E-resumes, or electronic resumes, is a broadly used term that covers several types of resumes. Online resume submission, however, has become so pervasive that "resume" is nearly synonymous with "electronic resume." The way a resume is intended to be delivered to its recipient determines the technological approach you should take to the resume's preparation.
This article describes the most common types of e-resumes and offers some general guidelines on how to create them.
A formatted, "print" resume
A formatted, "print" resume, also known as a word-processed resume or traditional paper resume, is created in a word-processing application. Microsoft Word is the most widely used and is advisable to use for that reason.
If you are sending your formatted, print resume as an attachment to an e-mail message, it is inadvisable to use a program other than Word. File extensions for formatted, print resumes include .doc and .docx.
Even though most Word users can now open .docx files, it may be best to save your Word resume with a .doc extension for the remaining users who cannot open .docx. Common delivery methods for the formatted, print resume include regular postal mail, faxing, hand-delivery (such as in a networking or interview situation, or at a career fair), and e-mail attachment.
A few words about Rich Text (.rtf): Once a popular format for resume submissions, .rtf is almost never requested by employers anymore. and should not be used unless you are using a word-processing application that does not enable you to convert a file to .doc format. Looking at a resume file in .rtf also gives you a glimpse into what many employers initially see since some applicant-tracking software converts resumes to .rtf to perform searches on it, says Dawn D. Boyer, M.Ad.Ed., of DBoyer Consulting.
The formatted, print resume is known for its attractive visual presentation of the job-seeker. For that reason, it is especially useful outside the sphere of electronic delivery -- in networking situations, at career fairs, in job interviews, and on the rare occasion when an employer requests a resume via postal mail or when you want to get extra attention by submitting your resume both electronically and by postal mail. When sent as an e-mail attachment, however, its formatting may appear inconsistently from computer to computer, and it is vulnerable to viruses.
Worse, the formatting probably won't translate well to the employer's Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software. "Lines, graphics, fancy bullets, text boxes, tables, and graphics (logos) ... are the issues the ATS programs encounter when uploading a resume into a company's resume database," Boyer notes. Don't send a formatted, print resume as an attachment unless (a) you're sure it's the employer's preference, (b) you also provide another alternative, preferably your text-based resume pasted into the body of an e-mail message, or (c) you've stripped the resume of all but the most basic formatting.
A text resume, also known as a text-based resume, plain-text resume, or ASCII text resume, is the preferred format for submitting resumes electronically. A text resume, which carries the .txt file extension, is stripped of virtually all its formatting and is not especially visually appealing, which is OK since its main purpose is to be placed into one of the keyword-searchable databases that the vast majority of today's large employers now use.
The text resume is not vulnerable to viruses and is compatible across computer programs and platforms. It is highly versatile and can be used for:
- Posting in its entirety on many job boards.
- Pasting piece-by-piece into the profile forms of job boards, such as Monster.com.
- Pasting into the body of an e-mail and sending to employers.
- Converting to a Web-based HTML resume.
- Sending as an attachment to employers, although you'll probably also want to send your formatted version.
Portable Document Format (PDF) resume
A PDF resume offers the advantages of being completely invulnerable to viruses and totally compatible across computer systems (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader software, a free download, to be opened and read). Have you ever noticed that when you send a resume (or any document) as an attachment from your computer to someone else's computer, it sometimes doesn't look the same on the other person's computer as it did on yours? Maybe it has more pages on the other computer, or maybe Page 2 starts at the bottom of Page 1, or maybe the fonts are different.
A resume converted to PDF, which carries a .pdf file extension, looks virtually identical to the original document from which it was created, thus preserving the resume's visual appeal, and it also appears consistently from computer to computer. Many employers specifically request PDF resume files.
For the most up-to-date word on PDF resumes, see our article, PDF Resumes: Is This Format Better Than MS Word?.
A web resume, also known as an HTML, Web-based, or Web-ready resume, is advantageous in a number of ways:
- Employers can access your resume 24/7. If you're talking on the phone with an employer in another city who wants to see a copy of your resume, you can simply refer the employer to the Web address where your resume resides.
- Resumes published on the Web, which often carry the file extension .html or .htm, enable passive job-seeking because employers sometimes find your resume on the Web using various search mechanisms.
- A resume published on the Web can be expanded into a Web portfolio that includes links to work samples (written work, graphic design, other Web pages you've designed, photographs, reports, etc.) that can demonstrate your skills to employers.
- If Web design is a career you are pursuing, a Web-based resume can show off your design skills.
The only catch to having a Web-ready resume is that you need to have a place to host it and a means to publish it. The most likely candidates for Web-based resumes are those who already have their own Web pages or access to Web space.
For example, many universities provide Web space for their students. But even if you don't have your own space, you can still use a Web-ready resume. Some Web sites offer free Web-space hosting. Check also with your Internet service provider to see if Web hosting is included in available services.
Do not confuse a Web-ready resume with one that can be posted on job boards, such as Monster.com. Most job boards explicitly prohibit HTML resumes.
Scannable resumes were all the rage just a few years ago, are very rarely requested by employers today. Why? Because a scannable resume is basically a print resume that the employer turns into an electronic resume by using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and then placing it into a keyword-searchable database.
With the growth of e-mail as a mode of communication, employers soon asked themselves, "Why are we going through the extra step of scanning hard-copy when we could have resumes e-mailed to us and place them directly into databases without having to scan them first?" A former student of mine who had entered the human-resources field once told me that resumes e-mailed to his company could enter the database in a matter of days, while a resume that had to be scanned could take up to three weeks to be placed in the database because of the extra labor involved.
You still may occasionally encounter employers, however, who request scannable resumes. The rules for scannable resumes are virtually the same as for text resumes except that scannable resumes are generally printed out and sent by fax or postal mail. They can also be sent as e-mail attachments. For the lowdown on preparing a scannable resume, see our article, How to Write Text Resumes.
Final thoughts on E-resume formats
Boyer summarizes well why applicants need a good understanding of these resume formats: "Job-seekers must understand -- recruiters may be dealing with as many as 200-400 resumes for a single job; they are NOT going to bother with any resume that doesn't easily convert over into their system," she notes. "Text formatting and the MS Word Document (.doc) allows easier search capabilities within the ATS -- so should be a standard for any/all job-seekers for resumes." PDF resumes, print resumes, and Web-based resumes, while problematic for online submission, have their uses, as well.