How to Write an Electronic Resume for Online Submission

Katharine Hansen
by Katharine Hansen   Career Advice Expert 

More and more companies are requesting electronic resumes from job seekers. An electronic resume is a document that has been stripped of all format and design elements that could interfere with its readability by an applicant tracking system (ATS).

Best produced in plain text (ASCII), HTML, or PDF, an electronic resume provides recruiters with a document that can be easily scanned and understood by its ATS.

Take the first step in landing your dream job by crafting a resume with our expertly designed templates.

The online job application process has forever changed personnel recruiting, and jobseekers must learn how to use the electronic resume to further their careers. Social media career profiles, such as those on LinkedIn, rely completely on electronic submissions. Even if you hand-deliver a printed resume to a prospective employer, it will most likely be scanned into a computer and then processed by an ATS.

The online job application process has forever changed personnel recruiting, and jobseekers must learn how to use the electronic resume to further their careers.

5 Tips for Writing an Electronic Resume

  1. Use keywords from the job ad. These can appear throughout a job ad, including in the job titles, in the list of required skills, and under job responsibilities, Some jobs might also list education and certification requirements. Pay attention to these words and use them in your resume. Review your resume to verify you’re using the same wording as the job ad. Again, ATSs don’t understand nuance so pull keywords directly from the job ad.
  2. Research the employer by studying the company’s website, blog, and related news articles. Each company has its own culture and profile. Keywords for the same job title may differ from one organization to another.
  3. Pay attention to format. Make sure your resume is in text format or save your Word document as a PDF. This will ensure that the formatting remains intact.
  4. Keep it simple. Unusual fonts, colors, and graphics will clog up the system. LiveCareer has guidelines to help you write a scannable resume. After your electronic resume is complete, send it on a test run to a variety of operating systems.
  5. Use standard headers. Don’t get creative with your section headers. Use common headers, such as “Work Experience” since other phrasing such as “Professional Work” and “Job Experience” may. Not be recognized by an ATS.
  6. Use a free resume builder. Better safe than sorry. When in doubt, use a professional resume builder to make sure that your resume is well-organized and worded perfectly.

How an ATS works

What is an ATS?

An ATS is a software program that handles the first phase of a company’s recruitment duties by scanning, analyzing, and classifying resumes. This software typically looks for keywords related to the job opening. A recruiter or hiring manager chooses these keywords into play and ranks them according to importance. The program then sets about finding applicants who have the most keyword matches in terms of skills, experience, and education.

Human recruiters traditionally start their resume surfing by weeding out the undesirables — those with poor spelling and no related education or experience. Then they sift through the remaining applicants. An ATS program starts by choosing the highest-ranked prospects (per keyword matches). All other candidates drop to the bottom of the list.

How an ATS Works

According to Business Insider, a large company may receive 250 applications for a single opening. Many of these are unqualified for the posted job. HR departments, therefore, use an ATS to reduce the workload associated with sifting through scores of unqualified applicants.

Unfortunately, due to keyword and other system constraints, some well-qualified candidates may be overlooked by an ATS if they don’t format their resume properly. Each ATS is slightly different, but most can’t interpret nuance, which means that even a slight variation from the input keywords could be misinterpreted by the system. Also, poorly places numbers, such as dates, may cause an entire line of work experience to be omitted.

Around 90 percent of large companies use an ATS, and top Fortune 500 companies are at almost 100 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. With so many companies embracing the ATS, it’s important that job seekers do all they can to learn how to write a resume that is pleasing to an ATS.

You are looking for work, but you actually have an important job to do right now: revamp your resume so that it appeals both to an ATS and to a human recruiter. Once you have a great electronic resume to submit, who knows what exciting career lies ahead?

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Katharine Hansen Career Advice Expert

Katharine Hansen was the creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers; she also wrote content for Quintessential Careers. She earned her Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press). She is also the author of Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press), and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha).

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