Resume Format Tips - Creating ASCII Files

An Article by Sharon Graham, CRS, CIS, CCS, CPRW, CEIP

An ASCII file is one of the most common methods of compiling an electronic résumé. The term “ASCII”, or American Standard Code for Information Interchange, may sound quite technical. In fact, all it refers to is simply saving the document in a text format.

ASCII is a form of data that can be readily understood by the vast majority of computers throughout the world. The benefit to job seekers who are sending their résumés electronically is that they don't have to worry about whether or not the recipient can open the file or read the format.

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You can easily submit your ASCII résumé on-line to many résumé banks in a short period of time. All you do is cut and paste parts of your text document into the fields that are set up on the site that you are submitting to.

The benefit of this format, from a recruiter’s perspective, is that they can easily read or print the document regardless of their software application. Many organizations have developed programs to search for appropriate résumés on-line using keywords. There are no formatting distractions, so the recruiter can easily call up and scan your document on their monitor.

Here are the steps to creating a strong ASCII résumé that you can e-mail to an employer, or cut and paste into a résumé bank.

  • Open your résumé in a word processing program.
  • Ensure that your contact details appear the top of the document (remove it from subsequent pages).
  • Make your resume rich in keywords and key phrases.
  • Change the font to Courier 10 pt for the entire document.
  • Convert any columns and/or tables to read across the page from left to right.
  • Change the document margins to 1 inch on the left and 2.5 inches on the right.
  • Save the new file as a text (.txt) document by clicking “Save As” (when prompted, select line breaks).
  • Open up your new file in your text editor (Notepad for PC or Simpletext for Mac).
  • Don’t worry if your new resume look like a mess at this point (you’ll be cleaning it up).
  • Insert line breaks by pressing the "Enter" key.
  • Use a series of symbols (“+”, or “*” or “-”) to separate sections and add a stylistic element.
  • Use spaces to line up your text (especially in bulleted areas)
  • Use capital letters sparingly for emphasis.
  • Don’t forget to save your new cleaned-up ASCII Text File.
  • Make sure that you keep a copy of your newly formatted ASCII résumé on file. You will find it easy to and paste from this document into many résumé banks on an ongoing basis.

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Sharon Graham is principal consultant for Graham Management Group, executive director of Career Professionals of Canada, and author of Best Canadian Resumes. Graham Management Group is known for excellence and innovation in resume, interview, and career strategy. Sharon assists executives, managers, and other experienced professionals through this leading career consulting firm. You can find further information and articles directly at

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