Machine Scannable Resumes
—Why bother? - Resume Wizard
In the good old days—the nineties—large companies processed thousands of paper resumes each week. In order to process these paper resumes for storage, tracking, and retrieval, these companies would scan paper resumes, using an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system. Scanned resumes were then placed in electronic databases. Smaller companies did not use scanning systems because they did not receive as many resumes and could not justify the expense.
That was then. Nowadays, most large companies still use optical scanning for paper resumes but, almost without exception, they use online forms and email to receive electronic applicant resumes. Almost all employers prefer electronic resumes because they are easier to store, sort, process, retrieve and distribute. Electronic resumes do not require optical scanning because they are already in a format that enables easy insertion into electronic databases.
Machine scannable resumes are ugly by design because machines are not impressed by the same things that impress humans—in fact some human design elements will cause machine scanning errors. Often, a resume that is optimized for machine scannability, will fail a human scan. You should use a machine scannable resume only if the employer requests one or if you are not sending your resume via electronic means.
Unfortunately, some traditional resume writers still insist that machine scannability is always of paramount importance. If you apply for work online, this is simply not true. If their argument made sense, large companies would operate Rube Goldberg systems in which all electronic resumes received would be printed on valuable paper, then passed through error-prone OCR scanners in order to extract and convert the information contained back into an electronic format suitable for storage in electronic databases. No intelligent person would want to work for such a corporation.
If you doubt that optical scanning is no longer a big deal, take a look at Web sites operated by major resume scanning/applicant tracking software vendors. Resumix (renamed HotJobs Software) and Restrac (now Webhire) only mention machine scanning in passing. Their systems are now geared toward electronic resumes. For most positions advertised online, scannability is passé.
Companies that receive hundreds and thousands of resumes a week (like ThinkJobs.com) can afford Web sites and computers, and even email. Even small companies can afford computers and email—if they cannot afford computers, they certainly cannot afford OCR scanners which are computer peripherals. Corporate employers don't need to optically scan your electronic resume. Government agencies are another story. The government can afford email and Web based application forms but some agencies may not have gotten around to implementing the technology. So, if a government agency insists on a paper scannable resume, please comply.
If you are reading this online, you are probably comfortable using the Internet to hunt for, and respond to, job ads. More often than not, you apply for work online. For this reason, your resume does not have to be of the scannable variety. Unless you insist on applying for the position via snail mail, use a human scannable resume. Send an online resume unless snail mail is the only option.
If you send your resume to a large organization via snail mail (why would you?!) make sure it can be scanned by OCR systems without error. You should try to make your resume machine scannable but it is more important to strive for human scannability. After all, a human will scan, and hopefully read, your resume before any interview is scheduled.
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• Should you write your own resume? >>
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