Resume Glossary

If you do much shopping around for resumé services, you’ll probably find yourself confused by some terms. It’s not your fault. Some terms (like “scannable resumé”) aren’t used consistently, and can have several very different meanings. Others don’t always mean what you’d expect them to mean. (For instance, “Web resumé” is sometimes used to refer to a simple plain-text resumé—which is nothing like a resumé viewable as a Web page.) And others, like “RTF” or “curriculum vitae,” just aren’t known to everyone.

And there are many important aspects of resumé technology that aren’t widely known—even though ignoring them causes many resumés to be passed over by employers.

This glossary will help you understand these terms and technologies, and help you make better-informed shopping decisions about resumé services. You’ll find further information about resumés and shopping on our Tips & FAQ page—including discussions of “Killer myths” that can wreck your job search even if you do everything else right.








A4 is the name of the standard metric paper size used for letters (and resumés) everywhere in the world except the U.S. and Canada. A4 paper is 21.0 cm x 29.7 cm, which is 8.268" x 11.693". It’s a little narrower and a little longer than U.S. letter size—so it doesn’t quite fit in most things designed to hold U.S.-letter–sized sheets. If you send your U.S.-letter–size resumé to someone outside the U.S. or Canada, it will be a bit of a nuisance for them to handle and file along with other paper. Even if you e-mail it, it will be a bit of a nuisance to print out. You don’t want your resumé to be a nuisance—if you’re sending it outside the U.S. or Canada, you should send it in A4 size, even if it’s an electronic document. (We can provide electronic documents in A4 size, and printouts on A4 paper. See our A4 Size product description.)

Another reason to use A4 paper for your international CV is that it shows that you are knowledgeable of international standards, and willing to work with them. (Many Americans aren’t.) An international employer will appreciate that.
You can print your CV out on US letter-size paper to read the copy, but the margins won’t look the way they will on A4 paper, and copy close to the edge may be cut off. If you’ve set up your document in A4 format, the screen display will show you what the resumé looks like on an A4 sheet. (In Microsoft Word, be sure you’re using Page Layout view.)

Since you will usually be e-mailing your CV, you can probably get by without using any A4 paper at home. But if you travel abroad for an interview, you’ll want to have some copies on A4 handy to give to people. And if you create paper documents to send overseas, it can be handy to have some A4 around.

FINDING A4 PAPER: If you’re planning on having your A4 resumé output at a copy shop, be aware that copy shops in the U.S. are unlikely to have A4 paper. They should be able to output A4 documents on A4 paper that you provide. You can find sources on the Web for A4 paper by the ream (500 sheets); some retail paper dealers or well-stocked business stationers may also have it, at least in large cities. (If you’re in the U.S., a ream may last you a lifetime.)

The metric envelope size that corresponds to A4 is referred to as “DL”. It’s 22.0 cm x 11.0 cm, which is 8.66" x 4.33". You may be able to find airmail envelopes in this size at a well-stocked stationery store. If you can, they will add a professional touch to international correspondence. However, you can use standard U.S. letter-size (#10) envelopes with A4 paper—A4 folded into thirds will fit neatly into a #10 envelope.

ASCII—see Plain Text


Your cover letter is usually the first thing seen by whoever starts the process of screening you for a job. And it will usually be read, often first, by everyone else who sees your resumé. So it’s your crucial first impression. A bad cover letter could put you right out of the running; a good one could put you at the top of the pile. The cover letter is also your chance to make points that can’t be made in a resumé, and to highlight those of your strengths that are of particular interest to each employer.

Thank-you letters (sometimes called “follow-up letters”) are also important. They establish a civil personal relationship with the person who has interviewed you. They give you a chance to express your continued interest in the job—a factor to which employers are very sensitive. And they also give you a chance to make or re-emphasize points you overlooked or under-emphasized in the interview, or that occurred to you only after learning more about the employer during the interview. A good thank-you letter can boost your standing with a potential employer, and could make the difference between being rejected and being called back for another interview.

