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Format and Save Your Resume for Recruiters, Not for You

Your resume is the first and most important tool in your job search. It's the document that says everything about you and has to sell your experience to a recruiter or hiring manager if you want to hear back from them. The importance of that one electronic file is huge yet some people put so little time into it. Or worse, others commit hours on end to enhance their resume but ignore any advice provided by industry professionals.

Over the past few years, we shared resume formatting advice for independent contractors directly from recruiters, including some word-for-word statements. We even created an entire video series about formatting your resume in Microsoft Word. Still, with all of these resources, some IT contractors still fail to format their resume in a way that's not only friendly to recruiters, but also to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs).

If our advice doesn't get through to some people, then hopefully that of a N.Y. Times bestseller will. We recently came across this post on FastCompany by Martin Yate, author of Knock 'em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide. He provides six tricks for formatting and saving your file before uploading it to a recruiter:

  • Consider the file name. "Resume.doc" says nothing where "Jane Smith - Project Manager - 2018.doc" tells a much better story and easy for recruiters to catch.

  • Add metadata into your file. Under the file menu in MS Word, you can choose summary info to insert keywords and terms. This will make your resume easier to find if recruiters are searching with Windows Search or Apple's Spotlight.

  • Keep the header and footer clean. Older ATSs can't read in there, so when you include details such as your contact information, it gets lost. Now recruiters won't know your address and you'll never appear in local searches.

  • Keep fonts standard. ATSs also don't like surprises and will read your resume better with basic business fonts such as Times, Arial and Georgia.

  • Also keep bullets standard. Fancy arrows, dingbats and checkmarks can also mess up when coming through an ATS or just transferring to another computer. Stick to the basic bulleted formatting.

  • Have clear and descriptive headings. This one isn't for the ATS as much as it is for the reader. Recruiters scan resumes all day and want to be able to quickly find the information they need to see.

What formatting tricks have you used to sneak past the pile of resumes and immediately get in front of a recruiter? Please share them with our readers in the comments below.