The Right Format

Nearly every resume is now initially delivered via electronic means whether by email or via online database. As technology has changed, resumes and their formats have changed. Twenty years ago when resumes were paper-based and filing cabinets were of the metal kind that sat in the corner, space was more precious; thus, a one-page resume was the most acceptable format. Now that a resume is reduced to a mere configuration of electrons, length is much more flexible and resumes now extend to two or even three pages.

The informational revolution that has taken place since the early nineties with the advent of the Internet and personal computing has changed the formats of resumes, too. A Word format is still needed because it is the “pretty” format of a resume file but an ASCII text format resume is also needed for some online databases. Just five years ago, online databases could not accept Word-formatted files but required only text. Now, technology has advanced to the point that some databases can accept the design-heavy Word files too.

Length of the resume actually benefits the job seeker in the online format since hit-count determines success in the online databases. More words, more chances of getting hits by searchers. A short, one-page resume can actually hurt a job seeker in the online job search because it has less content and fewer keywords.

Keywords are a relatively new element to resumes. Recruiters and hiring managers who search online resume databases generally use noun-based phrases such as “Production manager” or “finance” or “pharmaceutical”. Powerful resumes are written in the active voice meaning they are verb-heavy. To balance out the needs of the human reader versus the computer, it’s necessary to remember to include lots of noun phrases in the resume and not just focus on verbs and modifiers.

Another change to resumes is the use of the .pdf formatted resume. When sending directly to a person, including a .pdf format of your resume in addition to a Word document will eliminate potential formatting or platform issues on the receiver’s end. Basically, a .pdf (protected document format) is a “picture” of the original file that will always look the same on any system on which it is opened. Often, I’ll open a Word format resume that a client has sent to me and the MS Template Wizard will open along with the document. This is annoying and gives a bad impression. Sometimes, the sender will have forgotten to turn off the “Show Changes” option on the document so when the document is opened all the edits and revisions show on the document, rendering it unusable. A .pdf format eliminates these potential document problems.

In all this high-tech stuff, you would think a paper resume no longer has a place in the job search but you would be mistaken. Job seekers still need a paper resume to take to face-to-face interviews. At least six copies should be taken to each interview. A paper copy provides the job seeker with a copy to help him remember parts of his experience he wants to plug. A paper copy can also be provided the interviewer if he wants a “nice” copy for the file. It is also possible that additional interviewers will be pulled into the interview as it moves along and a copy can then be provided to that person.

In planning a job search, you should be sure to have all formats of the resume that will be needed – Word format, text format, .pdf format, and a paper copy. Having all these will make you well-armed for whatever job search need comes your way.


  1. shaboomquita on February 23, 2006 at 1:17 am

    Format is one of the most important factors in a successful resume. I have been researching resume and find this to be the problem that people neglect. People should take the time to see what is the clearest and most reader-friendly resume. The for mat is the first thing employers look for.
    I think this is so true.

Leave a Comment