Effective cover letters and thank-you letters must be individualized for each job you apply for. There’s no getting around that. And it’s well worth the effort, because sending form letters is a serious mistake. People who are hiring want to see that your interests and experience are a good fit for their firm and for the particular job, and that you have a definite interest in working for them. Generic sales talk doesn’t cut it—they want concrete details.

At Crystal Resumés, we make it as easy as possible to customize effective, factual letters for each prospect. We provide cover- and thank-you letters in the form of templates, with alternate paragraphs you can chose from to tailor the letters for each application. We provide instructions for using the templates, and examples to show how the letter should look.

Our letter templates will help you apply the same approach to job seeking that a sales professional applies to sales. You should do some research on a firm before you send an application to them, and look at writing letters in something like the way you would look at putting together a business proposal. As you may know, corporate business proposals are often based on templates—but they’re carefully individualized for each prospect. Job letters are the same.


“Curriculum vitae” (“CV”) has one meaning in the U.S., and another internationally.

1) In the U.S., “curriculum vitae” is the term for what an academic (or any professional who does research, writing, and/or teaching) uses instead of (or along with) a resumé. For short, it’s often called a “CV,” a “vitae,” or, less correctly, a “vita.” In addition to the material commonly found in a resumé, a CV lists such credentials as: dissertations, publications and conference papers, residencies, lectureships, fellowships, grants, special research activities, organizational responsibilities, etc. With all of this material, CVs can run to six or eight pages, or even longer. Some job-seekers in these fields may need both a CV and a resumé, depending on what type of job they are seeking.

The term “academic CV” (or “professional CV,” or “academic curriculum vitae,” etc.) might be used to make it clear that you’re using the term in the U.S. sense. But that’s taken for granted within the academic and professional worlds in the U.S., and “curriculum vitae” or “CV” is commonly used alone.

At Crystal Resumés, we write and format academic, professional, and scientific CVs as well as resumés. CVs are priced separately in the price tables for our various resumé services. We have professional editorial experience in scholarly and technical publishing and in academia, so we understand the special editorial requirements of CVs. They will be thoroughly professional in language and presentation, and will follow the bibliographic and other styles appropriate for your discipline.

Nursing CVs have a special format, quite unlike regular resumés. Like all CVs, they emphasize professional qualifications to a greater extent than do resumés. In nursing, sometimes they’re referred to as “resumés,” sometimes they’re called “CVs.” You’ll see healthcare employers and nurses (and resumé or career specialists) using either term for a standard clinical nursing resumé. This confuses people, but in nursing, both terms usually refer to the same thing. (For an example, see the Registered Nurse CV on our Work & Testimonials page.) HOWEVER, nurses with a lot of research, publications, and presentations will distinguish between a resumé and a CV, and may use both—the CV, with full detail on publications, etc., for administrative and research jobs, and the resumé for clinical caregiving jobs.

Nursing CVs have one thing in common with regular resumés: unless they list an unusual amount of research or special background, they are usually two to three pages long—shorter than other CVs (which commonly have long lists of publications, etc.). This is about the length of a normal resumé for an experienced person in a demanding field.

2) Internationally, “curriculum vitae” or “CV” covers what the U.S. calls both “resumés” and “CVs.” Some countries use other terms: Germany says “Lebenslauf,” in Australia it’s called a “resumé.” But in International English, British English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, “curriculum vitae” (borrowed from Latin) is the common term. (Spanish and Portuguese also use “currículo.”) The phrase “International CV” is sometimes used in the U.S., to make it clear that you’re talking about the international kind, not about an American academic or professional CV.

An international CV is a different thing from a U.S. resumé. It is likely to contain more information than is found on a U.S. resumé—including personal information that you can never put on a resumé in the U.S. Different countries often have somewhat different expectations for what goes on a resumé, and how it should be written. Normally, however, international job-seekers are applying in multiple countries, and an international CV is written to cover all possible non-U.S. requirements. We provide international CVs in A4 format, the standard document size outside the U.S., as well as in U.S. letter format for use within the U.S.

