Site Search
The Riley Guide

The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters

Prepare Your Resume for Email
and Online Posting

Back in the pre-Internet era, your resume would've been just one kind of document: A sheet of paper listing your experience and skills. And while it's true that you'll need to make some changes to your resume as you prepare to submit it in response to online job postings, those changes may not be as dramatic as you'd expect. Here, we'll lay out exactly how to prepare your resume for online submission, how to format your replies to job postings that interest you and how to balance publicity with privacy and online safety. Read on to find out how to get started.

Job Listings

job title, keywords
city, state, zip
jobs by job search

Differences Between Print & Online Resumes

Preparing your resume for online distribution basically boils down to making some simple changes in formatting and file types. You've probably typed up your resume in Microsoft Word or a similar word-processing program, and as handy as this format is for making updates, it's not ideally suited for all the channels through which you may want to distribute it.

One important point to keep in mind is that any properly prepared resume - even in the most minimal format - should already contain the right phrasing and keywords for grabbing the employer's attention. In fact, quite a few job-seekers keep multiple versions of their resume on hand, each version tailored for relevance to a particular employer or job sector - while others start with a bare-bones version of their resume and tailor its keywords and experience specifically for each job posting to which they apply. Whichever approach you take, you should make these kinds of tweaks to your core resume file before you start adapting it for different distribution purposes.

Any properly prepared resume should contain keywords for grabbing the employer's attention...

Once you've got your resume - or each version of your resume - customized just how you want it, you'll want to prepare copies in at least the following three file formats:

You may also want to prepare a plain text email version, whose lines are broken up so they won't run past the edge of the recipient's email viewer. This was more common a few years ago, when many email providers had length-of-line restrictions - but most of today's email providers take care of a lot of formatting clean-up on their own. It's up to you whether you want to take the time to prepare a version in this format.

HTML-format resumes are becoming more common, but they're not always appropriate...

Some people recommend creating an HTML version of your resume, which includes links to work samples and a photo of yourself - and this is certainly how you'll want to present your resume or CV on your own website (if you have one) and on career networking sites like LinkedIn. Sending out a resume in this format is also becoming more common practice in creative fields like graphic design and advertising, where candidates want to impress potential employers with their ability to make a dramatic first impression.

The best way to figure out whether an HTML-format resume is appropriate for your own job search is to talk with others applying for similar jobs - along with hiring managers at the kinds of companies you play to apply to - and gauge their receptiveness to resumes in this format. If lots of applicants in your field are using HTML resumes, there's nothing wrong with creating one, provided you keep it simple and stay away from brightly-colored text and crazy fonts. But if you're not sure how a potential employer will feel about opening your HTML document, remember that you can't go wrong with a classic minimalist resume in a well-known file format.

Replying to Online Job Postings

Many online job postings will indicate exactly what the employer wants you to send - for example, your resume in a particular file format, along with links to online samples of your work. It's also usually assumed that you'll include a brief cover letter - either in the email to which you attach your resume; or, on some online job boards, in your on-site message to the employer. But whether you're contacting the employer via email or using a job website's built-in contact form, a few simple rules can help get your message read, and keep it out of the employer's trash bin.

Include specific keywords from the job posting, and use related keywords when describing yourself...

Many posts mention specific things that must be included in every message the employer won't delete...

Following these tips really doesn't take much extra effort or time - especially once you get into the habit of following them for every message you send - but it's surprising how few applicants think they're worth the trouble. Although your odds of actually landing a job depend on your skills, your experience, and the way you present yourself during the interview process, simply taking the time to customize your cover letter and follow any other instructions in a job post often makes all the difference between getting at least some kind of reply - even if it's a negative one - and just plain getting ignored.

Publicity, Privacy & Online Safety

Any time you share information online - even if it's just the contact info at the top of your resume - you expose yourself to some level of risk. True, it's not very likely that someone can steal your identity using this information alone - but depending on where you post your resume, and how widely you share it, you may be opening yourself up to spam from recruiters, resume distribution services, and various other companies - some of which may be legitimate; while most of them won't be.

Sharing your resume too broadly can get you a reputation as a resume spammer, which may limit your prospects...

In addition, sharing your resume too broadly can actually work against you, as recruiters and hiring managers may get tired of seeing your resume again and again in every database they visit. This can get you a reputation as a resume spammer, which can significantly reduce the number of legitimate recruiters who contact you. Plus, there's always the risk that your current employer may see your resume online, which will likely result in your termination. The good news is that you can greatly limit your exposure to issues like these by following a few general tips on where to post your resume, and on how much information to share about yourself.

The underlying message here is, Don't assume that a helpful-looking website is just there to help you. Websites are business assets, which means their reason for existence is to generate money. While many job websites make money from advertisements and paid postings, quite a few others generate side income by selling members' info to spammers, advertisers and perhaps even shadier companies. No matter how you want to share your resume, the Internet abounds with sites that can meet your needs. So read the fine print, keep your common sense about you, and remember that when it comes to sharing your resume, you're the one in charge.

Helpful links

Choosing a Job Site -- Helpful tips on selecting where to post your resume, from Susan Joyce, publisher of

Your Cyber-Safe Resume -- Another set of tips from Susan Joyce - this time on how to keep your resume and other info secure.

Online Resumes - Do's And Don'ts -- Detailed list of tips for using your resume most effectively online.