Common Sense Steps Can Prevent Employer Backlash Against Online Resumes

Common Sense Steps Can Prevent Employer Backlash Against Online Resumes

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by Katharine Hansen Ph.D.

Employers are being bombarded by poorly crafted online resumes to the point where this once-promising mode of job-hunting may be losing some of its effectiveness.

But a few simple precautions can help ensure that your resume won’t get lost in the e-glut.

First focus your primary online resume efforts on resume databases such as:

These sites walk you through putting your resume online so you do it right. While you are not sending your resume directly to employers when you post it to these databases you are placing it in a location where employers will come looking for it. It’s often better to have employers seek you outfor their specific needs than to send your resume willy-nilly to dozens or even hundreds of employers.

It’s okay to send your resume — selectively — directly to employers.

But note that in a USA Today article Stephanie Armour cites a number of complaints that employers raise about the online resumes they receive directly. Following are some of their beefs and how you can avoid ticking employers off with your resume:

  • Employers complain that they get online resumes from applicants who aren’t qualified. Make sure you send your online resume in response to specific openings only and be sure you are qualified to fill those openings.
  • Jobseekers often send resumes in the form of e-mail attachments which can present major problems when opened by the recipient’s computer. Don’t send your resume as an attachment unless an employer’s Website or want ad specifically requests an attachment.
  • Employers grouse that e-mailed resumes are often poorly formatted. Read the guidelines for scannable resumes at this site. While the scannable resume is a print tool it is also a text-baseddocument which is essentially what an e-mailed resume is. The same search principles apply to scannable and e-mailed resumes; keywords are essential because employers search resumesby keyword. Another way to avoid the formatting dilemma is to publish your resume attractively on a Web page and simply direct the employer to your Web resume.
  • Employers bemoan the fact that they can’t tell what job you’re applying for and that the e-mailed resume is so impersonal. This is where the cover letter comes in. A resume should always be accompanied by a cover letter and many online-resume senders forget that principle. (Many of the resume databases listed above also give you the opportunity to accompany your resume with a cover letter.) Here’s what Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates has to say about online cover letters:
    • Brevity is particularly important. For some readers a screen of e-mail seems equivalent to a page of type yet an e-mail screen is generally even smaller than your monitor’s screen. It is probably unrealistic to think you can squeeze a substantive cover letter on a single e-mail screen yet you don’t want the reader to have to scroll through multiple screens. Make your letter long enough to sell yourself but keep it concise limiting it to as few screens as possible.
    • Use text (ASCII) format for both your cover letter and resume.
    • Unlike most word-processing programs some e-mail programs don’t have spell-checker features so it’s especially important to proofread your cover letter extremely carefully before you zap it into cyberspace. You can also compose your letter in a word-processing program (which can then serve as your follow-up hard copy) spell-check it and then copy and paste it into an e-mail message.
    • Despite the formatting limitations of your e-mail text which can’t be italicized underlined or made bold you can still enhance the readability of your online cover letter with bullets created out of lower-case letter o’s plus signs (+) dashes (-) and asterisks (*).
    • Don’t send your resume and cover letter separately. Send them as one unified e-mail message.
    • Keywords are especially important in your e-mailed cover letter because search engines will pick up on them when the employer looks for candidates who meet the company’s criteria.
    • Take advantage of the ability to create and store a standard cover letter in your e-mail program that you can adapt for each position you apply for.
  • Employers feel pestered by online resume senders who continually seek a response to an online resume. Followup is important but lighten up. Remember that many employers receive 100 or more e-resumes a day. Limit your followup to once every 3-4 weeks and instead of demanding a response remind the employer that you are still interested and briefly highlight one or two qualifications.

Read more Tips for a Dynamic Email Cover Letter.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Katharine Hansen PhD Creative Director Katharine Hansen Ph.D. creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers is an educator author and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers edits QuintZine an electronic newsletter for jobseekers and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University Cincinnati OH is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press) as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen Ph.D. Dynamic Cover Letters Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)

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