If you think e-mail and other electronic means of distributing your resume should make the resume writing process simpler, think again. While electronic distribution allows you to more efficiently, immediately and reliably spread the word about your skills and qualifications, there are a few rules by which you need to abide to ensure that your resume gets through to your recruiters and potential employers successfully.
Use appropriate keywords in your resume. Just as much as job applicants turn to automated distribution methods to apply for jobs, employers and recruiters are turning to automated means of screening thousands of applicants. Many companies have employed ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) to filter resumes based on keywords and phrases prior to anyone reading it. The majority of the tools used by companies and their recruiters employ keyword matching technology to pair applicants' resumes with open positions based on the common occurrences of important keywords.
Write a brief professional profile that summarizes those skills you possess that are most relevant to the job description or posting. This provides you the ability to immediately highlight those skills that might appear at the bottom of your first page or on your second page.
Keep your resume's design simple. You may think that cool fonts and creative layouts may set your resume apart from the rest. Certainly, if you don't know exactly how to control the manner in which your resume will appear in other computers and printers, you may just be sending out an accidental mess headed straight for every recycle bin in town.
Simplify your design and layout for the sake of ensuring that your resume will appear and print consistently in different people's computers. Use only the most widely common fonts available in the majority of PCs (some examples of these are Times, Helvetica, Arial and Palatino). Maintain generous margins on all sides of your page layout to avoid all possibilities of clipping that may occur when you either fax your resume or have your recipients print it on their own. Remember, while appearance of your resume is an added bonus, the information is still the top priority. If your resume's design could affect the clarity and/or legibility of your information by the time it arrives in someone else's computer, consider a simpler design approach or make the effort to create a PDF resume (see Rule #4 below).
Give your resume file a unique, identifiable name. Don't ever give your resume file a common name such as "resume.doc" or "advtgresume.doc". Recruiters and employers frequently receive hundreds, perhaps even thousands of resumes each day, out of which many could be named the same as yours. To avoid this situation, begin the file name of your resume with your own last and/or first name.
Use a common file format. Stick to the common tools used in the trade, such as Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. When in doubt, save your file in text-only (ASCII) format and preview the file in a common Web browser to check that line breaks appear where they should. If you're after a job that requires creative skills, consider making an PDF (Portable Document Format) document that will allow you to safely use fonts and artwork in your design without relying on your recipient to have such resources by default. Keep in mind, however, that in order to view and print a PDF file, your recipient must have a current version of Adobe Acrobat. Check with your recruiter or company representative beforehand to see if it's okay for you to send a PDF file.
Keep it concise and brief. Two page resumes are acceptable, but cleverly written one-page resumes are the real winners.