Grammar, pronunciation, and usage of the terms “CV” and “curriculum vitae”

It’s normal—and quite proper—to avoid grammatical and pronunciation issues with this term by using the abbreviation CV (pronounced see-vee, plural CVs), or the term “vitae.” Preferred practice may vary, depending on the professional field, or even the region.

But you should know that, if you’re speaking English, “curriculum vitae” is pronounced ka-RIK-ya-lum VIE-tee (second word rhymes with “mighty”). The plural isn’t needed that often, and most people who find they need it probably just say “CVs” or “vitaes” (VIE-teez). That, in fact, is probably the best way of handling the issue in most fields. It’s also proper to use the Latin plural of “curriculum vitae,” which is “curricula vitae,” and this may be the preferred usage in some fields where Latin terms are more fully preserved. (The Latin plural is not “curricula vitarum,” which implies that each document deals with more than one life.) And if you start out saying “curriculum vitae,” realize halfway through that you need to make it plural, and tack an ‘s’ on the end, you’ll probably be okay.

Other languages that use the term have their own ways of pronouncing it, and of forming the plural.

Don’t try going back to the Classical Latin pronunciation—unless, of course, you are speaking Classical Latin (as some of us at Crystal Resumés occasionally do). But for the record, the Classical Latin pronunciation is kuh-RIK-oo-lum WEE-tie (second word rhymes with “sweet eye”). It’s Latin for “the course of (someone’s) life”—which is the original meaning of the word “career.” (If you’re applying for a job at the Vatican, you’ll usually find a different pronunciation of Latin in use there, and will probably be communicating in Italian or International English, not in Latin.)

CV—see Curriculum Vitae

.DOC & .DOCX FORMATS—see Word Resumé


The term “e-resumé” (electronic resumé) does not refer to a particular resumé format or type of resumé. It is a general term for any resumé that is transmitted electronically—in practice, for any resumé other than a paper resumé. E-resumés include resumés in plain-text, HTML, and PDF formats, as well as word-processor resumés (Word or RTF) sent electronically (as they usually are, these days).

“E-resumé” may have some use as a general concept because it reminds you that making the best use of electronic resumés requires meeting a much wider range of technical requirements than paper resumés have to meet. But outside of that, it’s misleading, because the different types of e-resumés have little or nothing in common beyond the fact that they’re electronic rather than paper. They are based on different and unrelated technologies, and have different purposes. So they have very different technical requirements and must be used in different ways. Thus, learning about them means learning about each one separately. For more information about them, see the entries for each in this Resumé Glossary.


Crystal Resumés does not currently provide Federal resumé services.

Federal job applications require resumés of a different style than is used for other job searches. They typically run from three to five pages. Federal resumés must provide information that private-sector resumés don’t, and must give a fuller account of your experience. They also have to be formatted to fit the various online job applications used by different federal agencies—USAJOBS, Resumix, Avue, QuickHire. (A single, generic federal resumé can be made that is adaptable to the different systems with some tweaking.)

Federal job applications also require special narrative statements—KSAs, ECQs, MTQs, etc.—that give extensive concrete illustrations of your experience. These statements range from a half a page to one-and-a-half pages each, depending on the situation.


ECQ: Executive Core Qualifications, the five standard attributes required for all Senior Executive Service (SES) positions: 1) Leading Change, 2) Leading People, 3) Results Driven, 4) Business Acumen, 5) Building Coalitions/Communications. In addition to evidence of field-specific qualifications, SES applicants must provide five narrative statements giving concrete examples of their attainments in each of these areas.

ECQ statements are typically each a page to a page and a half long. They should be tailored for each application, to focus on the precise match between your abilities and those required for the position. Job announcements will sometimes specify particular issues to be addressed in the ECQs.

KSA: KSA stands for “Knowledges, Skills, and Abilities.” Different KSA statements are required for different jobs, reflecting the particular key skills required for each job. They must give concrete evidence of your possession and successful use of the knowledge/skill/ability.

