Dear Sam: I have been applying electronically to job postings and when I cut and paste my résumé it always looks disheveled. This also happens when I insert it in the body of emails. Any help you can give me will be appreciated. - Jesse

Dear Jesse: The problem is that you are cutting and pasting from a formatted document when you need to use a plain text or ASCII (askee) file. If you don't, as you have noticed, the formatting of your résumé will change considerably and there will likely be some strange characters that appear in the place of special characters or formatting techniques you used in your formatted version. I'd also try to avoid cutting and pasting into the body of an email as you will never get your résumé to look as nice as it does when formatted in Word.

Let me explain what an ASCII résumé is. ASCII text is the simplest form of text, meaning there is no formatting within the document and the text is not platform or application specific, therefore any hiring manager can retrieve and read your résumé via the Internet or e-mail no matter what system they are using. Perhaps even more important however, this version is used when posting to external (job boards) or internal (company-specific job boards) databases to ensure optical character readers can read your résumé.

To create a plain text résumé, simply open your formatted résumé and save it as a text only document. Next open the new plain text file in the Notepad application. This program can be found by going through the following menus: Start / Programs / Accessories / Notepad. You'll notice that within your plain text file everything is left justified, sentences do not wrap, and boldface, italics, and various sizes of fonts do not appear as in your formatted résumé.

There are now several things you should review within your new résumé to be sure it is in proper plain text format. If you had any hard tabs within your formatted résumé you will need to remove those. For example, if your right justified your dates of employment with a right tab, you will notice that the date now appears a few spaces over from the other information on that line. To ensure this hidden formatting doesn't change into a hieroglyphic-looking character when copied onto the online job board, remove the tab by taking out the spaces and placing a comma between the other information on that line and the dates of employment. Also, look at the bullet points within your plain text résumé and be sure they all appear as an asterix (*). Sometimes depending on what type of symbol you use for your bullet points, they can change to squares or even question marks. Be sure to change these to the asterix symbol as this is one of the few formatting marks an optical character reader can understand. Lastly, if you have any smart quotes, mathematical symbols, or accented letters, review to be sure they are still intact. For example, if you had the word México on your résumé with the accent over the 'e', this letter would not even appear on your new plain text file. Instead, when you open your text file you will see that the word is now spelled as M‚xico with a comma in place of the accented 'e'. This is why it is so important to review these special characters to be sure your résumé is void of any potential errors.

Next, place a line of equal signs (=) between each of the sections. This provides for a visual break and helps differentiate each section. Lastly, save your file before you close Notepad as otherwise your changes may be lost. Be sure your formatted version is closed beforehand, or you will have trouble saving the plain text version with the same file name as your formatted résumé.

Now when asked to copy and paste your plain text résumé you will simply need to open Notepad and your plain text file. Next press Control A (Ctrl+A) or choose Select All from the Edit menu, press Control C (Ctrl+C) or Copy from the Edit menu, and when your cursor is in the online box that you want to copy your résumé into, press Control V (Ctrl+V) or Paste from the Edit menu. You should now see your plain text résumé in the online box! Happy job hunting!