Scannable Resume Design

Do you need to prepare a scannable resume? Read this article by ResumeEdge - The Net's Premier Resume Writing and Editing Service to learn exactly what you need to do...

Scannable Resume Design

Like it or not, we are all caught in the loop of modern technology.

Place a call to your favorite store or banking institution, and you’re usually dealing with voicemail and automated menus, rather than reaching a real individual.

The same is now true when you send your resume to the human resources department of major corporations (and in increasing numbers, hiring managers at smaller companies).

Because hundreds or even thousands of individuals apply for one opening, software that is preset to determine applicant skills and qualifications is used to “weed out” those individuals who don’t match the job criteria.

Therefore, to make the most of a job search, it’s essential for the modern resume to:

  • Be in a format that can be read by optical character recognition (OCR) software, if the targeted company is using this tool.
  • Contain essential keywords* related to the job opening or industry.

    * Keywords are nouns or noun phrases that the software has been programmed to search for. The more keywords or “hits” the software finds in the resume, the more likely the document will be read by a human resources professional.

    In fact, for some federal job openings, a resume must have a 95% or higher hit rate if the candidate is to be given serious consideration - that is, a moment of the hiring authority’s time, and perhaps even an interview.

Sound daunting?

It doesn’t have to be when you know the tricks of the trade in creating this modern resume.

The essentials include:

  • The technology you’ll be dealing with
  • How to find keywords and make the most of them
  • Your name
  • Your contact information
  • Which fonts are scanner friendly
  • Formats to use

OCR Technology

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) was developed in the 70’s by Ray Kurzweil, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although Mr. Kurzweil’s intent was to develop a machine (known as the Kurzweil Reading Machine) to help visually impaired individuals read printed materials, OCR technology has since become indispensable in modern business.

Generally speaking, what OCR means to the modern job hunter is that initially a computer, not a human being, will be scanning the resume for appropriate content.

Since machines are not impressed by font styles and other formatting enhancements, content is all-important, as is the presentation of your document in a scanner-friendly manner.

With computer technology changing daily, "scanner-friendly" may mean a document stripped of all formatting and enhancements, or one that bears some formatting that can be read by the more modern software.

However, regardless of which format is used, content is still essential, beginning with keywords.


Keywords are nouns or noun phrases indicating a candidate’s skill set or qualifications as they pertain to the current job search.

Examples of keywords for an Administrative Assistant might be:

  • Typing 90 wpm
  • Dictation
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Reception
  • Phone Support

For an Accountant keywords might be:
  • Tax Accounting
  • Reconciliations
  • General Ledger
  • General Ledger
  • Profit and Loss Statements

Where to Find Keywords

1. Current and Previous Job Descriptions.

In most positions, employees are given job descriptions.

Using these, pull out nouns or noun phrases of what you do on a daily basis, so long as those tasks are still relevant to your current job search.

2. Resumes.

Cull data from the Professional Experience and Skill sections of your current or old resumes. These daily duties will provide relevant and significant keywords for your scannable resume.

3. Job Postings.

These are perhaps the most significant resource a candidate can use.

By dovetailing past experience with required qualifications and skills, a candidate is effectively targeting the new job, while enhancing candidacy.

How to Use Them

Here, you have two options:

  • Create a keyword list for inclusion at the very beginning of your resume.
  • Sprinkle keywords throughout your resume.

A keyword list at the beginning of your resume would read like this (for a Senior Product Manager):

Pharmaceutical Marketing. Territory Growth. Market Share. Opportunity Mining. Physician Rapport. Marketing Strategies. Budget Oversight. Targeted Goals. Sales Force Leadership. Problem Resolution. Market Data Analysis. Sales Forecasting. Productivity Monitoring. Performance Enhancement. Sales Representative Training. Product Launches. Microsoft Office. Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Excel. Master of Arts in Marketing. Medical Doctor. Emergency Room Experience. Zithromax. Diflucan. M.D. Bilingual. Spanish Fluency. English Fluency.

Keywords in a Qualifications Summary would read like this (for a Senior Product Manager):

Dynamic, effective Physician and Pharmaceutical Marketing Professional with a strong background in maintaining standards of honesty and integrity while mining new opportunities for territory growth and market share. Easily establishes rapport with physicians based on a background that includes a Master’s Degree in Marketing, a Medical Degree, and emergency room experience. Creative problem solver experienced in devising new strategies for Zithromax and Diflucan to eliminate lost sales to generic brands. Client-oriented with superb communication and organizational skills in preparing successful marketing strategies, overseeing budgets, and leading a sales force towards targeted goals. Fluent in Spanish and English. Technically proficient in Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and Outlook.

Remember, the more closely your background matches the qualifications of the new job, the more likely it is that you’ll be invited to interview.

Your Name

It’s always wise to put your name on each page of your scannable resume.

Why? If one of the pages of your three-page resume gets separated from the others, it will be nearly impossible for the administrative assistant handling it to know where it might belong.

It’s best to avoid this situation by putting your name at the top of each page, along with a page number.

Contact Information

Physical/Email Address

In addition to your street address, including your city, state and zip, it’s important to include an email address.

With today’s technology, a hiring manager most often contacts successful candidates by phone or by email.

Because of the importance of email correspondence in a job search, it’s wise to choose an email address that is businesslike in tone, rather that one that reflects a special interest or a nickname.

For example, the following would be considered inappropriate:


Another important piece of advice is to avoid using work-related email addresses.

Hiring managers are rarely interested in interviewing someone who is using their current employer’s time or email system to look for another job.

The key is: Always be professional

Phone Numbers

It’s sometimes wise to include a cell phone number along with your home phone number, especially if that’s your easiest point of contact.

However, be certain of the quality of your cell phone and service provider before offering the number.

Nothing is more frustrating to a hiring manager than to conduct a cell phone conversation through static and breaks in conversation due to poor technology.

In modern resumes, fax numbers are rarely provided. Most hiring managers will not fax an interview request to prospective candidates.

Never include current work phone numbers in your scannable resume. Hiring managers think poorly of candidates who use a current employer’s time to search for new opportunities.

Scanner-Friendly Fonts

Since scanning equipment may differ from company to company, it’s best to err on the conservative side when choosing fonts that will be easily read by the software.

Therefore, avoid all “designer” fonts that are difficult for a human being to read. If anything, the scanning software will have even more difficulty.

It’s best to stick with classic fonts like Arial, which is san serif, or Times New Roman, a popular serif font. Other good choices are Garamond, Bookman, Courier New, and Century Schoolbook.

Font size

Don’t make the software work extra hard to read all the characters in your resume, as this may lead to mistakes and missed keywords.

It’s best to use a font size between 9 and 12, depending upon the font type.

Effective Formatting

Unlike resumes being read by a human audience, scannable resumes must be easy to read by computer software.

Therefore, it’s essential to stick to basics and avoid formatting headaches.

Your best choice is to:

  • Be certain all type is flush left
  • Separate sections with white spaces, rather than dashes (--), dots (. . .), or tildes (~~~)
  • Do not use tables
  • Do not use graphics
  • Put section headers in ALL CAPS

With technology advances, scanning software is available that will read more formatted resumes.

However, unless you're sure that the employer you’re targeting is using this new software, it’s best to stick with an easy-to-read format that emphasizes keywords and content.

Article provided in association with Resume Edge.

Click here for free scannable resume examples from ResumeEdge

Click here for free scannable resume examples from ResumeEdge