KSAs are typically from half a page to one page long (maximum 3000 characters, about 600 words). You will normally be asked to submit several of them, occasionally as many as twelve. (If you need more than a few, they’ll usually be on the shorter side.)

MPQ: Mandatory Professional Qualifications. Similar to MTQs, below.

MTQ: Mandatory Technical Qualifications. These are narrative statements similar to KSAs, but they may run longer, up to two pages. Different MTQs will be required for different jobs, reflecting the particular technical skills required for each job. The announcement will give details on what is required.

PTQ: Professional (and) Technical Qualifications. Similar to MTQs. Different PTQ statements will be required for different jobs, reflecting the particular professional qualifications and technical skills required for each job.

TQ: Technical Qualifications. Similar to MTQs.


Avue: A commercial staffing system run by a private-sector company, Avue Digital Services, and used by a number of federal agencies.

Resumix: A commercial staffing system run by Yahoo/HotJobs, and used by the military and the Department of Defense. Different branches may use different Resumix formats.

QuickHire: A commercial staffing system run by Monster, used by a number of federal agencies.

USAJOBS: USAJobs, managed by Monster for the OPM, represents an attempt, still extremely incomplete, to standardize and centralize the federal recruitment and hiring process. USAJobs.gov is “The Federal Government’s Official Jobs Site.” (The site map is a good guide to the site. The site is not Mac-friendly.) But many agencies still list their jobs on their own sites, and not on USAJobs.gov. In other cases, the listing on the USAJobs site will link to the agency’s listing.

The USAJobs resumé format and resumé builder is designed to be a standard federal resumé format in that it contains all the information required for job applications to all federal agencies. Individual agencies may vary in terms of how much of that information they require, and how they want it presented.


OPM: Office of Personnel Management.

SES: Senior Executive Service.


A synonym for “thank-you letter.”


The words “format” and “formatting” have several well-established conventional meanings in the graphic communications industries—all related, but referring to different things. This doesn’t cause confusion among communications professionals, but some clarification can be helpful when communications professionals talk to their customers. The best approach is to explain the nuances, and point out that the nuances aren’t profoundly important—you could just about take “format” in all cases as a vague general term meaning “form” or “structure.”

What is important is that you remember that “format” and “formatting” may refer to any of three different categories, and that those categories don’t overlap:

1) Document formats (or file formats)—referring to the electronic format of a document that exists as a computer file. The document format is the set of coding conventions that make documents of each type perform the way they’re supposed to when handled by software designed to work with them. Computers distinguish the formats of electronic documents by the three-letter (sometimes four-letter) extensions to the right of the dot in the filename, and those extensions are often used as the names of the formats. This category includes Word (.doc, .docx, or .docm), plain text (.txt), PDF (.pdf), RTF (.rtf), HTML (.html or .htm), etc.

2) The visible details of the graphic formatting of the text in a document: boldface, italic, spacing, indents, etc. (This is sometimes spoken of as “the formatting of the document.”) As a verb, formatting means applying those features to a given document: “We’ll format your resumé,” and so on.

3) The physical format of a document or image, that is, the size and orientation of the visual space: letter-size, legal-size, portrait (vertical), landscape (horizontal), A4, etc.


“Hosting” (as in “Web hosting”) usually refers to the service of providing space on a Web server for Web sites. (A Web site can consist of a single Web page.) Web servers (and the companies that operate them) have all the technology and connections needed to allow the hosted sites to be accessed directly, by anyone who has the site’s URL (Web address) and an Internet connection. All Web sites have such a host.

In the context of Web use, “posting” usually refers to putting information on an existing Web site. That information appears within the Web site. In Web sites that allow free posting, accessing posted information usually involves looking at a lot of advertising. The person posting the information usually has little or no control over how it is displayed.

