Creating a Scannable Resume

Types of scanning

It is important to clarify what they mean by ‘scanning’. It is very common for companies to scan your resume and keep it as a graphic image. Once you have applied to a company you will be entered into their ‘applicant-tracking database.’ An important part of this database is allowing any user in the company to access your profile, and view or print your resume. Your current resume works fine for this system.

Alternatively, some organizations scan the resume then run Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software on it. This software scans the document, removes any “unwanted” text and then does a key word search. The resume is essentially ‘graded’ against established criteria, such as a minimum GPA. The software also counts the number of occurrences of keywords or phrases such as project management, engineering, profit and loss, distribution, etc.

How often will OCR happen?

  • Internet. It is safe to assume that any time you complete an on-line registration form on the Internet, or upload a resume to a public site that it will be scanned with OCR.
  • MBA PCC. Recruiters who get your resume from the MBA PCC tend to not scan. At least not initially. Pre-selection is based on personally reading your resume and meeting you. At some point later in the process it may be scanned. If you are not selected for an interview, your resume may be scanned with OCR for later retrieval.
  • Other sources of leads. These companies may or may not scan. Even companies with OCR do not use it on every candidate. Senior management, MBAs, and engineers are often read personally. Unsolicited resumes and undergraduate resumes are often scanned simply because of the volume of those resumes.

Writing a scannable resume

A scannable resume is a hard copy version of your resume, but different than what you normally do for your resume. Take note that the keywords are all skill-focused nouns. In your current resume the emphasis is on verbs. Here are some basic rules to follow when writing a scannable resume:

  • Keywords in the resume should be skill-focused nouns.
  • Be sure to spell out “P&L” to “Profit and Loss” and use both “purchasing” and “procurement” and “standard query language” for “SQL” or American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS).
  • Since the resume is converted to a text file and graded, include NO graphics. This means no lines, bullet points, boldface, italics, images, etc. OCR will encounter errors when trying to translate these. Too many errors may negatively impact your résumé’s ability to be graded well.
  • Send only originals of your resume (do not send a photocopy). Do not fax the resume, and do not fold or staple the resume. This will improve its grading by OCR.
  • Font should be 10-14 point. Fonts should be sans serif style (i.e. Arial) and not Serif (i.e. Times New Roman, Garamond)…in-other-words, no “curl’s” at the end of letters and more “block” lettering is preferred. This is often referred to as PDA style writing. It is less fancy and how you learned to print in grammar school. This is Times New Roman, This is Arial.

Writing a text resume

A text resume is a text-only version of your resume that makes it easy for pasting into websites. Here are some rules for text resumes:

  • You need top headings rather than left columns. Nothing should be in columns.
  • Make sure to replace all tabs and use the space bar for spacing. It is best, however, to not try to line anything up because you do not know if the output uses proportional spacing or not.
  • Avoid trying to use asterisks (*) for bullets – they may produce an error. So will hyphens, slashes, etc. Use blank lines to make the resume look more appealing.
  • Do not make manual line breaks except for the end of a bullet/sentence. Just let the text run on.
  • Font format & style do not matter; they will put it into a database.
  • Most will limit the resume to 700 characters, which can contain a 2-page resume (although not recommended).
  • You may want to add a “keyword” section at the bottom. Since the resume is in a database it can be keyword searched.

Keywords tend to nouns (“project management”) rather than verbs (“managed project”). When using keywords, list them in ALL likely forms (i.e. “SQL”, “standard query language”, and “sequel server”). See second bullet point under “scannable resumes,” above. Resumes searched in databases tend to use keywords that are nouns (i.e. negotiation).

Typically, when a resume is read, it is the verbs that stand out (i.e. negotiated). The keyword section should have common noun-forms for your skills.

  • Paste from MSWord (to avoid sending viruses) into Notepad, or some other basic word processing program, and then rearrange it so that it looks good as a text document. Check your resume each time as it may paste different each time you do it.

For more information visit:

  • Electronic Resumes –

  • e-Resumes –

  • Scannable Resume –

  • Scannable Resume –

So, what do I send?

In general, send your current, accomplishment (verb-based) resume unless you have reason to suspect otherwise. Companies who scan will often list on their web pages what type of resume to send. Read carefully any literature from a company that discusses the application procedure. If you are in doubt – ask someone at the company.