When Resume Parsing Goes Bad

Resume Writing

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When you are looking for a job, there are different types of ads to which you will respond. Some will be Craigslist style where you send your resume to a recruiter via a randomized email address. Others will be ads with an Apply button that you click. This button may take you to a company or recruiting agency website where you will be prompted to set up an account. However you apply, most resumes are parsed into an applicant tracking system. The resume is parsed by extracting certain information such as name, contact information, work history and education, and this information is used to populate the fields of your applicant tracking system record. The good thing about submitting your resume this way is that you do not have to fill in long, repetitious forms for each position with information that is already on your resume. The bad thing about parsing resumes is that in order for the applicant tracking system to parse your resume correctly, your resume needs to be very plain in format and text.
Diacritics, such as those accent marks found over the e’s in the word “resume” may cause your resume to be parsed incorrectly. Common parsing mistakes include your name ending up in the incorrect fields, one phone number that is parsed into several different phone number fields, incomplete address and missing work history dates. Incorrect information in these fields may mean that your resume does not come up in a candidate search run by a hiring manager.
Improve your chances to be called for an interview by casting a critical eye over your resume. A plainer resume format that should parse easily uses bold and plain text only. We create “ASCII” or .txt (plain) versions of your resume for just this reason– applying online and working with recruiters. Leave out the unusual diacritics and the ampersand (&). An ampersand will cause havoc when a resume is parsed. Clearly demarcate resume sections by adding a couple of line spaces between each section. If you are uploading a resume to a company’s applicant tracking system, you may have to fill out some fields by hand, while others are populated by the system. Check all fields for accuracy before you hit Send.

Your Resume Lives On


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It is very easy to think that, when you have sent out hundreds of resumes, those resumes disappear into thin air. However, if you post your resume online or email it in response to a job ad, your resume usually gets stored in a database. This database could be a job aggregator like Career Builder, or it could be an applicant tracking system for a company or staffing agency. Just because you do not get a response to your job application, it does not mean that nothing is done with your resume.
What is does mean is that you want to be careful who gets access to your resume and the information on it. Many people eagerly post their resumes on a job aggregator only to be contacted for jobs they do not want, such as franchise opportunities or life insurances sales or other jobs that require you to put thousands of dollars down to get started. One thing that smart job seekers do is to create an email separate from your personal ones for just this purpose, that way your personal email won’t be bombarded with annoying spam mail. If the company is interested in you, they will email you. However, be sure that you regularly check both your email inbox and spam for messages from potential employers.
Putting your resume on LinkedIn is also another way for your resume to ‘live on’. As LinkedIn can be used as an online version of your resume, it will still be working for you even when you aren’t in an active job search (as long as you keep up with your profile and don’t ignore it).
It’s important to remember that once your resume is ‘out there’ in cyberspace either on a job board or LI, it will stay there until you remove it. Be strategic about where you put your resume and you will have better results.