What is a Scannable Resume?

Malcolm Tatum

Scannable resumes are one of the most useful tools today for both job seekers and for employers who are looking for the right people to fill important positions within the company. A scannable resume is simply a document that has been formatted in such a way that all the information can be easily scanned and loaded into electronic programs that are operated with the use of optical character recognition software.

Scannable resumes are formatted for use with optical character recognition software.
Scannable resumes are formatted for use with optical character recognition software.

Creating this bank of scannable resume templates makes it very easy for the employer to look through all resumes on file quickly and easily when there is a need to fill a vacant position, using simple search criteria. Sometimes referred to as a text resume, the successful scannable resume is characterized by several attributes that help the document to be more accessible to prospective employers. Here are some time tips on how to produce a quality scannable resume that has excellent chances of being noticed.

One of the first things to think about in terms of a scannable resume is the font that is used for the text. While in years past, basic resume writing dictated the use of different fonts as ways to call attention to data. With a scannable resume, the emphasis is on making sure the OCR software will read all the characters properly.

As an example, if you use a fancy font for all your job titles in the work experience section, the software may interpret the text to read that you have extensive experience as a “monoger” rather than a “manager”. This means in a keyword search for persons with management experience, your resume would be overlooked. Abandon the use of fancy types of script and fonts, and go with the basic types that are used for general business correspondence. While the finished product may look somewhat plain, keep in mind that this is one instance when simple is definitely better.

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Another point about the fonts is to keep the size of the letters within an acceptable business writing range. While a small or large font may look pretty, it can create some issues with the ability of the software to read the text, which may result in some blank sections on the scanned document. Generally using between a ten and twelve font size will ensure that the OCR will pick up every word properly in your scannable resume, increasing your changes for being noticed during database searches.

Avoid the use of italics, underlining, and bullets as much as possible in your scannable resume. If you must use bullets, then make sure the bullet designation is a solid dark circle, rather than a clear circle, an asterisk, or a dash. Remember that one of the key things about a scannable resume is that you want all the information on the resume to be accessible by the search engine built into the OCR software. Symbols and special variations on text can sometimes cause problems that will prevent resumes from being rated as meeting the search criteria. Keep the format as simple as you possibly can.

Even the paper plays a role in the successful image capture of your scannable resume. Go with black ink only, and make sure the paper is white, ecru, or a very pale gray. While eye-blinding yellow and various pastel shades may work fine for resumes in some lines of work, they do nothing when OCR software is used. Colors mean the chance of dark spots on the image of the resume, which translates into loss of important data.

Creating a scannable resume may involve making some changes in your resume writing habits. But if the goal is to win a chance at the job of your dreams, making these simple concessions is well worth the time and effort.

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Discussion Comments


Nobody I have seen in a long time uses OCR anymore. Now you have to submit a Word copy directly through their web site. And these techniques often fail.


lawnmower- Thank you for the good advice. I would also suggest limiting your resume to only two pages, especially if you are a recent college graduate. Resumes that are longer than one page are not scannable and employers will likely not take the time to read them.

Only include more than one page if you are far along in your career and have lots of relevant experience.


An important feature of a scannable resume is to include lots of white space. Job resumes are meant to be simple and easy to read. It is often daunting to employers to read resumes that contain tons of text. Keep it simple and only include your best and most relevant experience. Don't go crazy including every award you have ever won or every single task you completed at your last job.

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