Can computer software read your resume? If not, you don't exist!

If the computer can't see you, you're just as invisible as this guy. Credit: flickr/Ariaski

Over 50% of large companies and most recruiters use resume parsing software to analyze your resume. If the software parses it wrong, you may never be called for an interview. Read on and learn the critical rules you must follow.

I came across a free webinar that has forever changed the way I think about writing and formatting resumes. Prior to this webinar, I had always felt that you should have your resume in two primary formats:

• One that’s formatted and looks great • One that looks good with no formatting at all, for use when asked to upload your resume via a text box on a web page

Well, there is a third version, one that can be properly "parsed" and converted into database tables for use in SQL-based searches. Think about it, if your zip code ends up in the phone field and your email address is classified as a company name, your contact information will never be found, and neither will you!

Some of the basic rules to ensure your resume parses include:

• Your name and contact info should be in the body of the document, never in the header or footer. Headers and footers are almost never parsed--and you wonder why nobody calls? • Do not use any graphics (no lines, logos, or images) since the software can convert them to ASCII text and numbers which can replace your contact info--especially if they are put on top. • Include the “Inc.”, “LLC” and other similar company name extensions. This helps the parser identify the company name versus your title or anything else it sometimes grabs. If you had three positions at the same company, put the company name at the top of EACH job. It sounds redundant, but it works and ensures the parser knows it has reached the next position to be processed. • Dates should be spelled out and in a standardized format that can be correctly analyzed by the resume parser (June 2009, not 6/09). • Do not use tables or columns--the parser reads these top to bottom, not left to right--so your information can get put in the wrong fields.

There were dozens of other suggestions, but I don’t want to steal the webinar’s thunder.

The speaker, Ted Finch of IQ Tech Pros, also gave additional advice to consider:

• Only use your cell phone, not your home phone. This ensures at least one number gets parsed correctly. Plus, your kids won't pick it up at home and forget to take a message. • Replace "career objectives" (the reader already assume your objective is to get "their" job) with "career highlights" at the top of your resume. This should contain the top 3-5 "achievements" that explains why the prospect, "would be a fool not to consider you." • Create a “master resume” with all of your experiences and accomplishments. Then, customize this master resume on a job-by-job basis by removing items that are least relevant to the specific job being pursued. • Include industry keywords throughout your resume because recruiters use these words when doing query-based resume searches and this helps your resume pop to the top of the list (resume SEO).

The webinar had a lot of valuable tips that I had never considered--but make a huge difference, but the thing that caught my attention was the comprehensive rules of resume parsing.

Does this stuff work? One attendee only had one interview in 8 weeks, but after re-engineering her resume so it would parse, she was suddenly "seen" and had seven interviews the following week.

With our current economy and fewer jobs available, it is critical that you learn all the tricks of the trade--and your chances of success are much higher if your resume is seen. Most folks have never heard of resume parsing, I hadn't--yet they are critical. If you learn the rules then your resume is seen, if not--it goes into a black hole and you virtually don't exist.

The free webinar I attended was from IQ Tech Pros and it can be found at http://www.iqtechpros.com/Quick-Links-Home/Quick-Links/Attend-Webinar.aspx. You'll also get a detailed list of the resume rules, supporting articles and a recommended template.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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