Career Center

What is a Scannable Resume?
Scannable resumes are plainly formatted to be suitable for scanning into a computerized resume database.

At one time, resumes were designed to appeal only to humans. Italics, lines, underlining, etc were encouraged. Now, many employers input resumes into a computer database for searching and retrieval. The paper version is probably discarded.

The problem with scanning is that the program may not "read" the words accurately and the recruiter's search will not find your resume.

So, a scannable resume needs to do two things:

  1. increase the computer's ability to "read" your resume, and
  2. maximize the chances of finding your resume during an employer search.

Our sample resume is a scannable resume.

When to Submit a Scannable Resume

  • The recruiter requests it.
  • The employer's website says it prefers or requires a scannable resume. If you cannot find this information, ask the employer—by phone or e-mail.
  • A resume is submitted to a large organization or even a medium-sized organization receiving a high volume of resumes. Most likely, all of them will be scanned.

You probably don't need a scannable resume, if seeking employment in an industry or field such as a small association, non-profit, or very small company. However, it is always good to check.

Formatting a Scannable Resume

Design it nice enough for the human eye, but without the formatting elements computers can misread.

  • No italics.
  • No underlining.
  • No shading or other unusual enhancements.
  • No vertical or horizontal lines, graphics, or boxes.
  • Bolding or ALL CAPITAL letters are okay, but make sure the individual letters do not touch each other. The human eye can differentiate the letters; the computer "eye" can't.
  • Use a sans serif font, such as Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, or Universe. These fonts do not have the small markings on the edge of each letter (serifs). Do not use serif fonts, such as Times New Roman.
  • Use a font size of 10, 11, or 12. Note that font sizes are not created equal. A 10-point Arial is not the same size as a 10-point Century Gothic.
  • Bullets are okay, but use solid round ones not squares, hollows, arrows, or graphical ones.
  • Print using a laser printer on white paper. Do not use an ink jet printer which can bleed the ink so the letters touch.
  • Do not use paper with a heavy texture that could interfere with the clarity of the print.
  • When mailing, do not fold or use staples. Paper clip your cover letter and resume, then insert them into a 9 x 12 envelope. Insert cardstock or cardboard around your documents to reduce wrinkling and folding.

Scannable Resume Content

  • Use keywords, particularly nouns. Recruiters retrieve scanned resumes by using keyword searches, just like searching an online library catalog. The keywords are likely to be nouns. For instance, a recruiter would search for "project management," not "manage projects."
  • Research the industry and/or the requirements of the jobs sought in order to include words that a recruiter would use to search. Put yourself in the recruiters chair and think how you would find your resume in a database.
  • Review the position description. Include key terms in your resume where appropriate. Revise your resume slightly for different positions or keep several versions.
  • Insert a summary or keyword section, if you can't work nouns into the bulleted experience statements. Some keyword examples are: customer service, chemical engineer, manager, graphic design, process modeling, trainer, Spanish, co-op, PowerPoint, etc. Be specific.
  • Use terms and acronyms specific to the industry. In listing acronyms, spell out the full name; i.e., IEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers or Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, IEEE.
A resume with misspelled words will not be found in a keyword search. If you misspell a critical word, you have effectively left it off your resume. As with any resume, spelling and typographical errors are unacceptable.

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