It’s true, text-based resumes (or plain text resumes) are the ugly duckling of marketing documents, but they serve a valuable purpose in the world of online recruitment. With the majority of applications done over the internet, crafting resumes that navigate the roadblocks posed by email platforms, varying versions of word processing software, and job boards/application forms can affect how and if your resume is read. Knowing the basics of how to craft a text-based resume can seriously improve your job search success, and give you an advantage above an ever-increasing competitive market.

Overall, there are 4 types of resume formats:

  1. Word (or similar word processing file types – ie. .doc, .docx, etc.)
  2. HTML
  3. PDF
  4. Plain text (ASCII)

Depending on the application process, any or all of these formats might be relevant. In some cases, for example, a recruiter may request specifically for a resume to be submitted in word format by email (standard for many businesses).  In other cases, you may feel most confident submitting a resume in PDF, ensuring that the format stays in tact when opened by your audience.

Regardless of the potential platform of submission, having a plain text resume prepared ahead of time can save you a lot of hassle. Why? Because plain text files (“plain” because they lack formatting or style information) are about the content, and in many vetting processes content is king.

For those of you thinking, “Wait! I want my resume to stand out. If I create a boring black and white document that just has a bunch of text blocks, why would I get noticed? What recruiter would choose that over a stunning, sleek-looking CV?”

In the world of online applications, very few resumes ever meet the eyes of a human being. Before ever getting a once-over from a hiring manager, resumes are very often vetted by computer software programs known as ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems). These software programs assist hiring managers in the time-consuming process of narrowing down candidates by detecting essential information (often in the form of keywords) and ranking submissions by the appearance of this information.

If your resume is in plain text format, you can be sure that the ATS is going to pick up on any keywords you’ve included. PDFs and word files can often obscure content, hiding words behind styling information like text boxes or graphics.

This is why most online forms require text files for uploading resumes. Same goes for posting a resume on a job board or pasting it into an email. Plain text files allow you to avoid the stress of uncertainty, fearing that your valuable accomplishment statements are showing up as a bunch of garbled characters.

In general, a plain text version of a word document resume can be easily created using a few steps (for a more detailed explanation of how to create a plain text resume, read our upcoming post). If you have created a resume in a word processing program, open the document and copy the entire body of the text. Then, using a text-editing program such as Notepad, copy the content onto a new page (be sure to turn on the “Word-wrap” feature in the “Format” menu). Once you have saved your document, go through the file and fix up the appearance of the text, including spacing, capitals (all caps can be used for emphasis, for example), and line divisions.

Once you have a working plain text resume, it is infinitely easier to convert this to a fancy formatted word doc if necessary. Most importantly, you’ll have an online-friendly resume that’s easy to open and ready to inform your future employer of your exceptional expertise.

Career Compositions

Career Compositions is a team of Certified Resume Strategists and writers offering expertise in personal branding and marketing documents for career professionals across Canada.

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