How to create your CV for machines to read

If you’re career searching, you know how crucial a well-prepared CV/résumé is. You’ve probably read various guides on how to prepare it, what format it should be, layout, use of typefaces, how many pages, etc.

For instance, take a look at the résumés/cover letters section in the Wall Street Journal’s Executive Career Site – links galore to useful information that will help you.

One thing you’ve probably heard about, too, is what happens to your CV when you send it off with an application for a job. The rules have changed now, according to The Sovren Group, who make specialist software that intelligently reads CVs (what they call a ‘résumé parser’).

Your CV will be read by résumé-parsing software before it ever gets in front of a human being, especially if you apply for a position with a large company who frequently recruits, or if you go via a recruitment consultant or headhunter.

Traditional thinking about content and presentation will do you little good in the face of cold logic from a computer program. So you need to know how to prepare an electronically-readable CV.

It’s not as complex as you might think, as long as you know how. And Sovren has put together a helpful and free 7-page guide that explains how to do it.

Download Tips for Electronic Resumes (requires Microsoft Word).

Once you have your electronically-readable CV ready, Sovren offers a pay-for service where you can test it on actual job board processing software and see exactly what it "sees" before you post it to the job boards, recruiters, etc. After you see the results, you can revise your CV and re-test it until it’s just right.

2 thoughts on “How to create your CV for machines to read

  1. CV / résumé parsing software is notoriously unreliable and the Sovren document gives a few clues to why this is likely to be the case. I have to say that parsers do have an uphill struggle as the CV is a complex document and each country has its own standard or format.
    There is a much more accurate solution currently available but it is little used except in a corporate environment. An organisation called HR-XML, supported by most significant organisations in the field, has published an XML schema for the CV. When we have accurate classification of CV information using a common XML language we get to a stage where everyone wins from the technology.
    I wrote an article about this in early December:
    Of course, this all presumes that the CV is the best document to make a candidate selection decision…

  2. Interesting comments, Andrew.
    According to the Sovren website, their resume parser is ‘HR-XML Consortium Certified’ and they say it’s the only resume parser certified by that body as compliant with the Resume 2_1 schema.
    Fine and dandy, I suppose. But re their CV guide, I think that’s not a bad document that gives some guidance to the Average Joe on looking at your CV with a better awareness that computers are increasingly likely to see it before people do.
    Even if you then just do your CV as a plain text file, that would be a help.

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