E-fficient applications

The ways of attracting employers are vastly changing as electronic
applications are more welcome, and detailed resumes are demanded
Tuesday, April 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:00 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The days of mailing a resume to a prospective employer are waning, but that doesn’t mean job seekers can forget all the resume-writing guidelines from the past. Rather, it means there is a whole new set of rules to learn.

Now, when someone sends a resume in to a company, they can expect it to be put into a computer immediately. Many employers are asking that candidates only send in materials electronically, usually via e-mail or through a Web site, and even companies that do accept printed resumes will often scan them into large databases before reading them.

Chris Christensen, who runs the online resume service, said companies are changing over to electronic formats because it makes it easier for people to contact potential employees and helps speed up the process of eliminating applicants. This means more resumes are going through the hands of recruiters in less time. Typically, a recruiter will only spend 10 seconds with a single resume, according to

When Heather Miles-Mange, director of career services at Stephens College, saw this trend developing, she put together a workshop to deal with electronic resumes. Miles-Mange said it is important for job seekers to make resumes that are easy to scan quickly because many recruiters will simply throw out those that are hard to read.

She said one of the biggest problems she sees is students writing resumes out in paragraph form. “You simply can’t do that on your resume,” Miles-Mange said.

Amanda Nell, director of employer relations at MU, said most recruiters nationwide have moved over to using electronic versions of resumes. She said MU students have been able to post resumes online through a special database since before she got there in the fall of 2001. This January, the system was upgraded to be more accessible by students and employers.

Nell said employers are more likely to turn to career centers, such as the one run through the university, than passive job posting Web sites like if they are looking to fill professional-level positions. She said career centers typically have more sorted resumes through which employers can search, and are often used as points of contact when companies want to meet with applicants in person.

“I’ve heard of very few people who have found jobs through very big search engines,” Nell said. Still, most career experts think job hunters should use such sites and send their resumes out in as many ways as possible.

Another successful way to land a job is to contact employers directly. While online resumes have made life easier for recruiters in some ways, many employers are “flooded” with responses when they post job openings on the Internet and have grown reluctant to do so. This means applicants shouldn’t be afraid to “cold call” companies that haven’t widely posted job openings.

Even if there are no immediate openings, companies often maintain electronic resume banks, which they can turn to when positions do open up.

The problem for potential employees is that with so many resumes coming in, the selection process has become more auto-mated, and before a human even begins reading resumes, many are discarded.

Most companies will ask for resumes to be readable with a specific program. Any files that don’t meet their requirements are generally deleted to save time.

Sending a copy of the resume in an e-mail, and not just as a file attachment, is also a good idea. Some companies require this, and will simply delete any files sent in to keep out spam and computer viruses.

“Candidates have to respect how an employer wants information delivered,” Nell said.

Nell said another growing trend is for companies to have applicants fill out forms on a Web site instead of submitting a resume. These online applications usually deal with the same information as a resume but are guaranteed to be in the format the company is looking for.

Shaun McDonough, an administrative assistant in the Stephens College Career Center, said sending a simple text only file to an employer is usually best. He said applicants should make a resume focused on functionality over aesthetics.

Larger companies now use computers to scan through resumes, pulling out certain ones based on keywords. By using widely accepted industry terms in a resume, job candidates can increase the chances that such computer systems will fit a resume to an appropriate job opening.

While most companies generally assume that applicants will have digital resumes, Nell said there are still some employers who want a hard copy mailed or faxed in. Since these companies might still scan the resumes, applicants should avoid getting fancy — using folders or colorful images — unless they know for certain that someone will be going through files by hand.

McDonough said resumes should be sent with plain backgrounds and widely used fonts so they can be easily scanned. Hollow bullets can also be read as O’s and should be avoided. If the resume is mailed in, it should be done so in a large envelope as creases may leave entire lines of text unreadable to scanners.

It is important to remember that even with all this automation, the applicant will eventually meet with someone in person. It is best for job hunters to get as much personal contact with companies as possible so they stick out, Nell said.

Miles-Mange said a good way for applicants to become more familiar with companies is to contact a potential employer after sending in a resume to confirm it was received.

“The most successful job seeker,” said Christensen, “is the one who embraces both strategies, getting materials into the hands of prospective employers and contacting them online.”

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