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E-Resume File Formats - 6 Popular File Formats for E-ResumesE-Resume File Formats - The 6 Popular File Formats for E-Resumes

© David Alan Carter
All Rights Reserved

Job seekers today who fully embrace electronics and the power of the internet are confronted with a number of formatting options for delivering their resume to their intended target. A note of caution: get the format wrong, and your resume won't get read. Familiarize yourself with these 6 most popular file formats for e-resumes.

The 6 Most Popular File Formats For E-Resumes

- Formatted Resume. This is the traditional resume you see in printed form, crafted using a word processing program (most commonly Microsoft Word). While it's also suitable for email transmission as a file attachment, it is dependent upon the email recipient to have the same word processing software application (and version update) on his or her computer in order to open the attachment and view its contents. Sent as an email attachment, the formatted resume is also vulnerable to viruses. For that reason, such attachments are often not acceptable by companies. Before sending your formatted resume as an attachment in an email, make sure you've gotten permission to do so, and that the recipient will be able to access the file. Either that, or include a plain text resume copied and pasted onto the body of the email as a backup to ensure your resume gets read.

- Plain Text Resume. Also known as an ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) resume, this is a simple text format that allows your resume to be read by practically any computer in the world. It is devoid of graphics and embellishments: no fancy bullets, no bold, no italics. Ideal for placement in keyword-searchable databases, the ASCII resume can be transmitted as an email file attachment, pasted onto the body of an email, or pasted piece-by-piece onto e-forms on job boards, corporate websites and the like. It's not pretty to look at, but the plain text resume is a must-have if you want your availability for employment to be visible to the computers that match candidates to job openings.

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- Scannable Resume. This is basically a plain text or ASCII resume that is printed out. This is applicable when a company requests a hard-copy resume with the intent to scan the document into their keyword-searchable database. Transmitted by mail or fax. Sidebar: hard-copy scannable resumes are rapidly losing favor in the marketplace as databases are increasingly able to accept resumes directly from email, negating the need for someone to sit around physically scanning paper.

- Rich Text Format Resume. Also known as an RTF (Rich Text Format) resume, this is a file format easily created from most word processing applications (Word, WordPerfect, etc.) by simply saving the resume as Rich Text (it will have a file extension of .rtf). Use the two-step "File, Save As" procedure in Word. As a general rule, simple graphics and embellishments (bold, italics, etc) will remain intact through the conversion, although more complex enhancements – graphs and tables – may not fair so well. An RTF resume sent as an email attachment is accessible across platforms and regardless of word processing software. And an RTF file attachment is less prone to viruses than Word. For those two reasons, RTF makes sense - especially when the job seeker doesn't know the file preference of the email recipient.

- Portable Document Format Resume. A PDF resume is a file format that retains all the neat design elements - interesting fonts, bolds and italics, bulleted lists and the like - normally ascribed to application software. But it is delivered independent of application software. Meaning, recipients of your emails don't need to have your particular version of Word (or WordPerfect, et al.) on their computer systems to be able to open your attachment. It's accessible whether the recipient is working from a PC or a Mac, and it's considered virtually virus proof. On the down side, if a PDF resume is intended for a keyword-scannable database, the document itself must be physically scanned first (unlike an ASCII file, a PDF can't be send directly from the email to the database).

- Web Resume. The Web-based or HTML resume is basically a published page on a website. It is advantageous because you can direct Web traffic to the site, and the resume can be as feature-rich as your imagination (and common sense) allows. If you're on the phone to an interested employer who wants to see your resume, you can refer that employer to the Web address of your HTML resume, bypassing email entirely. You do need to have a host and the architecture to publish a Web resume, both of which are doable but will require some effort - unless you've tapped a resume writing service that provides such a service.

Pick The Right E-Resume File Format

The particular format with which you transmit your e-resume will be dictated by the method of transmission (email, for example, vs posting to a job board or corporate website) as well as the intended target (human eyes vs computer software which will be scanning for keywords).

Get the file format right, and get your resume read. Beyond that, it's up to the talent that went into crafting that resume.

A Final Thought...

File format notwithstanding, if you've been in the job market for weeks or months and your resume isn't making the phone ring, it's time to reevaluate the document that is supposed to be selling you. Writing an effective resume has never been a walk in the park, but in this tough economy, resume writing is even more challenging. If your resume is going to be fighting for attention in an extremely competitive field, the services of a professional resume writer might make sense.

If you opt for some help, seek out a certified resume writer, and a writer who will guarantee the resume he creates will generate interviews. Yes, they're out there.

In fact, I can help you identify that "pro," that special writer who is qualified to deliver a polished document that puts your best foot forward in a tough job market. The page Resume Writer Reviews identifies 10 or more of the more popular companies out there, and I rank these writers on values like...

  • Quality of workmanship
  • Credentials
  • Pricing
  • Guarantees

You’ll find star rankings, mini-reviews, and in-depth reviews on each of these 10 companies. Whether you go it alone or trust the services of a pro writer, I wish you the best of luck in your job search! 

– David

David Alan Carter is a former technical recruiter (i.e. headhunter) and founder of Resume One of Cincinnati. For more than ten years, he personally crafted thousands of resumes for satisfied clients from all occupational walks of life, from entry-level to senior executive.


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