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Holthusen Hall, First Floor
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P.O. Box 1881
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Phone: (414) 288-7423
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What To Expect

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Resume & Cover Letter Writing: Electronic Resumes

More and more employers are accepting job search materials and applications electronically.  Many organizations have websites for you to post your resume and cover letter.  Others accept materials via  e-mail.  There are some basic rules to keep in mind when applying for positions online.

When to use an electronic resume

Option 1:  Send a quick e-mail referring to an attached cover letter and resume.  This is the most common method to use when you have the contact person’s e-mail address and he/she is expecting your resume either because it is posted with an ad or you have spoken with him/her.

Date: Tues, 20 November 20XX 19:12:33-0700 (EDT)
From: Grace Goodwin (grace.goodwin@marquette.edu)
Subject: Account Executive Position
To: Bernard Murray (Bmurray@rapidforms.com)

Dear Mr. Murray:

Attached please find a cover letter and resume for the Account Executive Position at Rapid Forms.  Please contact me if you have questions or trouble receiving my information.  Thank you.

Grace Goodwin


Option 2:  Send your cover letter as the body of the e-mail message.  Paste your resume after the cover letter.  Many employers won’t accept attachments because of the threat of computer viruses. If in doubt, ask before you send any attachment.  This method can be used in lieu of attachments and will assure that the information is received.

Date: Tues., 20 November 20XX 19:12:33-0700 (EDT)
From: Grace Goodwin (grace.goodwin@marquette.edu)
Subject: Account Executive Position
To: Bernard Murray (Bmurray@rapidforms.com)

Dear Mr. Murray:

Cover Letter Text...

Refer to your resume below...”Below is a text version of my resume....”

Grace Goodwin


Option 3:  Organizations may ask you to complete an online application or to submit your resume through their websites.  You may be able to upload your original resume from your disk.  It is recommended that you save your resume as a PDF in order to preserve the original formatting.  If you are given blanks to fill in, simply cut and paste from your TEXT RESUME.  Your text resume will already be formatted for such a method. 

Transforming your resume into a PDF

  1. Using Microsoft Word 2007, click on “File” then “Save As”
  2. Save as “PDF”
  3. If you would like to view your document as a PDF to ensure that it looks good, then click the box next to “Open file after publishing”
  4. Click “publish”

Transforming your resume into an electronic (or text) resume

  1. Save your resume as “Text Resume.”  Use ASCII (plain) text format.
  2. Take out all formatting on your resume by selecting all and changing the style to normal.  Take out bolding, underlining, and italicizing.  Left justify everything.  Make all text the same size and font.
  3. Limit line length to 65 characters.
  4. Use hyphens, **, - or ~ in place of bullets. 
  5. Use capital letters for your headings.
  6. For instances where you tabbed to align items such as dates, use a hard return instead, making the item go to the next line.  Length does not matter in an electronic resume; therefore, take out all pagination.  Your text resume will not look as nice and inviting as your original resume.  Instead, focus on content and readability.
  7. Use keywords, rather than verbs.
  8. Be sure to save your text resume and keep it handy.  You will be able to cut and paste it into online applications.
  9. E-mail your resume to yourself first to check the formatting.
  10. Remember to update your text resume as you update your original resume.
  11. Note:  An HTML (web-based) resume or reference to a personal web page on your resume can also complement your employment application.  However, be wary of including information or links that might cast a negative light on how you are perceived by a prospective employer.

What happens to your online materials?

Many describe submitting a resume online or in an e-mail as similar to throwing it into the black hole of cyberspace.  However, companies insist that submitting materials online helps them keep costs down.  Any number of things may happen once you submit your resume online.  Human resource professionals may read all resumes and forward them on to the appropriate hiring manager.  Resumes may be scanned or downloaded into a company database for hiring managers to search.  This is why keywords are imperative.  Sometimes resumes do sit awhile before anything is done to them.  Because you may never know what happens to your resume once it is submitted, you will want to follow up.

Following up to online submissions

Follow up is always important in a job search, but even more so when you use e-mail as your initial method of contact.  If you have the person’s name and phone number, call to follow up after one week.  See the Phone call follow up handout for tips on how to do this effectively.  You may also send a hard copy of your resume and cover letter.

Electronic thank you

It’s easier to know if you should use an electronic thank-you note, since you’ve already met the employer at the interview. If you’re not sure if the interviewer is receptive to e-mail, ask or check the employer’s business card. If there’s an e-mail address listed, then it’s permissible to thank your interviewer electronically. (In fact, it may be preferable, since business people who use e-mail rarely go long without checking it.) For a personal touch, follow up your e-mail with a hard copy letter of thanks.

Tips for online job searching

  1. Use formal tone.  Online you can’t be judged by your looks, race, gender, or age, but you will be judged by the quality of your writing.  Save the smiley faces and LOL’s for your instant messaging, and make sure your job-search letters are professional and concise.  The rules of snail-mail business        correspondence apply.
  2. Proofread your mail before pushing that “send” button to ensure grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct (don’t depend on the spell check to catch your mistakes). Also proofread your subject line if you are sending an e-mail since this is the first thing the employer will see.
  3. Use capitalization and lower case letters. All capitals is the e-mail equivalent of screaming (never a good thing to do to a potential employer), while all lower case letters work only if you’re e.e. cummings.
  4. Also, remember that “what you see” on your monitor is not necessarily “what they get” on the employer’s screen. A disadvantage to e-mail contact is a danger in how attachments may appear. Formatting that is perfect on your PC may translate with margin problems and other spacing issues, which results in an unattractive and disjointed document.

Using a text resume can prevent formatting mistakes.

Use a Professional Signature

Even the most professional correspondence can be sabotaged by a handle such as HotGuy or CrazyAboutCars, so make sure your return e-mail address is as professional as the message within.   When sending attachments, note that a cover letter was submitted electronically.  When someone on a search committee sees an unsigned cover letter, she may assume it was mistakenly forgotten.  Noting the submission method is helpful.


Grace Goodwin
(submitted electronically)

Scannable Resumes

As resumes are received, they are scanned into a computer database. When a position becomes available, a manager searches the database using keywords to describe the desirable job candidate. The computer returns the resumes that contain matches. The manager arranges for interviews with those candidates.

This means your resume needs something special: keywords.

The resume basics remain the same: your job objectives, work experience, education, and specialized training. A header on the first page contains your name, address, and phone number; subsequent pages should contain your name and phone number.

However, because the employer is going to enter a series of words that are “key” to describing the job, you want to make sure your descriptions of work experience, duties, abilities, and achievements use the same industry-specific terminology so your resume has a better chance of being a “hit.”

Keep in mind that scanners can misread complex formatting.  Also, use industry jargon or buzzwords. Many employers use a “required buzzword” field when searching through their automated applicant tracking system. Inclusion of the proper buzzwords will show that you’re industry-savvy and will move your resume to center screen. 

  • Use:
    • white, standard size paper
    • standard address format at the top
    • one phone number per line
    • flush left with no tabs
    • plenty of white space
    • keywords, rather than verbs
    • industry jargon, acronyms, and software known*
  • Avoid:
    • columnar layouts
    • condensed texts (letters touching)
    • italics, underlining, and boldface
    • vertical and horizontal lines
    • folding and stapling of your resume