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What is a Scannable Résumé?

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A scannable résumé can be viewed by a computer using the latest document imaging technology (know as optical character recognition, or OCR), allowing employers to store résumés in databases and search through many applicants electronically. As a personal summary of your professional history and qualifications, a scannable résumé is the same as a traditional résumé. Scannable résumé include information about your goals, education, work experience, activities, honors, and any special skills you might have. If you already have a traditional résumé, you can create a scannable by modifying the traditional one for scanning.

The two most important elements of a scannable résumé are keywords and formatting.


Just below your name, create a Keyword section (like the other sections in your résumé: Education, Experience, etc.). List discipline-unique words and phrases potential employers can search for in the résumé database. For example, keywords for a business professional might include the following.

  • Leadership skills
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Teamwork
  • Marketing
  • Total quality management

Keywords for a computer programmer would include software applications and programming languages s/he has used.

  • C++
  • Java
  • Flash
  • CSS


Keep in mind that the first reader of your scannable résumé will be a computer, not a human. A fancy format pleasing to the human eye may confuse OCR scanners. Using simple format and font/typestyle decreases the likelihood that scanners will misread your résumé.

For example, use one common font (such as Times New Roman) throughout your résumé. Rather than increasing the size of the font to indicate section headings, use spacing to break up your Keyword, Education, Experience sections. Avoid using bullets, tables, and visuals in scannable résumé. Instead, use dashes, left-justified text, and simple spacing to format your document.

Human resources personnel will review your résumé only after the computer retrieves it from keyword searches. Including nouns and noun phrases that are likely to be used in a database search and using simple formatting will help your résumé be chosen from the multitudes of others. To view a comparison between a traditional résumé and a scannable résumé in PDF format, visit the media links above.

For more information about how to develop a résumé, visit these OWL resources: