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Many employers today are using automated applicant tracking systems to avoid the time consuming process of sorting through resumes.

An employer can enter a resume into their tracking system electronically right from e-mail, or you may be asked to upload one to an online system.

When writing and formatting your e-resume:

Different applications will require different file formats. If you are asked to paste your resume into the body of an email message or into an online form, you should use only text and line breaks to distinguish the different sections of your resume.

Use Keywords

Whether you email your application directly to the employer, or upload your application into their online system, you can get their attention by using keywords.

Employers have the ability to enter keywords into an applicant tracking system. Those keywords are then compared to the words on a resume that has been entered into the system. Resumes containing the defined keywords are the ones employers will look at first. Make sure you include keywords from the job announcement, as well as industry jargon, in the descriptions of your experiences and skills to increase the likelihood that your resume will match the keywords defined by the employer.

Your electronic resume should convey they same information as your regular resume; however, there are important differences you should be aware of.

When emailing your application:

The same rules that apply to normal business correspondence apply to e-mail correspondence:

• the tone should be formal and professional

• use capitalization, lower case letters, and punctuation just as you would in a regular business letter

• proofread!, proofread!, proofread!

Your e-mail address is reflection of you. Don’t ruin a great resume and professional e-mail correspondence with an inappropriate e-mail address (e.g. The same idea applies to voicemail messages.

Consider copying and pasting your resume from Microsoft Word into a text-editing program like Notepad. This will enable you to see any formatting errors that might show up when you paste your resume into the body of an email.

Make sure you save this version of your resume as a distinct file on your computer. (It will have a .txt extension.)

Copy and paste your cover letter into the body of your email message, then attach your resume and/or paste the text into the message itself.

When uploading your application to the web:
(either through a company website or job listing site)

1. Use a plain font. Use a standard serif typeface, such as Times, Arial, Univers, or Futura. Simplicity is key.

2. Use 11 to 14 point type sizes.

3. Keep your line length to no more than 65 characters (including letters, spaces, and punctuation).

4. Use a very simple format. Graphics, bullets, lines, bold, italics, underlines, and shading do not convert well in an electronic application.

5. Use all capital letters for your headings.

6. Justify your text to the left.

7. Avoid using vertical and horizontal lines

8. Use industry jargon.

9. Place your name as the first text on the resume. Do not put anything else on that line.

Taken from "Tips for Electronic Resumes" reprinted from JobWeb (, with permission of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

Additional Resources

For more information about electronic and scannable resumes, see the following books in the Career Resource Library:

eResumes: Everything You Need to Know About Using Electronic Resumes to Tap into Today’s Job Market by Susan Britton Whitcomb and Pat Kendall, 2002.

e-Job Hunting: Planning your Career and Searching for Jobs Online by Eric Schlesinger and Susan Musich, 2000.

The Career Center, Muhlenberg College
2400 W. Chew Street, Allentown, PA 18104-5586
Ph: (484) 664-3170    Fax: (484) 664-3533

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Last Revised March 25, 2008
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