Have A Computer Friendly Resume

Now that I’ve covered sharing your story in person, let’s get to everyone’s favorite topic, this is how you share your story on paper, the resume.  It’s funny how when the job search topic comes up, this is the thing that most people zero in on.  But if you’ll notice, we didn’t even get to resume until almost the end of the course.  There are so many other things related to your mindset that need to happen first before you get here.  

Which describes you best? 

I use a traditional resume format.


I have a clear, well organized resume that is friendly to screening software and humans.

Sharing is caring so you’ll be hearing even more about my job search blunders.  I hope that you’ll benefit from me sharing my mistakes and so you don’t have to repeat them.  Here’s a side note.  The guidance I’m sharing here is geared for people applying for jobs online and at bigger companies.  If you’re applying to places where you’ll be giving a printed hardcopy or guaranteed that a human will review every resume, then this may not be as relevant.  Also, for folks in the creative fields, your resume may be more graphic if that’s what’s traditionally used in your desired roles.  

With my resume, I can’t even say that I had a traditional format.  It was just flat out terrible.  I mentioned earlier that I hired an HR consultant for help.  I still remember like it was yesterday.  If you haven’t caught on, I like to be as prepared as possible.  The day before our initial meeting, I cleared my calendar and I spent eight solid hours working on a brand new shiny version of my resume.  I went online and downloaded this gorgeous resume template.  It had all of these pretty infographics and this slick modern format.  I’d also just had a professional headshot made so I was bent on including my photo.  I used this teeny tiny super cool looking font and rearranged stuff around on my one page resume for hours until I could get it all to fit.  I was so proud of my work.  

At our first meeting, I sat down at the table and handed over a printed copy of my resume like it was a piece of gold.  I knew the consultant would take one look at my work and be so impressed.  After all, I had researched and worked so long and hard on it.  The HR consultant didn’t even look at it for five seconds and handed it right back to me.  She flatly told me that a resume like this would never work if I was looking for a job at a big company.  The infographics and photo were terrible for Applicant Tracking Systems, ATS, which is just a fancy way of saying the computer systems.  She also said it was way too short without enough keywords to get me past the computer screeners.  It was devastating.  I was deflated.  I was demoralized.  I had worked so hard for so long and I was just told my work was useless and I’d have to start over.  

In the moment, getting that feedback felt terrible.  In retrospect, it was the absolute best thing that could have happened.  I did have a junky resume.  Everything the HR consultant said was spot-on.  My resume was disorganized and covered with graphics.  If I were to upload it to a job site or even try to email as a Word format, there was a strong chance that the fonts and formats wouldn’t translate as expected.  I didn’t truly grasp how important it was that my resume format be friendly to screening softwares especially in this digital world.  If you’re not sure if your format is digital friendly, try uploading it to a job site like indeed.com or careerbuilder.com.   If the resume uploads and is formatted or breaks up into sections as expected, then you’re okay.  You’ll also discover this pretty quickly when you apply to big companies online.  Often, they’ll want you to upload a resume and then it will automatically fill out your work history and dates, etc.  Essentially, you’ll save yourself a lot of time with online applications if you use a computer friendly resume format.  It will also increase your chances of getting through the Applicant Tracking System, again, the ATS.  

Once your resume gets past the computer system, you’ll still want it to look decent for human review.  Use a format that is clean and visually appealing.  There are plenty of resources and opinions about what makes a good resume.  A good test I use is if I look at my own resume or better yet, have a friend review it, can the reader tell what job or role that I’m after?  What’s their impression in the first few seconds?  If you pass the initial scan, then you may get a few extra minutes of closer review.  With resumes, first impressions count a lot.

Here’s your takeaway.  If you’re looking for that old resume file from five years ago, don’t bother.  Start from scratch with a format that is friendly both to computer systems and humans.  Your resume should be easily digested by the computer yet still visually appealing and organized for human review.