé are keywords and formatting.
Just below your name, create a Keyword section (like the other sections in your résumé: Education, Experience, etc.). List discipline-unique words and phrases potential employers can search for in the résumé database. For example, keywords for a business professional might include the following:
- Leadership skills
- Total quality management
Keywords for a computer programmer would include software applications and programming languages s/he has used:
Keep in mind that the first reader of your scannable résumé will be a computer, not a human. A fancy format pleasing to the human eye may confuse OCR scanners. Using simple format and font/typestyle decreases the likelihood that scanners will misread your résumé.
For example, use one common font (such as Times New Roman) throughout your résumé. Rather than increasing the size of the font to indicate section headings, use spacing to break up your Keyword, Education, Experience sections. Avoid using bullets, tables, and visuals in scannable résumé. Instead, use dashes, left-justified text, and simple spacing to format your document.
Human resources personnel will review your résumé only after the computer retrieves it from keyword searches. Including nouns and noun phrases that are likely to be used in a database search and using simple formatting will help your résumé be chosen from the multitudes of others. To view a comparison between a traditional résumé and a scannable résumé in PDF format, visit the media links above.
For more information about how to develop a résumé, visit these OWL resources:
General Guidelines on Preparing a Scannable Résumé
When required to submit a scannable résumé, you should check with the potential employer regarding specific guidelines. The following are general guidelines to avoid having your résumé overlooked:
- Note that it is acceptable to have a one and half to two page résumé.
- Left justify the entire document.
- Place your name at the top of the page on its own line.
- Use standard address format below your name.
- If you have more than one address, one should be placed on top of the other.
- List each phone number on its own line.
- Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes/tables.
- Avoid using special characters such as bullets.
- Avoid punctuation as much as possible. The computer might not recognize a word with a comma or period after it. If you must have punctuation, be sure it does not touch the word.
Font / Typestyle
- Use standard serif fonts such as Times New Roman, Courier, and Palatino or sans serif fonts such as Arial, Futura, and Univers.
- Use a font size of 10 to 12 points.
- Avoid fancy font styles such as italics, underline, and shadows.
- Boldface and capital letters are acceptable as long as the letters do not touch each other.
- Avoid condensing the space between letters because they may touch.
- Provide white space between words. For example, separate the area code from a phone number with a space rather than parentheses: 555 123 - 4567 (also notice the space before and after the hyphen).
- Research the industry or position you are interested in to make yourself familiar with the keywords in the particular industry.
- Use keywords that appear in the job description in describing your qualifications.
- Use more phrases and nouns than action verbs. For example, instead of writing "designed promotional materials" use a noun such as "promotions designer" or "designer of promotions."
- Use only those abbreviations that are familiar with your field of study.
- Create a keyword summary section at the beginning of your résumé.