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The Riley Guide

The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters

Preparing A Perfect Plain Text Resume


The Perfect Plain Text Resume for Posting

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Preparing your resume for email is really an easy process. Anyone creating a resume should take the extra few minutes needed to generate a Plain Text version while still at the computer. Most word processors and resume-writing programs will let you save a file to Plain Text (sometimes referred to as Notepad). The next step, altering the format, is simple.

Susan Ireland, a professional resume writer and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume, has come up with the following simple instructions for preparing your resume for posting on a job site, and for emailing to a recruiter or hiring manager. Following these will not only create that perfect plain text resume but will also help you prepare a second one for e-mail's specific formatting problems. You'll find her complete instructions along with much more information at susanireland.com.

Note that these instructions assume that your resume is in MS Word 2007 for Windows. If your resume is in another word processing application or on a different computer platform, consult your word processing manual. If your resume is in MS Word 97-2003, or if you need more details on any of the following steps, please refer to the E-Resume Guide on susanireland.com. If you have specific questions or problems about this process, please contact Susan. She really does want to hear from you!

Step 1: Save Your MS Word Resume as Plain Text.
A Plain Text document works best for an electronic resume because you can adjust the margins and formatting to suit the database or email system in which you are working. To convert your MS Word resume to Plain Text, do the following:

  1. Open the MS Word document that contains your resume.
  2. Click the Office button (the logo in the upper left corner of your MS Word window).
  3. Click Save As and select Other Formats.
  4. 4. At the bottom of the window that pops up on your screen, type in a new name for this document in the File Name field, such as "ResPlainText."
  5. Under this is the Save As Type pull-down menu. Scroll down this list to select "Plain Text (*.txt)."
  6. Click Save to perform the conversion.
  7. When the File Conversion window appears, click OK without changing any of the settings.

After converting your resume to Plain Text, what appears in your document window is your resume stripped of any fancy formatting. You are now ready to make a few adjustments before posting it online.

Step 2: Delete references to page two.
This includes notes such as "Page 1 of 2," "Continued," and your name or header on page 2.

Step 3: Use all CAPS for words that need special emphasis.
Do this for words that were bold, underlined, or in italics on your hardcopy version.

Step 4: Replace each bullet point with a standard keyboard symbol.
Here are some possible replacements:
Dashes (-)
Plus signs (+)
Asterisks (*)
Double asterisks (**)
Greater than (>)
Dash and greater than (->)
Use the Space Bar (not the Tab key) to place a single space immediately after each symbol (and before the words).

Step 5: Use straight quotes in place of curly quotes.
You need to deselect Replace Straight Quotes with Smart Quotes in these two settings within MS Word:

  1. Office button > Word Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat
  2. Office button > Word Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat As You Type

Then open the Plain Text version of your resume, and retype each quotation mark in your document.

Step 6: Rearrange text that got scrambled in the Plain Text conversion
Do this by using the Space Bar to realign text, and inserting commas where columns got transformed into paragraphs.

Step 7: Copy and paste your resume into the proper window on the job site.

Step 8: Preview your resume.
If you see anything you want to change, click the Edit button and fix the error.

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Preparing Your Resume for Email

Now that you have the Plain Text Resume for Posting, it takes just a few more steps to create a perfect Plain Text Resume for E-mailing. Again, if you take the time to do this now, you will save yourself a lot of time later.

Email Step 1. Limit line lengths.
Each type of email software limits the number of characters and spaces per line, which may cause the employer to see line wraps in odd and even illogical places. To avoid this, limit each line to no more than 65 characters and spaces. Here's one way to make line length changes in your document:

  1. Open the Plain Text version of your resume from within MS Word: Click the Office button; click Open in the left column; and use the browser to find and open (with Windows Default selected) the Plain Text version of your resume.
  2. Select the entire document and change the font to Courier, 12 pt.
  3. Go to Page Layout in your toolbar; click on Margins and select Custom Margins at the bottom of the pull-down menu. In the Page Setup window that appears, set the left margin at 1 inch and the right margin at 1.75 inch.

With the left and right margins set under these conditions, each line of your document will be no more than 65 characters and spaces.

Email Step 2: Preserve line lengths by saving as Plain Text with Line Breaks.
  1. Open MS Word and use the browser to open your Plain Text resume document.
  2. Click the Office button; select Save As, and select Other Formats.
  3. Type a new name for this document in the File Name, such as "ResTextBreak."
  4. Directly under this is the Save As Type pull-down menu. From this list, select Plain Text (.txt). When the File Conversion window appears on your screen, click Insert line breaks under Options. Select CR/LF under End Lines With. Then click OK.
  5. Close the document and exit MS Word.
  6. Reopen the resume document ("ResTextBreak.txt") by clicking on its icon in the directory.
  7. Select the entire document and change the font to Times, Arial, or another standard font you like.

Don't worry that the margins automatically reset when you reopen your Plain Text with Line Breaks document. Your line lengths are safely preserved by paragraph returns that were inserted by the conversion.

Email Step 3: Save the hardcopy version of your resume to earlier version of MS Word.
Because most employers like receiving a resume as an email attachment (in addition to having the resume pasted into the body of the email message), you need to prepare your hardcopy resume properly. Unless an employer states otherwise, he or she will prefer an attached resume to be in MS Word (not WordPerfect or PDF). To ensure that employers can open and read your attached resume, save it as a Word 97-2003 document (with the .doc extension), which can be read by both MS Word 97-2003 and MS Word 2007 users. Here's how:

  1. Click the Office button .
  2. Select Save As.
  3. From the Save As Type pull-down menu, select Word 97-2003 document.

Email Step 4: Email your resume.
The following steps will get this job done quickly:

  1. Go online and open a new email message.
  2. Carefully type in the employer's email address in Send To.
  3. In the Subject line, type "Resume:" followed by the job title you're seeking (e.g., Resume: Marketing Position).
  4. Set your email formatting to Plain Text (not Rich Text or HTML).
  5. Type a short cover note to introduce your resume in the body of your message, as well as the one attached to your email.
  6. Keeping the email message screen up, open the Plain Text version of your resume, copy all the text in this document, and paste it into the body of your email message after your cover note.
  7. Check the entire email message (cover letter and resume) to be sure its appearance is exactly what you want the employer to see.
  8. Attach the hardcopy version of your resume to the email.
  9. Click Send and you're done!

Do a test run before emailing an employer. Send your resume to a friend who uses a different email system, such as Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, etc. If all goes well, you can be reasonably confident that when you email your resume to an employer, he or she will receive exactly what you have carefully prepared.

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The information in this section is copyrighted by Susan Ireland and appears here with her permission. Requests to further distribute the information that appears here in any format and for any purpose must be directed to both Susan Ireland (susanireland.com) and Margaret Dikel (margaret@rileyguide.com).