Why You Need an ASCII Resume and How to Create One

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Improve Your Resume or CV

Putting together a resume isn’t easy. There are numerous factors to consider, and it can take a long time to compile everything you need and present it succinctly and convincingly on your resume. 

However, it’s not just the content you have to worry about—the formatting is just as crucial. If you're not familiar with American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) resumes, you could be missing out on an important tool to use during your job search. ASCII is an electronic document that uses plain text to ensure any type of software or computer can read it. 

Why does that matter? When you're submitting your resume online or in the body of an email, ASCII guarantees that the formatting displays correctly. Not only is this crucial for having a polished, professional-looking resume, but if the formatting gets jumbled up, the resume could be rendered illegible. ASCII ensures that a hiring manager will be able to read it regardless of the device and operating system they’re using. 

Let's take a closer look at the benefits of an ASCII resume and go through the steps of creating one. If you need help in the process, check out our resume writing services.

The benefits of ASCII

Looking for a new job is hard enough, so when you get an opportunity to make things easier for yourself, take it! An ASCII resume can make your search more efficient, saving you time while increasing your chances of drawing the attention of a hiring manager. You’ll still have to tweak the content for each job you apply for, but ASCII makes it easy to do that, and its universal nature ensures that recruiters will be able to read it.

When you convert your resume to ASCII, you can simply copy and paste it into an online job application or an email. Skip the fancy design, and your resume will be well on its way to getting through the applicant tracking system (ATS) and onto a hiring manager's desk. Most companies these days make use of ATSs to narrow down the pool of candidates. These programs are designed to filter out presumably irrelevant applications based on the resumes, and if the ATS can’t read yours, it will definitely be rejected.

Creating an ASCII resume

  • Have an electronic version of your resume ready to copy and paste.
  • Create a new document using Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
  • Remove any graphics from your resume (which shouldn’t be there in the first place).
  • Set your margins to a minimum of one inch. 
  • Left-justify the text.
  • Change the text to a non-proportional or monospaced font (where every character is the exact same width). Examples include Monaco and Courier. Make sure to choose something standard and widely used.
  • Next, change the text size to 12-point and get rid of any formatting you may have used, such as bold or italics.
  • Remove all capital letters save for those in the main headings of your resume and in proper nouns, such as the names of the companies you previously worked at.
  • Change any non-ASCII characters (e.g., bullets and dashes) to ASCII ones (such as quotation marks and hyphens). Use the “find and replace” feature to make this process easier.

Next steps

  1. Once you've completed the actions above, save the document as "Plain Text" without any line breaks. If you're using a Mac, you also need to select "Other Encoding" and "Western (ASCII)."
  2. Next, open the new document with a plain text editor, such as Notepad. Mac users need to also select "plain text" under "Preferences."
  3. Last but certainly not least, proofread your ASCII resume. Double-check that there aren't any non-ASCII characters showing up as unusual characters and that there isn't any text running together. 

And voilà, you’re ready to copy and paste your ASCII resume into the body of an email or an online job application! For emails, make sure you turn off HTML or rich-text formatting so that your system doesn't convert the ASCII text when you paste it. Now you can rest assured that all your formatting will stay intact as it travels through the ATS and into the hands of the hiring manager, who will easily be able to read it no matter how they’re accessing the file.

In addition to the ASCII preparations, you also need to ensure your resume uses strategic keywords. After all, keywords are how the ATS determines whether you’re worth the hiring manager’s time. Look for the words used in the job description, as well as keywords that apply to your unique skills and experience. Remember, the goal is to get your resume through the ATS filter and make it stand out from the crowd to improve your chances of landing an interview, so the more keywords you include, the better (as long as they accurately describe you, of course). 

Don't want to go it alone? Check out our resume services

Improve Your Resume or CV