The Scanner-Friendly Resume

When submitting your resume for employment, whether with a big corporation or a personnel search firm, the chances are growing that scanning technology will be used to read it. The technology responsible for computer-readable resumes operates on the principle of labeling. At the center of the technology are keywords. Call them buzzwords. Call them descriptors. Call them skill words, or job words. Call them whatever you like.

A sample job order might require:

  • Five years' experience as a salesperson
  • College graduate
  • A direct marketer to ethnic communities
  • Heavy traveler
  • Self-starter
  • Team leader

Supplied with these specifications, a computer checks a database for resumes that include these keywords. The secret is to fill your resume with as many labels as possible.

The ultimate keywords come from each employer for each position. You can only make reasonable assumptions about what a specific employer will ask for. You will need to maintain a log of keywords that apply to your occupation and industry. Jot down the words as you come across them in trade magazines, class notes, newspaper ads, etc.


  Banker  Civil Engineer       Compensation     Specialist
Booth Development

Image Campaign

Promotional Materials

Sales Promotion

Cable Television




Bank Reconciliation

Commercial Loan Operations

Customer Conversion



Concrete Design

Preliminary Stress Analysis

Hydrology Trans Analysis


Equity Review

Incentive Plan

Job Classification

Salary Structure


Computer Specialist Economist Real Estate Agent Statistician

Analog Computer






Industrial Policy

Minority Economic Impact


Commercial Leasing

Real Estate Appraisal


Standard Deviation

Stat Regression


Polishing Your Keyword Skills

Looking up information in the Yellow Pages or a library file uses the same skill necessary to write good keywords. Choose nouns that indicate your accomplishments rather than verbs that focus on duties.

Even a resume with very strong content, one which includes all of the keywords that describe your occupational credentials, can be overlooked. Consequently, the keywords in an electronic resume should be or organized into two sections. The first is a Keyword Preface; the second is the main body of the resume.

The Keyword Preface or Summary appears directly beneath your name and contact information at the top of your resume. It is an inventory of your most important assets. It runs about 20 to 30 items and each item is capitalized and ends with a period. Cover three points in selecting your items:

  • Your skills, abilities, and competencies;
  • Your experience using those skills, abilities, and competencies; and
  • Your accomplishments in using those skills, abilities, and competencies on-the-job.

A keyword summary for a programmer/ analyst might include the following: Oracle, Visual Basic, C++.

Marilyn Moats Kennedy, an author of career planning books and managing partner at Career Strategies, says: "It is important to alter your resume to fit a particular job. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they do not pick up on the keywords in job postings and advertisements and include them in their resumes." Also, electronically transmitted cover letters should also include keywords.

Checklist for Scannable Resumes

1. Choose the most likely keywords and arrange them in order of importance.

2. Choose the correct typefaces. To play it safe, stick to sans-serif fonts like Times New Roman.

3. Use a font size between 10 and 14 points.

4. Avoid italics, script, and underlined passages.

5. Avoid graphics and gray screens (shading).

6. Use horizontal and vertical lines sparingly and allow 1/4" of white space around them. Omit parentheses and brackets.

7. Use a 24-pin letter-quality or laser printer.

8. Use 8.5" x 11" white paper printed on one side only.

9. Avoid a four-page resume on a folded 11" x 17" sheet.

10. Put name at the top of the page and address and phone number below, each on its own line; put a name on top of page two.

11. Avoid stapling or folding resume. Send it flat in a large envelope.

12. Avoid two-column format or resumes that look like new papers or newsletters.

13. Don't condense spacing between letters.

14. The best paperweight for an electronic resume is copied grade (20-25 lb.)

15. Avoid boldface.  Capital letters can be substituted.

16. When faxing your resume, set the fax machine on "fine mode," rather than "standard mode."

Example of a Scanner-Friendly Resume