You are here

Avoid the Resume Database Black Hole!

There are numerous ways to apply to jobs—through your CareerEngine account, at a career fair, via a job search engine, or by directly visiting a company’s website.  When you visit a company’s website to apply, applicant tracking software is typically used to scan the information on your resume.  This means there are guidelines that you should follow to ensure that your resume is “universal” enough to be scanned by this kind of software. 

How to optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems:

  • Use language from the job description and include “keywords” related to your field: computer skills, software packages or technical knowledge from classes or work experiences.
  • Choose a functional (aka commonly used) font (recommended:  Arial or Times New Roman) in a standard size (between 10 and 12 point). 
  • Include your name as the first line of the page and your contact information at the top. 
  • Use a standard address format. If listing more than one phone number, list each on its own line.
  • Adhere to standard margin sizes (.75” on all sides, but can range from .5” – 1”).
  • “Left justify” your text.  Avoid columns, horizontal and vertical lines, borders, and boxes.
  • Use standard bullets, but avoid other characters.  Avoid images and graphics. 
  • Avoid italics, script and underlined passages.

These guidelines might make you feel like “boring is better” (format-wise, this is true).  However, employers are going to value resumes that are well organized, include quantifiable details, and are easy to read.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid “fancy” formatting…it’s more important that your resume is functional and makes it through the scanning process than having one that looks creative and gets lost in the process. 


Some good news:  ECS resume templates are preformatted to be fax, scanner, and application tracking system friendly.  You can locate these templates in your CareerEngine account in the Document Library.  Have questions about your resume?  Come see an ECS advisor, we’d be happy to help you with it. 

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."
-Bill Gates

Categories: Resumes

About the author

Rachel Kaschner

Rachel Kaschner is the Assistant Director at Engineering Career Services.