The Difference Between Writing a Resume for a Computer and for a Real Person

While every resume is written with the intent of being read by real person, all too often a computer is the first and only reader. There are challenges every resume writer faces when the first entity to see a resume is a computer. Computers don't have the intelligence to handle creative content. Some of the formatting commonly used by professional resume companies actually makes it difficult for a computer to extract information in a useful manner.

If you question this, try pasting your resume into the space provided by most businesses who allow online job applications. It will be educational. All but the most simple chronological resume turns into gibberish.

For this reason, you may have to prepare two resumes. One resume is designed for computers and the other is submitted for real people. While some businesses have begun to install more effective resume submission tools, many are still operating with tools that severely limit your ability to present yourself effectively. At times like these, your cover letter is going to be more important than ever.

Pay Attention to Layout

Many computer resumes cannot handle things like tabs, bullets and tables. They are based on the capabilities of Notepad, not a word processer. Even RTF (rich text format), which can be read on both PC and Mac computers, is incompatible with Notepad capabilities.

Most of your efforts to create a visually stunning resume will be in Notepad, so you have to focus on very simple ways to create a positive impact.

  • Use ALL CAPS for section headings and your name; otherwise use initial capital letters for job titles and employers. This will keep the look of the resume cleaner.
  • Don't try to center headings by inserting spaces. They will end up looking ragged in different viewing screens.
  • Place each piece of information on a separate line. For example, the name of the business would be on the first line; the city and state on the next line; the dates you worked there could follow on a new line. Your job title might then follow on the next line.
  • Hit enter twice to double-space between sections.
  • You can replicate the effect of an inserted block by using anywhere from three to five spaces before each line.
  • Use these symbols-- >, - or *--instead of bullets. These standard keyboard characters are recognized in Notepad.

Pay Attention to Keywords When Writing Descriptions

If you apply for a job online, the employer will likely use keywords to filter out resumes that fail to meet minimum qualifications for the job in question. If you don't choose the right industry-specific keywords, your resume won't make it past the computer to a human being.

Industry-specific jargon is useful for online resumes, as these are terms that may be programmed into the computer search. This is a major difference between writing resumes for computers versus people. A resume that is directed to a person should avoid industry jargon unless the term is generally recognized.

For example, OSHA is a common term in many industries. But SERP could mean search engine results page, Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, an open source framework for manipulating Java, or be the name of a company. If there is any chance of ambiguity, it is better to write the term out the first time you use it and put the acronym in parentheses afterwards. For example, search engine optimization (SEO) is the correct way to introduce an acronym you want to use in the rest of your resume.

Use Online Resume Builders

One of the benefits of using an online resume builder is that it can be optimized for computer reading. If you focus on the keywords, much of the information relating to writing a Notepad style resume may be ignored. Instead, use the fields provided by the resume builder to create your resume. The field codes are hidden from view, but they tell the computer how to recognize information.

This eliminates some of the work for you. You still have to pay attention to keywords, but you can direct your real efforts toward presenting yourself as the right candidate for the job.

Ultimately, if you write for the person who is going to finally see your resume, while recognizing the tricks that get you past the computer, your efforts will be rewarded. Make sure that everything in your resume supports your efforts to demonstrate that you are the right person for the job.