Resume Tips For a Paperless World

Common myths

Most of the commonly stated myths about resumes come from people who still live in a world of paper. The fact is that resumes are now seldom on paper. The means by which to deal with documents without paper has been on the desks of managers for more than 15 years. If a manager is still using paper, he is probably looking for a job like you are. If the resume is not on paper then many of the commonly held myths are no longer valid, and I explain some below.

I understand that for many this transition away from paper may be painful, but it is a necessary step toward a better and more productive life. Paper is a habit, best broken and many of the reasons for this should be obvious. Paper can only be in one place at a time. Paper must be read. You cannot do an accurate keyword search on paper. The list goes on and on and goes to the very health of the planet.

Below are some things that you should do to combat the many common myths about resumes.

Ignore the 2 page limit

There are no page limits to a resume. There may have been at one time limits to the length of resume. This was because the resume was on paper and had to be read by the hiring manager. If the resume is in a soft document, like a word-processed document the hiring manager is more likely to use the features of the word processor to scan the document to make a decision. That decision will be based upon the keywords and the descriptions surrounding the keywords in the resumes. Keywords are the key!

Don’t Be brief

If you imagine the hiring manager at a desk with a stack of resumes on the corner of the desk and the hiring manager has to read all of them, you would conclude that shortening the hiring manager’s pain would be in your favor. But remember that there is no stack of resumes on his desk. There is a list of documents in a directory on his hard disk.

If you wish your resume to be compatible with the majority of word processors use a simple format like Text, (TXT, not attractive) or Rich Text, (RTF, very attractive). These should be available on all systems both, Windows and UNIX.

Don’t have them printed at the printer

In a paper-based world, in the past, this may have been appropriate, but in a computer-based world, the paper is redundant. It isn’t even a good transmission medium. It has weaknesses inherent in the physical world. It can only be in one place at a time, it takes up space, it must be read, word by word, etc.

A word-processed document can look just as attractive, can be shared by many and can be transmitted instantly, much faster than mail or even a fax. It takes up much less physical space. It can be scanned for keywords and evaluated based upon keyword frequency and/or density. And besides it can also be read if you care to.

Don’t use one resume, many cover letters

In the recruiting business the only means by which a recruiter can communicate with the hiring authority is by the resume. There are no cover letters involved with recruiters as a rule. Cover letters may have been appropriate if you went to a printer with your resume along with several reams of fancy paper and had them offset printed at great expense. Then a cover letter would have been appropriate. It would have enhanced or gave “corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.” (My apologies to William S. Gilbert.)

A word-processed resume is flexible, can be easily changed and adapted to the requirements of the position applied for. You need not make the expenditures of fancy paper, printing or postage. And as it is flexible, the important details for each and every job can be changed. The cover letter becomes redundant.

As a recruiter myself I can say, “None of the hiring managers with whom we deal will read or accept a cover letter”.

Don’t Fax resumes to employers and recruiters

Faxed resumes have all the disadvantages of paper resumes and the added disadvantage that they often fade. Faxes are labor intensive. To put them in a modern office setting they require either re-typing or OCR and word by word inspection and changing.

You see, a soft document, which a fax is not, can be scanned by search engines and can be found later in an instant based upon the frequency of certain search words contained within. A fax will have to be adapted to this search engine by a rather labor intensive process. It does not make a good impression.

Understand that you have (1) prepared the resume with a word processor and then (2) printed it. Then you’ve (3) faxed it, and then (4) it needs to be OCRed and (5) inspected and corrected before it can go into the search engine. If you just sent the word-processed file, it could go directly into the document search engine. That would be a two step process and the second step is a fast one. Which would give the best impression to a prospective employer?

Don’t use faxes if you can get away with it. But consider that companies that still use faxes are not likely to be competitive in the years to come.

Proactive Approach – Resume is a sales tool

What you are doing with a resume is trying to convince someone to act in your favor. It doesn’t help you a bit if you put unattractive statements in the resume. That should be obvious. The hiring authority reading your resume is looking for very predicable things. Those things are in the job posting. For the resume to be effective it must have complete contact information. Leaving contact information off the resume gives the impression that the applicant is hiding.

If you have any overseas experience, you should put your current visa status in a prominent place. If it is not in a prominent place, the worst is likely to be assumed. Even if you are a citizen, make that clear to the reader/decision maker.

Keywords are important

Just like a college professor, the hiring authority likes to see their own words, and so put the same keywords (buzzwords) from the job posting in the Experience section of the resume.

As said before, the resume is not read. It is often scanned by a search engine and selected upon the number and selection of keywords. Once a resume is retrieved by a search engine, it will be viewed by the hiring manger.

He will open each with his word processor. At this point he may read the document but most hiring managers are busy, so the document will be searched for keywords using the “Find” function. When the keyword is found, the surrounding text will be read.

If he doesn’t see all of the keywords he is looking for, that resume will be placed on a back burner so to speak or rejected all together. We have a few hiring agencies that have clerical staff examine the resumes for the key skills and experience, and if they don’t see everything asked in the job requisition the whole resume is rejected.

Skills summaries are not important

Here’s a tip: The skill summary is ignored. The skills listed in a summary do not indicate the level of experience or understanding of those skills. All of the hiring managers with whom I have spoken, pass the skills summary off as hype. They don’t consider it.

We stress this over and over. You can put anything into a skill summary, but it doesn’t indicate the quality of the skill and that is important. The hiring manager is aware of that, and have often told us that they consider it hype. Yes, you can have a skill summary, but don’t rely on it. All of the hiring managers that we talk to ignore them.

Write the resume to fit the job

You know from the job order what the hiring manager is looking for. You know that the current market is very bad with many people applying to a few jobs. Hiring managers write the job order in such a way to get the most bang for the buck and so they will load the requisition with as many skills and tools as they can.

However, this is good because it gives you, the applicant, the means to write your resume to fit that hiring manager’s needs. All you have to do is see that the requisite skills and tools necessary are in the Experience section of the resume.

The Work Experience Section is Very Important

Where the hiring manager is going to look is the Experience section of the resume. Most of your time should be spent there. It is there that the hiring manager will be able to associate the skills, tools and activities with the company, the location, the beginning date and the ending date. This gives the hiring manager the best view to evaluate the skills, tools and activities of the candidate.

So that is where you concentrate those very important keywords. Be sure that you portray yourself with the greatest strength that you can. All of your qualifying skills, tools and activities should be thoroughly explained. Remember there are no page limits. It is the details that is important.

Be Positive

Remember that you’re selling yourself. This resume is the tool that you use. You should never place anything negative in your resume. You should never explain why you didn’t get along with your former employer or co-workers. You should never complain about the conditions where you worked. One mention of a negative nature will have your resume in the wastebasket before it is read any further.


There are no page limits, you do not use paper, do not fax, you don’t send a cover letter, you don’t rely upon the skills summary and you put the keywords (skills, tools and activities) asked for in the job requirements in the Experience section of the resume. These are the things we have seen successful job seekers do.