Posting a resumé on a job site often means just pasting your plain-text resumé into a form. The information is then added to the site’s database. Employers will find it only when searching for resumés of people with certain qualifications—which means they’ll be looking at other people’s resumés as well as your own. You’ll often have no control over how your resumé looks. Job sites may not allow you to post HTML resumés. And the posting may not allow you to use a URL (Web address) to allow people to access your resumé directly. (Keep in mind also that only a tiny fraction of jobs are filled through third-party job sites like Monster or Careerbuilder.com.)


“HTML resumé” is the most widely used term for resumés created with HTML (and sometimes CSS) coding, which is what Web browsers (and some other software programs) are made to read. HTML resumés are typically displayed as Web pages viewed on a desktop or laptop computer screen. But they have other uses: for e-mailing, or occasionally for the automated resumé-processing systems used by some employers. (But Word, plain text, or RTF is preferred for most such systems.)

HTML resumés might also be displayed on the non-typical Web browsers used by hand-held devices such as iPhones, Blackberries, and other “smart phones”. Use of these devices is steadily increasing, though they are by no means making desktop machines obsolete, especially in the business world. (Companies that redesigned core general-market products on the assumption that the desktop was going away are backtracking or losing customers.)

The Web pages that are viewed with browsers on full-size computer screens often use features that aren’t compatible with handheld display—they may display badly or not at all on handhelds. For this reason, at Crystal Resumés we prefer to distinguish two kinds of HTML resumés: Universal HTML resumés, and Web-page resumés. (There’s no market yet for resumés designed exclusively for handheld viewing, so we code our HTML resumés to be as compatible as possible with handhelds.)

Plain-text, Word, or RTF resumés are usually preferred by HR people and recruiters, who often use resumé-processing technology (”applicant tracking systems” or ATS) that requires these formats. Some of them say that HTML resumés are acceptable too, but people rarely submit HTML resumes, and we doubt that the ATSs are well designed for handling HTML. ATS systems, after all, don’t even handle Word resumés very well.

HTML resumés should be regarded as an optional resumé format, not an essential one. They can be posted on the Web, or e-mailed to individuals. HR people, and non-IT people are unlikely to know what to do with them. They are more likely to be appreciated by hiring managers in the IT industry, who don’t have to do anything with the resumés except look at them, are familiar with handling HTML documents, and who will appreciate the convenience of HTML viewing. (HR people and recruiters may appreciate that convenience too, but they’ll still need your resumé in other formats. If you send them an HTML resumé as well as a Word resumé, you’re taking a chance that they may put the wrong one into the system.)

(Watch out for the term “Web resumé”: see “Why don’t they call them ‘Web resumés’?,” below.)

Universal HTML Resumé

“Universal HTML resumé” is our own term for a product that, as far as we know, nobody else offers (yet). It’s a basic HTML resumé for putting up on the Web, and others may offer those. But it’s more than that: the “Universal” comes in because it’s designed to be as widely compatible as possible for alternative HTML applications: non-typical Web uses and non-Web uses, including handhelds. It uses stripped-down coding and design that avoids features that will or might present compatibility problems in these alternative applications. And our quality control ensures that our HTML is as clean and standard as possible. We also use techniques that allow us to keep certain visual formatting options without using features that aren’t safe. (And we use our design know-how to make sure it looks good—better, in fact, than just about any resumé you’ll see on the Web.)

For more information on HTML resumés, and on Universal HTML resumés from Crystal Resumés, see our product description, and our “More About HTML Resumés” page.

To see what our Universal HTML resumés look like, see the Our Work page.

Web-Page Resumé

The term “Web-page resumé” isn’t widely used, but it’s the best term we’ve seen for a resumé that’s meant to be displayed as a Web page. We prefer to restrict it to resumés that are designed exclusively for display as Web pages viewed on typical desktop computers. These resumés may use the whole range of visual techniques common in such pages, including graphics and CSS. (CSS—Cascading Style Sheets—is a technology added to and modifying HTML, that allows finer control over both layout and typography.) This sacrifices some compatibility with handhelds and alternative HTML applications (non-typical Web uses and non-Web uses)—but if these alternative applications aren’t important to you, the tradeoff may be worthwhile.

