How to Write Job-Search Text Resumes

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

The purpose of a text-based is the same as that of a traditional resume — to help you find a job! But, the design and format of a text resume is quite different than a traditional resume — and it’s vital for job-seekers to know how to prepare a text resume.

This guide takes you through the steps of developing a text resume and ends with a comparison of a traditional resume and the resulting text (and email-enabled) version of that same resume.

Remember that a resume summarizes your accomplishments, your education, and your work experience, and should reflect your strengths; however, a text resume should not have any of the formatting that is often included in traditional resumes.

Most companies use databases to quickly and efficiently match job openings with qualified job-seekers. Searches are done using keywords and phrases that describe the skills and education required for the position, thus when writing a text resume it is extremely important to use terms and familiar industry acronyms (jargon) that describe your skills and experience, as well as words and phrases taken directly from targeted job postings.

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Finally, keep in mind that a text resume has the same major headings as a traditional resume: a header that includes your name, address, email, and phone number; qualifications summary or job objective; work experience; education, including your degree(s), honors, and activities; and any specialized training and certifications. Use a traditional format; do not use multiple columns.

With all this background in mind, here are the main guidelines to writing a text resume.

First, the text resume format:

  • Use a standard serif or sans serif typefaces, such as Courier, Times, Helvetica, Futura, Arial, Optima, Palatino, Univers. Avoid using decorative fonts.
  • Use a normal type size, usually in the range of 11 to 14 points.
  • Maximum number of characters per line is 65 (partly dependent on type size).
  • Avoid any kinds of graphics or shading.
  • Keep formatting simple. Use all caps for major headings, but avoid bolding, italicizing, and underlining.
  • Do not use bullets or lines.
  • Left justify text.

And now to the text resume content:

  • Include your major and minor (if relevant), as well as your college degree(s).
  • Include key skills and certifications, using industry standards to identify each.
  • Use industry or job-specific keywords that employers might use to find candidates for the job you are seeking.
  • While action verbs are still important, you need to add key phrases and nouns that could be used as search terms by your potential employer. The most important words and phrases should come directly from the employer’s job posting. Examples of other phrases include “under budget,” “surpassed goals,” and “successfully developed.” Examples of nouns include “HTML programming,” “results oriented,” “professional selling,” “account manager,” “marketing research,” “strategic planning,” and “certified public accountant (CPA).” Consider using our Resume Keywords Worksheet.
  • Consider including a “summary of accomplishments” section that focuses on results you achieved in your field rather than specific duties and responsibilities. A “Key Skills” section is also an option. The idea behind this section is to allow you to use more of the words, phrases, and jargon that resumes may be searched with by the potential employer. Consider using our Resume Professional Profile/Qualifications Summary Worksheet.
  • Use common abbreviations (such as BS for a bachelor of science degree) and maximize use of industry jargon (such as CAD for computer-assisted design), but when in doubt, it is best to use both abbreviations and write it the terms.

Ready to see a comparison between a traditional resume and the resulting text/scannable resume?

For other Web-based resources on resume-writing in general, visit our large collection of Resume Resources.

For some helpful books about text resumes — and all types of resumes, visit the Quintessential Careers Resume Bookstore.

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. Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of He is also founder of and He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.


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