Categorized | Careers

Electronic résumés

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

MANY EMPLOYERS REQUIRE APPLICATIONS TO BE SUBMITTED BY E-MAIL or directly to their company website. To ensure your application is received in an easy-to-read document, there are steps you can take to ensure it is properly formatted. Typically, this involves preparing a plain text version of your application materials.

When applying by e-mail

Employers provide a variety of responses in terms of how they like to receive their applications:

• 87% preferred to receive résumés as attachments instead of in the text of an e-mail;

• 33% preferred the cover letter in the body of e-mail;

• almost 50% liked the cover letter attached (some said as a separate file from the résumé while others wanted it combined in one file with the résumé).

So how should you apply? You need to try to find out what format the employer wants by reading the posting carefully, checking the organization’s website or calling and asking. If you are going to attach your résumé it is recommended that you save it in a Rich Text Format (RTF) or as a PDF to ensure it can be opened by a variety of word processing programs. If you don’t know what format is preferred, experts say the safest action is still to send a plain text résumé in the body of the e-mail (see Creating a Plain Text Résumé below). This type of résumé is readable by all computers, no matter which program is being used.

Using online applications

Online forms automatically submit your application to the employer’s database. Often they include specific questions of interest to the employer. Have your plain text résumé  available when applying so you can copy and paste the information into the appropriate fields on the form. Employers may ask you to paste a cover letter into the form—so have that ready too. Enter all information carefully—you won’t get a second chance!

Helpful hints

• Ensure all your personal information is correct.

• Double-check your e-mail address. It will likely be the primary method of communication.

• Select a password that is polite and inoffensive, and record it in a place you will remember.

• Print a backup copy of each page of the questionnaire.

• Provide a narrative answer if requested—do not write See résumé. Employers use these answers as an indication of your communication skills and your ability to follow instructions. Try to prepare in advance; applications can sometimes be time limited.

Using résumé databases

Another online application alternative is posting your résumé on a résumé database, often found on job boards. Note that there are drawbacks such as privacy concerns. Consider using a service which offers some level of confidentiality such as or

However, don’t expect your dream employer to start pounding on your door—the success rate using these sitback-and-wait methods to find work is quite low.

Creating a plain text (or text only) résumé

First open your résumé file in a word processor, then save your résumé as a text only document. Open your text résumé using a text editor such as Notepad and make any necessary changes.

Helpful hints

• Bold, italics, bullets, and various sizes of fonts will not appear in ASCII (the language of plain-text files). Instead, use capitals for headings.

• Most e-mail programs wrap text at about 65 or 72 characters. Therefore it is a good idea to put no more than 65 characters with a hard return at the end of each line (ie. press the enter key). If you don’t, any characters after this point may be dropped down to the next line and your résumé will appear disorganized.

• If your résumé contains page numbering, remove this information from the plain text version.

• Put key information at the top of your résumé. Don’t make the employer scroll to find it.

• Proofread carefully! An e-mail with a mistake will often end up being deleted.

• Do a test. Practice by sending an e-résumé to a friend (preferably one who uses a different e-mail

• Make your subject line informative, perhaps the title of the position for which you are applying.

Scannable résumés

If you are applying for a position and you know the employer will be scanning your application electronically into their database, there are certain steps you will want to take to ensure that your résumé will be scannable:

• Always apply online if given the option, then you won’t have to worry about whether or not your paper copy will be scanned clearly into the database.

• Use a standard 12 point font such as Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman, and substitute capital letters for fancy formatting.

• Avoid italics, underlining, graphics, bullets, columns, and shading.

• Print on the best quality printer possible using plain but good quality white paper and don’t fold or staple your résumé.

• You will also want to include keywords to increase the likelihood that your résumé will be found when the company does a keyword search. If you do, either put a separate section on the first page just after your name and address, or make sure you use keywords throughout your résumé. Keywords can include position titles, skills, education, industry terms—look at

the job description for ideas.

HTML or web résumés

A web résumé is one which contains hyperlinked, clickable text and images created in HTML. Create this type of résumé if you want to promote yourself on the Internet. A web résumé allows for greater creativity, but be careful—keep your résumé professional at all times, otherwise it is more likely to be a disadvantage rather than an advantage!

Suggested resources

Online recruiting methods keep changing, so it is a good idea to stay current with the trends in electronic résumés and cover letters.


• The Riley Guide ►

• E-Resumes ►


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