For more information on HTML resumés, and on our Universal HTML and Web-page resumés, see our product description, and our “More About HTML Resumés” page.

Why don’t they call them “Web resumés”?

Well, sometimes they do, and it’s becoming more common. But in the resumé business the term “Web resumé” widely used, for a long time, for something else: “Web resumé” (or “Web-ready resumé”) often just means a plain-text resumé (which can be transmitted over the Web, among many other uses), especially one that’s formatted for pasting into Web forms. And in any case, HTML resumés do have uses beyond the Web, and these uses may become more important in the future. So the distinction between Universal HTML and Web-page resumés remains important.


Keywords are common terms for job titles, skills, personal attributes, etc., that indicate experience and ability in a particular specialty. Many employers (especially large companies and large recruiters) use applicant-tracking systems (ATS), computer systems that process digital resumés (Word, plain-text, HTML, etc.) and search them for keywords that are used as indicators of an applicant’s suitability for a given job. The documents may be scored on the basis of the keyword count, and ranked by their scores. Decisions about who gets called in for an interview may be made on the basis of those rankings. Keywords are also important for human reading, especially when, as is often the case, the person is making a quick scan of the resumé to decide if it’s worth a closer look.


A networking resumé is a one-page condensation of your resumé. Networking resumés are typically used in non-hiring situations, when you want to give someone an outline of your experience and capabilities without making them sort through detail that is relevant only to hiring situations.

(For information on networking resumés from Crystal Resumés, see our product description.)


OCR scanning (commonly referred to as just plain “scanning”) is a technology used for converting printed words into digital text that can be processed like any other text fed into a computer: it’s the automated equivalent of typing the text into the computer. OCR-scannable resumés, back when they were used, had to be specially formatted so that they could be scanned as accurately as possible. Until a few years after the turn of the century, many employers used this format as a means of processing the paper resumés they received. Once they were scanned, the digital text was stored in a database. When looking for resumés that fit an open position, these employers searched the resumé database for keywords appropriate to that position.

Resumé databases are still used. But today, employers usually get resumés by e-mail or through a Web form. That means they come in electronic formats—Word or plain text—that can be put directly into a database without OCR scanning. (HTML and PDF resumés can also be used in a database, but this is much less common in resumé processing.) Paper resumés are once again read only by people. So OCR-scannable resumés are now obsolete. A few employers who already have the hardware in place may still say they accept them, but they do so only as a second-best alternative—they will strongly prefer submission via e-mail or Web forms. OCR scanning means extra work for them, and delays the processing of the resumé (by as much as several weeks); they keep it only as an option for processing applications from people who can’t apply on-line or by e-mail.

For more information about OCR-scannable resumés, see our “More About Scannable Resumés” page. To see what an OCR-scannable resumé looked like, see the OCR-scannable resumé on the Our Work page.


Documents produced by many common software programs—including word processors—run into problems when they’re transmitted by e-mail or over the Internet. And any associated files (fonts and images used in a document) have to be transmitted separately along with the document if it is to print or display properly. (The exception is the very few standard fonts that are found on most computers. But even most of these are not as universal as most people think.)

PDF technology provides a way around those problems. Documents produced by common word-processing and graphics software programs (including Word, InDesign, and others) can be exported as PDF files. A PDF file “encapsulates” all the elements of the file (fonts, images, etc.) in a single file that is immune to the changes that can happen when files move from one digital environment to another. (Even when you’re e-mailing a file from one Windows machine to another, it’s likely to go by way of a Unix server, which is a different environment.)

A PDF is a sort of high-quality snapshot of the original file. It looks exactly like the original. But, unlike the original electronic document, a PDF will look exactly the same wherever you send it. PDF has become the standard method of transmitting graphics files (magazine ads, for instance—or whole magazines) from the people who produce the digital files to the people who will print them. PDFs can also be opened on virtually any computer, no matter what operating system or software it runs.

