To create a resume that will look consistently good when emailed, scanned, or
viewed within a text editor, you must use the simplest formatting possible. This
means sacrificing the advanced formatting features of your favorite word processor,
such as italics, columns, bolding, and custom fonts.
Follow these steps to create a resume that will look good no matter where
you send it. Th ese directions will work for MS Word 6.0 and up. Ignore any
“lost formatting” warnings that may occur as you work to convert your resume
from a MS Word document to a “Plain Text” document.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to save a backup copy of your resume before converting
If you are using a word-processing package other than MS Word, the steps
will be the same, but some of the special techniques and methods that we suggest
are unique to MS Word.
1. Open your formatted resume in your word processor. Make sure your
chosen key words are already in your resume. Th is should be your fi nal
version that says everything exactly the way you want it. You will notice
that the fi le name for your resume ends with “.doc”: this three-letter unit is
called a fi le extension, and .doc is the fi le extension used by MS Word up to
Word 2007. Word 2007 uses a “.docx” fi le extension.
2. Go to the File menu and select Save As (see Figure A). In Word 2007 fi rst
click the “Offi ce Button” then select, “Save As” and then choose, “Other
Formats”(see Figure B). Choose “Plain Text (.txt) in the “Save as type”
drop-down menu at the bottom of the dialog box (see Figure C).
In the “File name:” box, give your resume a name. Select a name you will be
able to recognize, something like resume electronic or electronic resume, along
with the date created. (Th is can also show you which version of the resume is
being modifi ed.) After naming the resume and selecting “Plain Text” as your
format, press “Enter” on your keyboard. You will immediately see a warning
box (see Figure D).
Go ahead and click “OK.” Another warning will then appear informing
you that all of your formatting will be lost (see Figure E). Ignore this warning
as well, and click “Yes.” Be sure to note which folder you have saved
your resume in so you can fi nd it later.
3. Close your resume but do not close your word processor. Th en click “File”
and within MS Word you should see a list of the most recent fi les opened,
including your text resume. Notice it ends with the new fi le extension, “txt”
indicating it is now “Plain Text (see Figure F).
The font for your text resume should be “Courier” or “Courier New.”
The Courier font family is a fixed-width printer font, meaning that all the
characters have the same width. Most plain-text editing programs use Courier.
Be sure to check that the font size is set to 10.
4. From the File menu click “Page Setup” for Word 2003 and change your left
and right margins to 1.7” each (see Figure G).
If you are using MS Word 2007, click the “Page Layout” tab, then
“Margins,” and at the bottom select “Custom Margins.” In the dialogue
box that appears use the arrows to set the left and right margins to 1.7.
This process should ensure that none of the lines in your resume will
exceed 65 characters. This is important because some computer monitors
are limited to 65 characters on a screen. This 1.7” rule will work if your
word processor has converted your type to 10-point. If it is 12-point you
should set your margins at 1.4” left and right.
Quick Tip: To confirm that none of your lines exceed 65 characters, highlight the
longest line in your resume. Click on the left margin of the line until an arrow
appears, then left click your mouse and the line is highlighted. Go to the Tools
menu and select Word Count, look at “Characters (with spaces).” This will tell
you how many characters (including the blank space between each word) are
in your longest line. If the longest line is indented from the left margin, add the
number of spaces to the number you just read, and make sure the combined
total is fewer than 65.
In Word 2007 highlight the longest line of text in your text document and
click on the word “Words” that has a number after it. A dialogue box will open
with information about the number of characters in the line with and without
spaces and even more information.
the tabs your plain-text resume will not look the way you want it to.
6. Save the resume by going to the File menu and selecting “Save As.” Select
“Close” and then immediately reopen the file. There should be line breaks
at the end of each line. You’ll know there are line breaks if you see a paragraph
sign (¶) at the end of each line. If you see no paragraph signs and no
dots between words, it means that function has been turned off. To show
those signs, hold down the shift and control keys, and press the number 8
key. You’ll immediately see the line breaks.
7. Now is your opportunity to edit your resume so you can get it looking the
way you want within the limits of a plain-text resume. Now that all the tabs
are gone, all text will probably be flush left.
If you want to indent some portions such as job descriptions you can
do that with the space bar. To indent a line, put the cursor in front of the
first word in the line and press the space bar to create as many spaces as you
need. If you want to create spaces between words, simply use the space bar
to create as many spaces as you want.
You can also do other editing functions. You can capitalize words you
want to emphasize, such as your name, the section titles such as Education
and Employment, or job titles. This helps add clarity because saving your
resume as plain-text will remove bolding and italics. If you want to create a
bulleted list you can use the asterisk (*), hyphen (-), or plus sign (+) in place
of bullets. This change is needed because when you convert to plain-text, any
existing bullets will automatically be turned to asterisks. If you want to double-
space between categories or between paragraphs, this is the time to do it.
8. Once you have finished editing your plain-text resume, save it one more
To see your results, close your document and your word processor.
Reopen the fi le in a plain-text editor such as Notepad. To open your
resume in Notepad, click on the Start button at the lower left corner of
your screen. Click on Documents and then click on your resume. It should
now appear in Notepad. Checking your resume in Notepad ensures that it
is in plain-text format. It also ensures that your resume will look exactly the
same to employers when you email it to an employer database or send it to
a commercial database.
If you haven’t used your plain-text resume for a while, this method of
opening your resume in Notepad may not work for you. In that case click
on the Start button, then “Accessories,” then click on Notepad (see Figure I).
Click on File, then click on Open. Th e dialog box will have a portion
that says “Look in:” Click on the folder where you originally saved it. When
you fi nd your text fi le, click on it and it will come up in Notepad. If your
resume doesn’t look quite right, you can still add or delete spaces and you
can double-space between categories or between paragraphs. When you’re
through, save the document by clicking on File and then clicking on Save.
Test your plain-text resume by emailing it to yourself. Highlight (select)
all the text in your resume, copy it, and paste the text into an email message
you are emailing to yourself. Th e reason you send your resume to yourself
the fi rst time is to test the formatting that you just fi nished working on. If
your resume comes to you exactly the way that it was sent, you have a successful
how manY PageS?A computer does not care how long your resume is. It can store and retrieve a
ten-page resume as easily as a one-page resume. Th e answer to the question about
the best length of a resume remains relative: It should be long enough to sell you
and not so long that a person hesitates to read it. Most resumes are one or two
pages in length, with a three-page resume being appropriate for some people.
Electronic resumes are often a little longer because of the short 65 character
lines for plain-text. So our advice is that one-, two-, and three-page resumes
will work fi ne. Just make sure that everything in the resume is there because it
helps sell you.