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Creating a Text Resume

In the olden days (say, five years ago), resumes were created in a word processing format and all the guides would tell you to print them on 50 lb. rag paper in white or cream, etc., etc.  Well, things have changed and virtually all job sites, recruiters and companies want to receive resumes electronically in a format that can allow them to be scanned and/or easily added to an internal database.  So you need to have your resume(s) in a plain text (or ASCII) format to cut-and-paste into an online submission form, incorporate into the body of an email (to avoid any software that “cuts” attachments) or simply respond to a request to submit a resume in a .txt format.

Fortunately, creating a plain text resume is neither hard nor does it require special software.  And once you’ve made the editing changes below, make sure to test your resume by sending it to yourself and to one or two supportive friends to make sure it looks just as you’d want it to look.

Follow these steps to create an ASCII Resume:

  1. Open your document in your word processing application.
    1. Rename your document immediately; don’t worry about the formatting now.  You want to make sure you don’t write over your formatted resume.
    2. Save it as a .txt file.
    3. Exit and then re-open the file, either from Explore or using Notepad.  The formatting will be all weird but we’re about to take care of that.
  2. Change your margins to at least 1 inch on the top, bottom and left hand side. Set the right-hand margin at 2 inches to make sure that your line is no more than 55 characters.  This will ensure that there is no text wrap.
  3. Highlight the entire document and change the font to Courier New 10 or 12.
  4. Remove all graphics. This includes graphic lines, bullets, bold, italics, tabs, etc. These are not ASCII characters and will not “translate” to an ASCII file.  You may use asterisks, hyphens and standard quotation marks.  Consider using a search-and-replace feature so you don’t miss any. Use hyphens to separate your area code from your telephone number rather than parentheses.
  5. Rather than bold or italics, plan to use ALL CAPS or Initial Caps to make your headings stand out.
  6. You do not want to use tabs since they may not “translate” correctly;  left justify the entire document and then use your space bar if you wish to center or indent materials.
  7. If you’ve placed a header on the top of the second page of your resume, delete it – electronic resumes do not have page breaks.
  8. Save the file–make sure you are saving it as a .txt or .rtf file. 
  9. Open this new file with a plain text editor such as Notepad or Text Edit. This will display your resume as it will be seen in ASCII format. Go through and proof it carefully, checking for (and replacing) any remaining non-ASCII characters that appear as question marks, square blocks, or other odd characters.
  10. Copy and paste the resume into the body of an email and send it to yourself and see if there are any problems.

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