PDFs fall short of the original application files in one major respect—because they’re encapsulated, they can’t be modified. (Strictly speaking, they can be modified to a limited extent, if you have the right software and know what you’re doing. But that limited extent doesn’t include making any useful changes in text.) If you need a PDF of a revised document, you must edit the original file (in Word or some other program), and then convert it to PDF. But if you do this with older software, beware of font substitution problems that will only show up when the document is opened on someone else’s computer.

The impossibility of modifying PDFs is a very serious limitation for resumé use. Recruiters and HR departments often need to reformat resumés they receive, and they’re not set up to do this with PDFs. Another serious limitation is that PDFs can’t be used with most applicant-tracking systems (ATSs). For this reason, plain-text, Word, or RTF resumés are usually preferred by HR people and recruiters. PDF resumés are most likely to be appreciated by other decision-makers in the hiring chain, who don’t have to do anything with the resumés except look at them, and who will appreciate the convenience and stability of the PDF format. In some fields, such as IT, engineering, and graphic communications, PDFs are commonly used whenever HR and recruiters aren’t in the loop. But unless you’re sure, don’t send someone a PDF unless they specifically say that they prefer a PDF to other formats. (Just because PDF appears in a list of acceptable formats doesn’t mean that it won’t cause problems.)

There are two kinds of PDFs, and the difference can cause serious problems in business correspondence. Most people don’t seem to know the difference, and in fact there are no generally used names for them that I know of. I call them “native PDFs” and “scanned PDFs.”

“Native PDFs” are what you get when you create a document in, say, Microsoft Word, and then save it as a PDF. (In recent versions of Word, you do this by selecting “Save As” and then selecting “PDF” as the format.) When you send a native PDF to someone else, they can select text in the PDF, and then copy it to another application. Sometimes it is important to be able to do this. (However, as we’ve noted above, resumé-processing software used by HR departments usually can’t process PDFs.)

“Scanned PDFs” are what you get when you take a piece of paper with print on it, and then put it through a scanner to be made into a PDF. The resulting file contains no text—just a picture of text. You can’t select the text and copy it. There is no useful way to extract the text from it. There are ways to optically scan the text (OCR scanning), but the results are so inaccurate that it is easier and faster to retype the text from scratch than it is to clean up an OCR scan. This is true of all OCR technologies. Anyone who tells you otherwise has never been personally responsible for doing real work with OCR-scanned text. I speak from extensive experience.

Reading PDFs: To read PDFs, you need Adobe Reader. If you don’t already have it, it’s available as a free download from Adobe. Versions of Adobe Reader are available for the following platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux®, Solaris™, IBM® AIX®, HP-UX, Palm OS (Windows & Mac), Pocket PC, Symbian.

(“Adobe” and “Adobe Reader” are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.)


Plain text (also known in the U.S. as ASCII) is, along with Word, the most widely-used and versatile resumé format. Plain-text resumés are far better than Word versions for copying into Web forms. They can also be copied into the body of an e-mail. (Usually when you e-mail a resumé, you will be attaching the Word version of your resumé to the e-mail. Copying plain text into the e-mail is something different.)

Crystal Resumés provides two plain-text versions of your resume: one for Web forms and another for use as e-mail text. Separate versions are needed because on-line forms require running text (with hard line breaks only at the end of paragraphs). On the other hand, e-mail text used for resumés needs to be optimized for e-mail programs that enforce a maximum line length by adding line breaks within paragraphs of all received mail. This can result in some very messy looking text, unless hard breaks are added appropriately in the outgoing text—which is what we do for the e-mail plain-text version of your resumé.

The versatility of plain text has its price: plain-text is plain text, with no visual formatting like boldface, italic, different type sizes, fonts, etc. Resumés with such visual formatting are easier to read and more appealing than plain-text resumés. So resumés with visual formatting (normally produced with Word) are also standard job-hunting tools, either instead of, or in addition to, plain-text resumés. Word-processor resumés (Word or RTF) are often requested by recruiters and HR departments; in a few industries, others in the hiring chain may prefer PDF resumés.

