Workplace Rights

Weekly (12/13/10)

Topic of the Week  Scanners--Surviving the Resume Scanning Computers

DON'T get fancy.
DO be specific about key skills for the job
DO put your name on every page
DO only white paper

Most people write their resume thinking about the human being who'll be reviewing it. Unfortunately most companies use a computer to initially review resumes. Which reminds me of a tabby cat who mysteriously travelled 1,300 miles from New Mexico to Chicago. When American Airlines found out about his journey, they offered to fly him home for free. The cat had disappeared from his southwestern home eight months earlier.

That cat traveled a very long way to get home. And you can also find a corporate home at the end of your journey to find a new job. But first, you've got to understand what it takes to get your resume past the corporate scanning machines, that will invariably take the first look at your resume. I've included three Do's and one Don't for surviving the computer scanners that you must get past to even get an interview today. For more, check out "Instant Interview" by Jeffrey Gallen (Wiley, 2009).

DON'T get fancy. I've seen people who had resumes with fancy fonts and even graphics on their resume. This can make a resume look very cool. Unfortunately, this can create problems for the computer scanners, they just don't know what to do with this stuff. So you can keep the fancy resume to bring out when you actually are sitting across the table from a human being in a job interview. But until you know a human will be viewing your resume, avoid the fancy stuff.

DO be specific about key skills for the job. Scanners look for key words. The more key words you have, the better your odds that you'll come out on top of the pile of scanned resumes. How do you learn the key words? Either from the want ad or, if you can track it down, the actual job description. Go through every word and circle the ones that you think are the most important in capturing the essence of the job. Then be sure these words are all included in your resume, multiple times! Don't have either? Then look up other ads for similar job titles. Remember this isn't a human screen, it's a computer and you want to be sure it sees a lot of the key words and phrases it's scanning for.

DO put your name on every page. This is a suggestion that will help you with both computer scans and human ones. Multiple page resumes have a funny way of getting separated. Routinely. So it's important to both put your name on every page, and to number each page of your resume. When your resume gets split up, and it will, you'll have a chance for it to get reunited with it's better half.

DO only white paper. I've known lots of people who used colored paper to have their resume stand out from the competition. But again, colored paper can confuse scanners. So keep it simple, and keep yourself under consideration.

Follow these tips and you'll travel a long way too, right into a new job.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"There are managers so preoccupied with their e-mail messages that they never look up from their screens to see what's happening in the nondigital world. "

–Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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