Resume Formats

Written by Serena Berger
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Formatting an electronic resume brings up a number of interesting concerns. You may be thrilled with the way your resume looks in MS Word, and that will be fine if you want to print it out and mail it somewhere. The problems arise when you want to submit a copy of your resume online.

You may want to send your resume, formatted perfectly, along to an employer as an attachment. Many employers, however, are discouraging that (or not allowing it at all) because too many attachments contain viruses. A company's entire computer system can crash due to a single virus--sent maliciously or accidentally--so they are increasingly unwilling to accept attachments. Instead, they ask you to paste your cover letter and resume into a window on their website. This means your Word formatting will be ineffectual.

ASCII Formatting for Resumes

To make sure your resume will appear to the employer the way it appears to you, you'll have to have a plain-text, or ASCII version. ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, and it refers to text which has no graphics, lines, bullets, underlining, italics, or other formatting characters. ASCII files can be understood by any computer, anywhere, and what you see is what they'll get.

To turn your resume into plain-text, save a version with the .txt extension. You'll have the option to save it as a text-only document, which is what you should do. It will now open again without any formatting, leaving you to edit it for word wrapping and other serious layout problems. To avoid odd word wrapping, set the right margin at 6.5 inches. Then, after typing 65 characters, hit a hard carriage return. Also, use a font with a fixed-width typeface, not one in which different letters have different widths. Courier and Arial work well, but the perennial favorite Times New Roman does not. If you want to make bullets, you have to use characters which are on your keyboard (+ or *, for instance), not symbols unique to your word processing program. Tab is also ineffectual--you have to use spaces to indent in plain-text.

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