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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

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 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.
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