A colleague who was recently terminated, (declared “redundant”), contacted me for some tips on preparing a resume. Our discussion got bogged down when it came to how to format the resume.

I explained that it is necessary, these days, to appeal to the eye of the computer first, then to the eye of the recruiter. That both of these requirements must be met. Because of the huge volume of people looking for jobs, and competing aggressively for the few jobs out there, corporations are faced with stacks and stacks of emails and documents each vying for attention and trying to make their way to the top of the pile to the short list. To filter the wheat from the chaff, companies have raced towards the use of services or software that allows OCR (optical character recognition) and software decision trees to select documents of candidates that meet minimum requirements for the job in question.

What are the minimum job requirements? Whatever is stated in the advertisement for the job. That’s a minimum, in my estimation. What is the company seeking? Your name, address, contact info, of course. But more importantly, location, job title, qualifications, tasks responsibilities, experience and so on. You must present all this information and in words that are recognizable and meaningful to the scanning eye and software. One of the most effective ways to do this is to LIFT the same words, called “Key WORDS”, out of the ad itself and plunk those words right into your resume.

If you do this, you almost guarantee that the eye of the scanner, the OCR and software, will spot you as a candidate that presents all the right words, the key words, for which the recruiter is screening. That may move your resume to the “consider” pile for the recruiter. At that time, the resume must meet the requirements of the human eye and no longer the computer’s eye. But before going to the requirements of the human eye, a few more common sense thoughts for the resume to pass scrutiny by the computer eye.

Resumes ought to be clean;  neat;  avoid clutter; use a common font such as Arial or a Sans-Seriff, (without squiggly ends on letters), one sure to be recognized by a computer eye; and the format itself should be straightforward and uncluttered. The computer eye, in most cases, doesn’t care if you use chronological resumes or any other resume style.

If you are, for example a graphic artist, and want to display your resume as an example of your graphic capability, the “dressed up” and colorful resume may look great to a human eye, but if it first has to pass muster by a computer eye, it may not be recognizable by the computer OCR or the software, and may get rejected before you can be considered as a candidate. For graphic artists, if you know your resume will compete with hundreds of others, and likely be put through computer scanners, then you may want to find an alternate creative  way to display your graphic capabilities. To determine this, it might be worth a phone call to the hiring company’s personnel manager to ask the question about likelihood of the resume going through a computer scanner for selection.  I don’t recommend everyone phone companies to ask this question, just graphic artists who are thinking about submitting a fancy graphic for a resume.

As for the human eye…similar common sense applies. The resume has to be neat and readable. No grammar mistakes. However, you can’t just have a bunch of key words. Sentences must make sense to the human reader. This requires a bit of art and skill. Information must be interesting, even exciting, and the key words need to be there in a way that is coherent and cohesive.

Bottom line, though, the resume must be readable by both the computer eye and the human eye, and somewhat captivating when it does get read by the human eye.