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Format Your Resumé to Get Results

You’ve completed your resumé. Now it’s time to decide how to send it to the employer.

The employer may ask for resumés as:

Follow the format the employer wants because it shows you can follow directions. Otherwise, your resumé could meet an untimely end with a shredder or delete button. Here are the format choices:


Email attachment

  • Use standard word processing software, such as Microsoft Word. Most employers will have standard software. If you’re not sure, ask the employer. Or send your documents in a portable document format (PDF).
  • Make sure the document is not password protected.
  • Keep underlines, graphics, and italics to a minimum. This prevents problems if the resumé is uploaded into an applicant software management system. Or use a PDF version.
  • Always send your resumé as an attachment. It should never go in the body of your email.
  • Remember to include your cover letter. You can send it in the body of the email as a way to introduce yourself. Or attach it with your resumé.  .
  • Before sending, make sure both your resumé and your cover letter are included.


Print document

  • Use good quality, 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • Make sure all copies are clean and bright.
  • Use white or buff paper. Avoid coloured or textured paper.
  • Paper clip, rather than staple, the pages together.
  • Don’t bind your resumé unless the employer requests it.
  • Don’t fold your resumé.
  • Mail your resumé in a 9 x 12-inch envelope.
  • Fax the original in fine mode, if possible.
  • Keep underlines, graphics, and italics to a minimum in case the resumé is scanned into an applicant software management system.
  • Send your resumé with a cover letter.


Formatting your resumé as a plain text document

Other formats

Many employers consider resumés in other formats, such as DVDs, CDs, videos, and websites, as non-standard. They won’t visit a website, click through a menu, or wait for a download to look at your resumé. It’s best to send your resumé in a familiar format that’s easy to access.

Sometimes, a creative field such as marketing, web design, or communications may give you more leeway. If you think another format is the best way to present yourself, consider these tips:

  • Talk to people in your industry. Ask for their advice.
  • Submit your resumé in a standard format and include your other format as part of your portfolio.
  • Avoid using your image in the resumé unless you’re in a field such as broadcasting. Because of human rights concerns, many Alberta employers prefer to assess you without knowing details about your gender, age, race and so on.

Formatting your resumé as a plain text document

ASCII (American Standard Code of Information Interchange), also known as plain text, is so basic it can be read by every operating system:

  • You can cut and paste from an ASCII resumé directly into many online application forms.
  • You can upload your ASCII resumé to employer and job search websites.
  • Use standard fonts such as Times, Arial or Courier.
  • Don’t use graphics, shading, tabs or columns.
  • Avoid bolds, underlines and italics.
  • Use asterisks rather than bullets.
  • Align the text to the left margin.
  • Save a copy of your resumé document by renaming the copy and use the save as function to save it as plain text (.txt).

See a sample of an ASCII resumé (PDF).


Alternative resumé formats

Many Alberta employers currently tend to view resumés in alternative formats, such as DVDs, CDs, videos and websites, as non-standard. They will not visit a website, click through a menu or wait for a download in order to view your resumé.

Unless you’re in a creative field like design, web design or communications, it’s probably best to submit your resumé in a familiar, easily accessible format.

If you think an alternative format resumé is the best way to present your qualifications:

  • talk about this approach with people in your industry. Ask for their advice.
  • submit your resumé in a standard format and include your alternate format resumé as part of your portfolio.
  • avoid using your image in the resumé unless you’re in a field such as broadcasting. Because of human rights concerns, many Alberta employers prefer to assess your qualifications without knowing details about your gender, age, race and so on.
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