Presenting yourself electronically

ON THE CLICK OF A BUTTON: E-resumes can be easily transmitted and stored.  

SOME TIME ago we had discussed in this column the strategies for the preparation of a winning curriculum vitae (CV), which is in a way the first interview with the employer. Curriculum vitae, meaning `progress of life,' is more or less the same as what is called "bio-data" or "resume." It makes the first impression about you in the employer's mind. The first impression is the best impression, goes the adage.

With the progressive application of information technology in day-to-day life, there are changes in the styles of job hunt, including the mode of submission of CVs to a prospective employer.

Very often you do not print your CV on paper and send it. Instead you transmit it by e-mail or post it on the website of the employer. Further, even if you send a hard copy of the CV, it may be scanned to the employer' computer. The scanner reads and records the information in a way that is different from how the human eye performs these functions. All these make the style of preparing a CV for the computerised systems a different exercise.

The spirit and basic characteristics of a good CV, however, are the same, except perhaps in the matter of key words, font styles, and layout.

Any CV should indicate your personal data - name, address, contact information (such as postal address, telephone number, e-mail address if any), age, qualifications, experience, special skills, personal interests, USP, etc.

<167,3p,1>It has to be neat, easy to read at a glance, elegant, well organised, impressive and brief, yet informative. It should stand out in quality of content and in appearance. No first draft prepared even by an expert would satisfy all these. So you have to correct, revise, amend, and improve it thoughtfully so that it achieves the objective you have in mind.

Since more and more employers migrate to the IT-enabled style of recruiting, you have to adapt yourself to the new environment in the matter of designing resumes as well. You have to prepare what are called electronic resumes or e-resumes. As a first step in job recruitment employers often gather resumes and store them in their computer databases. When they need a new hand, they would make a computer search for candidates in the databases. Therefore it is important that you include significant key words in your CV.

E-mail resumes are basically plain text documents. In the hard copy style of resumes, we make formatting enhancements with the help of different fonts, attractive spacing, etc. Such embellishments are not very relevant in e-resumes, and are therefore stripped off. Hard copies if sent are in many cases read by a scanner.

E-resumes are amenable to easy transmission, storage, distribution, tracking, searching, and retrieval. Several employers and job data banks use this facility.

Before sending a CV by e-mail to an employer, send it to your own e-mail address as a trial, receive it, and check how it looks, make changes wherever necessary, confirm that everything is fine, and then transmit the modified version to the employer.

A scannable CV, as the name implies is to be subjected to scanning. This is done with the help of an OCR system. (An OCR or Optical Character Recognition system transforms paper documents into editable computer files. Computers should be able to manipulate the data that have been fed into them.). The OCR system creates a text file in ASCII (Pronounced "as-key": American Standard Code for Information Interchange), and then artificial intelligence reads the text and extracts the information it requires. Remember that a scannable CV is essentially a text-focused document vis-a- vis a design-focused document. If OCR should read your material properly, the following points have to be borne in mind while preparing the CV.

- Use only plain fonts such as Ariel or Times New Roman. Ten to 14 points would be fine. Avoid all "designer" fonts.

- It is unprofessional to write the whole CV in capital letters.

- The types should be of high quality - crisp, dark, and neat on clean white paper.

- For emphasis, use capital or bold letters. Avoid underlining, italics, boxes, bullet points, and graphics. Emphasise a word or words using bold or full capitalisation. You may use asterisks (*) instead of bullets. A plus (+) sign may be used in the beginning of each paragraph, if you feel so.

- Since symbols such as percentage and ampersand (% and &) may not be read properly by a scanner, spell them in the text.

- Put your name at the top of each page.

- Remove unnecessary spaces and gaps.

- Do not use the landscape layout. Use the portrait style.

- Justify the document on the left.

- There should be no visual distractions that may confuse the scanner.

- Avoid columnar structure (many columns as in a newspaper) that may end getting mixed-up after scanning.

- If you put two telephone numbers (land and mobile), write them on different lines.

- Use terms, abbreviations or acronyms that are popular in your chosen discipline.

- Use sub-headings that are easily understood. Put them in capital letters.

- Use action verbs when noting responsibilities and skills (example designed, erected, commissioned, organised, wrote, composed, prepared, mobilised, immunised, and conducted.)

- Provide a summary that includes the keywords.

- Do not fold the paper, if you send it.

- If your CV runs to two pages, put your name and `page two' at the top of the second page. Do not staple the sheets; use a clip instead.

- Use a good printer.

- Do not fax the resume, unless you are specifically asked to do so. Faxing may degrade the text to some extent, leading to problems in effective scanning.

- You may prepare two copies - one in the usual format for others to read, and one for the OCR system. Your plain CV can easily be converted into an electronic CV.

- Never give a fancy e-mail id. If you are already working in an organisation, do not use an e-mail id that incorporates a company name. Doing so would imply that you are misusing a company facility. Also, do not give your company phone number .

If you are submitting your CV on the website of the employer, the advantages of HTML, including the possibility uploading of your photograph, may be made use of. Do not attempt multimedia.

An important aspect of an e-mail resume is the use of appropriate keywords.

When an employer makes a computer search for a suitable hand, your document will emerge, if you have thoughtfully included the significant keywords. For example, an engineer may put these keywords: "B.Tech. Electrical Engineer Design Testing Power Transformers Alternators Management 10 Years." In fact, he can use these words also for his job search through the Internet.

There are several websites that provide hints and samples of electronic resumes. There is no harm in viewing them. However, while applying for jobs in Indian companies, do not follow the directions blindly.