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After we’ve created a resume for a client at Distinctive Documents, some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive are regarding ASCII resumes and how to use them.

If you conduct any of your job search on the Internet, ASCII-formatted resumes are critically important tools. You should always have two up-to-date versions of your resume on disk. The first, formatted without line breaks is for posting and sending through web forms. The second, with line breaks, is for sending in the body of an email. Because the text versions of your resume will nearly always end up in a searchable database, you should always incorporate industry-critical keywords in the text (this is important in all versions of your resume).

Preparing the two required versions of your text resume is not difficult. Once converted to ASCII format, you will be able to email your resume in response to an ad or past it directly inti web-based forms and submit it to Internet resume databanks. To prepare your ASCII resumes properly, follow these simple steps:

  1. Using your word processing program, open your word-processed resume and use the “Save As” function to save a copy as a “Text Only” or “ASCII (DOS)” document. Title your document with an easily distinguishable name; perhaps “resume_internet.txt”
  2. Close your word processing program and re-open the ASCII file. You will not be able to see your changes until you have done this. Note that it has been stripped of virtually all original formatting.
  3. Go through your new ASCII document line-by-line. Align all text flush to the left-hand margin.
  4. Remove all “centering,” “right hand margin,” and “justification” alignments.
  5. Although you should no longer see them, if visible, remove all graphics, artwork, and special character formatting.
  6. Remove all tab characters.
  7. Remove all columns.
  8. Replace bullets with a simple ASCII asterisk (*).
  9. Carefully check the spelling and the accuracy of your data.
  10. If you wish, use ASCII characters to enhance the appearance of your resume. Asterisks, plus signs, or other keyboard characters can be used to create visual lines that separate sections of your resume and make it easier to read.

The above steps convert your resume to ASCII without line break. When pasted into a web-based form, your resume will automatically wrap to the size of the window.

If you intend to transmit your resume by email, you must take several final steps:

  1. Save the changes to your “resume_internet.txt” file.
  2. Once you have saved it, use “Page Setup” to change your page margins to 1” Top and Bottom, 1” Left, and 2” Right.
  3. Use “Save As” again, this time saving your resume as “Text Only with Line Breaks.” Give your file a unique name, such as “resume_email.txt”

These additional steps insert line breaks at approximately 65 characters per line to prevent line wraps in unintended places. While some e-mail systems automatically insert line breaks in outgoing messages, many do not, so this extra file insures that the recipient will receive your e-mailed resume in a readable format rather than as several long lines of unbroken text. Your e-mail resume is now ready to be copied and pasted into the body of e-mail messages.

Your two new ASCII resumes will be universally readable, no matter what computer system the recipient uses. They are also easily manipulated for entry into applicant tracking databases and eliminate the inherent difficulties of scanning and converting your paper resume with OCR systems.