Your resume might be broken

Wednesday 18 March, 2015

Having worked in the recruitment industry for a while now, we do what many other companies do and that is parse your resume. What is parsing a resume? Well its the process where a computer program reads your resume and pulls out all the relevant information to populate it in a database.

If you have never thought about this and think that a human reading your resume is step one, you are wrong. A computer program will read through it, collect demographic, education and work history and populate a database or CRM. You will find that every medium to large company, recruitment agency and job site parse your resume in this manner.

Why you might be asking yourself does everyone do this? Well it does a few things it gets all the data in a standardised format, allows companies to search it for key things they are looking for and get statistics on the type of people they have on their records. But ultimately it allows less reading and more screening.

The problem that we see in a decent percentage is that not all resumes can be parsed, if your resume can't be parsed it likely means your not in the system and might not get that call about the role you applied for.

There are several reasons a resume doesn't get parsed.

The Wrong Format

You might like photoshop or some other program and think you can create an amazing looking resume using this program, well think again. If your resume isn't in Word or PDF format there is a good chance its not getting parsed. I've seen many purely graphical resumes, which look amazing and might get you noticed, but a parser wont be able to process an info-graphic. While I encourage you to think outside the box and be different, if you want a graphical timeline of your career or something different, offer it in addition to a standard resume.

The Wrong Layout

A normal resume will present a summary and detail, summary and detail, over and over. For example school then detail, employer then detail, normally with some dates in there also. However if you decide to lay out that into in a grid or some other creative format. The parser probably wont know how to relate the title with the relevant info or dates.

External Content

Believe it or not people apply for jobs with cover letters that say you can download my resume here, or look at my online resume here or for more info go here. Well while having an online profile or presence, an online portfolio, a linkedin profile are all good things, consider them as extra reading for someone interested and ensure the core information is in the resume.


The size both in terms of file size and the content within is used to determine if this is a real resume. If its too small or too big, there again is a chance it wont be processed.


Most importantly have the right content in your resume. Its really important that you have a well structured resume where both the parser can process it and if you are lucky enough to have someone read it, they can follow and get the relevant information quickly.

Key things the parser (and people) are looking for

  1. Your Full Name
    For obvious reasons
  2. Your Location
    A lot of resumes don't have this, and there are a lot of people applying for roles from different states or countries, so HR people will be looking for where you are located
  3. Education History
    It doesn't matter if you finished primary school or have a PhD, just ensure you have a section summarising it.
  4. Employment History
    This is the most important thing you can include, having worked in a relevant role, with a relevant company is key to your chances to being selected. Even if you have no experience in that role, show what roles you have had. If your passion is to land a great role and you have been working at McDonalds while studying, people want to know. If your fresh out of high school but did work with your Dad on school holidays, put it in. Showing any capacity, history or desire to work is important.

One Last Thing

Once the parser has worked its magic on your resume, then its purely data, so make sure you explain things that don't make sense. If there is a 2 year gap in your resume, explain it. If your resume shows you working 3 full time jobs at the same time, explain how this is possible. A person might need to open the resume for the explanation, but leaving it unexplained leaves a lot of question marks on your selection.

Best of luck with finding that next role, hopefully this info will help you.

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