When you are right you are right. Apparently I am that. I recently stumbled onto the site of a group which makes software for recruiters, both corporate and independent. Reading down it I found just about everything I have been pounding on for years, but their focus is different: As The Sovren Group points out, resumes are often read and selected by electronic systems, which read them. They are also entered into databases electronically, from which they can be mined. (We do this, but not electronically, so we can get a feel for our candidates.) My point, generally, has been that some things are simply unappealing or annoying. Theirs is that these same things will prevent your resume from being added to the searchable candidates and thus you from being considered.
Sovren provides a long and detailed piece of extremely valuable information, which you should read in full and then bookmark. Here is a summary of some but not all of Sovren’s tips with a few comments about non automated systems. (I am a non automated system).
Note: Before running out to write a new resume, just check the one you have against this list and tweak it as necessary to create an electronic version. (or to make it easier for the rest of us to assist you in your job search.)
1) Use ONLY Microsoft Word format. (I have suggested in the past that RTF is acceptable, but Word is definitely better. At all costs do NOT use PDF for your resume.
2) “Don’t get fancy”, cute, or clever. You are sending professional information, not ptrticipating in a science fair fair. do not use all caps except in section heading (EXPERIENCE), do not separate letters with spaces to emphasize them (J O H N or J_O_H_N) , do not use small caps or fancy lettering, do not underline, use NO graphics (including cute bullets), do NOT use long bullet lists. I cannot stress enough how valuable this is for non automated systems as well (which we usually call “people”).
3) NO PICTURES. No photos of you or your food, no little chef hat bullets, no drawings, no logos, no lines or frames. NOTHING., NO GRAPHICS PERIOD! Graphics are for amateurs. (I delete them – an annoyance to be sure – but Sovren’s reasoning is that pictures cannot be databased – true story: a very fat chef from India broke database with a huge picture, causing me days of repair work, and I have detested the man ever since) – but Sovren speaks of electronic processes, not human sentiments. If you are submitting for a European job, then submit the pictures they require as separate documents. (look at the site to see what pictures look like to the robot.) Further argument: Many submission scripts limit the size of resumes sent and will exclude those with pictures.
4) No Headers (they are an annoyance). No footers. Every thing goes in the main body of the resume. This goes for all systems. Just put it in the body. If you are too lazy to type it in a few places, then how in earth would you expect to handle daily mise en place or produce accounting? Headers seem like a good idea. They aren’t.
5) Put all of your contact information at the very top of the resume. That’s FIRST – the VERY first. Not in an artsy line at the bottom. As a person, I appreciate this, too.
My addition: Make sure it includes your city, your zip code, your phone (mobile preferred) and your email. If you want the job, PUT YOUR EMAIL IN YOUR RESUME.
6) Do not put your information in an attractive line across the top of the resume, but name above address above phone number above email. (More important for reading bots than people)
7) Never use tables. Never use columns. I rarely mention this and don’t mind columns (tables can be a pain), as I feel that it is easier for candidates to work with, but the company is correct. They store and send badly, often placing employment dates first, followed by all employers and experience. See the piece for examples. (I am fine with columns for references, but apparently the reader bots are not.)
8) Don’t write your resume in Excel. (see points 1 and 3). Excel does strange things to data.(This is my rule, not theirs, but just use Word.
9) Don’t use templates, especially those provided by Microsoft Word or other office program.: (Exemption: The templates on this site conform to these rules except for one using a table.) Templates contain “fields”, which will turn up as “Field” or “Name” when your resume is electronically parsed rather than your name. (A note on templates – they are generally fine for anything not read by an automated system, but do be sure to fill in all the fields and delete phrases like “Put your name here”.)
10) Don’t use fields: As the writer of the articles notes, if you don’t know what they are, they you don’t have to worry. Resume writers, however, often use them, so try the Test below to make sure the correct data shows for robots.
11) Write your dates ad Jan ’01 – present rather than 01/01 to present. I disagree here, since the latter is shorter. This has an impact on only non US hiring.
12) Include your experience and skills used in your job description, under the listing of the employer. What have I been saying all along? Not in initial bullet list, not in separate paragraphs, but right under the job listing.
13) Do not use blank lines in your job descriptions. Use them to separate the name of the place where you worked from the description and separate employment listings with blank lines.
14) Use only one basic font: really, that makes the resume easier to read. Times new Roman remains the most practical.
15) Test your resume by saving it to .txt format and reducing all fonts to 8. (look up help if you don’t know how) and open it to see how well it scans and reads. If it is not what you want, then you can (my tip, not theirs) write it using Notepad or a text program, copy it to a Word document and format it then. (note: Your font size should not be eight but rather about 11 for most submissions..this merely shows you if a bot will read it.
16) Use standard capitalization. That means writing your name as John Jones, streets, etc. (see nr 2 as well)
17) Be consistent: Use the same format for all categories (Education, Experience, Press..whatever you have on the resume.
18) Justify left: They missed this one, but you should not center your jobs and experience. Even if the reader robots get it, it’s hard for human eyes to follow.
The purpose of the Sovren FAQ was to assist you in creating a resume that can be adequately parsed by an electronic data entry system. I have noted the few cases where sending it to a person makes a difference. The Sovren Group, that is the producer of a resume parsing system, suggests that you keep two resumes, one for electronic situations. The problem is that you don’t necessarily know when that will be the case. (Sovren has a list of the job boards using their software on their site) If you send a resume to any group with then broadcasts it to all subscribers, they obviously you should follow Sovren’s suggestions to the letter. This software is costly, so it is used mostly be groups which seek a numerous easily definable traits an a very large group of candidates – I would expect chain restaurants to use them as well.
It is interesting to note how much of what is good for the reading robot is good for the flesh and blood reader. While you need to be more careful of the visuals in the direct resume, readers will still appreciate the clarity required by automation. If you take the suggestions above and tweak the resume so that it can be read quickly and easily, it will work for both.
I suspect that some of the rules given by Sovran will fall away in future software generations, but as you are seeking a job now, they are worth considering.
The argument that your resume may not stand out is simply wrong. Is I said above, you are communicating facts, dates, skills and your work history. It is not an art competition.
More good stuff to read on resumes: (At least I hope so) I do urge you to read the Sovren site, which is more complete and explains the logic behind the suggestions as well as providing more tips.)
The Soveren Group: How to assure that automated recruiting software can read your resume:
Chefs Professional Agency: The philosophy behind a good resume:
Chefs Professional Agency: The Easy Peasy Resume guide with templates (acceptable to electronic resume readers)
More on resumes from this site: