Electronic Resumes: What Every Online Applicant Should Know

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If you are planning to apply to companies online, success depends on knowing how to prepare your resume for online submission and knowing how the system works. Impactful, online resumes require you to follow a separate set of rules from the traditional, printed resume.

First, let's talk about how the system works. Most large pharmaceutical companies scan the resumes that they get. Why? Because it is simple, inexpensive, and efficient. This is good news for them but may be bad news for you. Your resume stands a good chance of getting lost in their database instead of being read by a human being.

You apply online to their job posting….now what? Once scanned, your resume just sits there waiting for an opportunity to be pulled from the database.

How are resumes pulled or selected? The person who is in charge of screening resumes will go to the database and type in some keywords based on the qualifications that they are looking for. For example, they might be interested in filling a position in San Diego, CA. They might want the person to have sales experience and have a B.A. in Marketing. They decide to use these keywords: "San Diego," "Sales," and "Marketing." Viola! A search using those keywords pulls all the resumes with those keywords in the body of their online application. If the list of resumes is too long, they might add another keyword. Did your resume get pulled? If it had all of the keywords, yes. If not, there is a good chance that it's still sitting there in the resume abyss.

Now let's look at another scenario. Did you apply online at Monster? Wow! That's some database! Even if you have all those keywords, there is a chance that your resume could be number 500 in a listing of 1,000 resumes. Is this all starting to make sense now? Can you see why you are a great applicant and haven't gotten those calls for interviews?

The bottom line is that you need to load your resume with pharma sales-related keywords when applying online. Look at the job listing. Use it to find your keywords. Chances are good that the keywords that will be used to search the database will be right there in the job description. Including two or three more relevant keywords than your competition can be the difference between success and failure in securing an interview.

How to prepare your resume for online submission:
  • Now that your resume is in good shape keyword-wise, it is time to prepare it to speak the language of the computer that is scanning it. You need an e-version of your resume to effectively get your qualifications into cyberspace.

  • The first thing that you must do is convert your resume to ASCII format. What is ASCII format? It is a form of data that can be understood by most computers. When you convert your resume to this format, you don't have to worry about whether or not the recipient can open the file or read the format.

  • Whenever possible, send 2 versions of your resume. One as a Word document and the other as an ASCII version. If you can send only one, send the ASCII version.
How to convert your resume to ASCII:
  • Replace bullets with an asterisk (*).

  • Use capital (upper case) letters in place of bold text, but avoid capital letters except for in the main headings.

  • Remove all tabs and graphics. Move all text to the left margin.

  • Do all spell and grammar checks before converting your document. Spell check does not work in ASCII text format.

  • To convert an existing resume document to ASCII, go to File, Save As, Save as Type, and select "text only". This will remove all bullets, bold or italicized text, underlining, tabs, other standard document formatting, and graphics.

  • When you open the new file, a plain text editor such as Notepad or Simple Text will open it. You'll see your resume as it will appear in an e-mail program.

  • Carefully proofread your new ASCII resume. Sometimes the text runs together after the conversion. Look for any question marks, square blocks, or other odd looking characters that do not belong in your resume. Non-ASCII characters, such as bullets, will be converted into these strange objects.

  • Finally, email your new ASCII resume to yourself and to a friend who uses a different email program and computer system. This way you'll be certain that the resume appears as you intended when viewed on different systems.
About the Author

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