How to Create A Scannable Resume

Darin Stageberg, counselor/coordinator

A resume is a road-map of the individual's professional life. It tells where the individual has been and where they are heading. Nobody said writing a resume is easy, but many of you may traveled down this road before. Career counselors argue that resumes should be updated at least every six months. Experiences (professional and educational) and skills can change in a short period of time. Above all, human resource departments nationwide are now using new technology to view and store resumes of applicants. Therefore it's worthwhile to format a resume that is scannable.

More and more companies today are using systems to help them manage the volume of resumes for their job openings. It's called "electronic applicant tracking". This new system is designed to help them save time and energy in reading and extracting information on resumes. Large companies receive hundreds of resumes for open positions. However, if the text of the resume is hard for the computer to read, much of the information in the resume does not get into the database.

To help make your resume readable by a computer database, follow some of these tips:


  • Use white, standard weight (20 lbs), 8 1/2 x 11 paper printed on one side only
  • Laser printed original is preferred over dot matrix or other printed copy
  • Do not fold or staple
  • Use a standard font size of 10 to 14 points
  • Good fonts are Helvetica, Courier, and Times Roman
  • Avoid italics, underlines, shadows, symbols and reverse lettering
  • Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes
  • Avoid the two column format
  • Place your name at the top of the page on its own line
  • Use standard address format below the name
  • List each phone number on its own line


  • Use enough key words (e.g., B.S., computer science, supervised) to define your skills, experience, and education
  • Increase your list of key words by including specifics; for example, list the names of software you use
  • Describe your experience in specific words rather than vague descriptions
  • Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry
  • Avoid using pronouns (e.g, my, I, us)

The above format and content guidelines will give you a good start in assuring a scannable resume for computer systems. Resources on the Internet such as CareerMosaic ( and counselors at Career Services and Cooperative Education offices on postsecondary campuses are also available in providing information on this topic. Once you begin this exercise, the more you will learn about this important job seeking development.