Scannable Resumes and Why They Matter

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What is a scannable resume?

A scannable resume is very similar to a traditional resume; the difference is that it can be scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software and an OCR machine. Many prospective employers use scannable resumes to create a searchable database of applicants, so if you create a resume that is easily scanned by using OCR, you are providing an additional format in which to submit a resume. A little modification is all that is necessary to take your existing resume type or resume format and convert it into a scannable format. Two areas that create the foundation of keeping resumes scannable using OCR include the following:

  • Basic formatting specifications
  • Keywords

The formatting basics of a scannable resume

While formatting a resume follows certain guidelines, there are a variety of different ways to present information when it comes to the actual formatting. With a scannable resume, certain formatting basics make your document more easily scanned by OCR. When preparing a scannable resume, use the following formatting guidelines:

  • Include a professional email address
  • Use fonts that are scanner friendly, and skip fancier fonts
  • Use a font size between 9 pt. and 12 pt.
  • Use one font throughout the entire document
  • Keep all font aligned to the left
  • Use white space to distinguish between sections
  • Avoid any graphics or tables
  • Use ALL CAPS for all section headers
  • Avoid folding the resume, even when mailing it into a prospective employer
  • Avoid underlined, italicized and bold text
  • Use only solid bullet points—bullet outlines are often misread as an “O”

Keywords for a scannable resume

Another aspect of scannable resumes is incorporating the right keywords for the position or field to which you want to apply. Immediately below your personal information, create a “Keywords” section where you can list keywords relevant to the position or industry. The types of keywords you select should be industry-specific and commonly used words and phrases; these keywords are put into a database and are the determining factor in a search of the database coming up with your resume when you are qualified for a position.

Keywords are basically nouns or phrases that show what a specific position does every day. If you are struggling with selecting keywords, research the position, or review your traditional resume to search for keywords that apply to similar positions in the same field. For example, the keywords for an accounting position might include the following:

  • Account payable
  • Accounts receivable
  • Balance sheet preparations
  • General ledger
  • Income statement preparation
  • Payroll
  • Reconciliations
  • Tax accounting
  • Tax preparation

Whatever position you are applying for, do not guess regarding the keywords; make sure the keywords you choose to highlight on a scannable resume match the position and the industry. Alternatively, you can also use the keywords throughout the body of the document.

Some prospective employers require a scannable resume, and some do not. If a company requires one, you can sometimes find the specifications and formatting preferences on the company’s website. Even if a company does not require a scannable resume, creating one to keep on hand in the event you need one is to your advantage.