In plain-text documents, only a limited range of text characters can be used: the ASCII character set that is recognized by most computers and computer software in the U.S. Because they use only the ASCII character set, plain-text documents read the same everywhere: there is no character substitution. Many commonly-used characters are not part of the ASCII character set, and cannot be used in plain-text documents. Common non-ASCII characters include: accented letters, long dashes (en or em dashes), curly quotes, and bullets.

NOTE: Not every document with no formatting is a plain-text document. This is a question of what is called “encoding”. ASCII is one encoding, but there are others. A plain-text document used in the U.S. must contain only ASCII characters. Some software can handle non-ASCII characters, but many programs cannot—ASCII is the lowest common denominator. The occasional bits of garbage you see in text on the Web or in e-mails are caused by character substitution for unrecognized non-ASCII characters. You don’t want this to happen to your resumé.

Strictly speaking, ASCII is only one variety of plain text. But ASCII is the U.S. standard, so in the U.S., “ASCII” and “plain text” are synonymous, though “ASCII” is falling out of use, except perhaps in IT environments.

It’s important to note that when some resumé services talk about “scannable resumés” they’re actually referring to a plain-text resumé. For more about this confusion, see our page on Scannable Resumés.

It’s also important for job-seekers to keep in mind certain things about plain-text documents:

FORMATTING: Plain text lacks most of the formatting options (boldface, italics, spacing adjustments, etc.) that help make documents readable. When you save a Word document (for instance) as plain text, most of the formatting is lost, and the resulting file will be difficult to read, and a bit messy. Plain-text resumés and letters should be re-worked to make the most of the limited formatting options available: removing second-page header text, using a hierarchy of one or more line spaces or lines of hyphens to separate the sections of the text, using asterisks instead of bullets, capital letters instead of boldface, etc. (At Crystal Resumés, we do this with all of the plain-text resumés and letters we produce.)

LINE BREAK CODES: There’s another aspect of line breaks that also crops up when sending plain-text documents from one computer to another, if those computers use different operating systems. Windows, Unix, and very old Macs all use different codes to represent line breaks. Newer Macs, since OSX came out in 2002, use Unix line breaks. (The codes, by the way are: LF for Unix and Mac OSX; CRLF for Windows; and CR for pre-OSX Macs.) This is important because, even if you are sending a document from one Windows computer to another, it’s likely to pass through a Unix server on the way. Line breaks can get lost when plain-text documents move between computers with different operating systems. Instead of a line break, you might get, for instance, a rectangular box, or an upside-down question mark, and no line break at all. Some text-processing programs, such as TextWrangler (the free version of BBEdit) give you a way around this, by giving you the option, when saving, of choosing which type of line break to use.

POSTING a resumé—see Hosting/Posting


For the distinction between a resumé and a curriculum vitae, see Curriculum Vitae.

Spelling (accents), pronunciation

All factors considered, we think “resumé” (one accent), though it has no historical basis, is the best spelling for the word used as an English word to refer to a summary of someone’s qualifications for employment. This spelling has in fact become more widely accepted over the last ten or twenty years. The spelling with two accents is awkward in English because, in the English pronunciation, the first “é” stands for a different sound than does the second. The accent over the final -e is still desirable to indicate pronunciation and distinguish “resumé” from the verb “resume.”

This is not a question the average job-seeker needs to sweat over. “Resumé” and “résumé” are always acceptable. “Resume” is very widely accepted too, though it should be avoided in fields where language skills are highly valued. Whichever spelling you prefer, make sure you use it consistently.

But there’s one important exception to this: At least in the U.S., accented characters should never be used in plain-text documents, including e-mails and Web forms. Since accented characters are not part of the ASCII character set that is standard in the U.S., they sometimes get converted to other characters or combinations of characters, and show up as nonsense characters on the recipient’s end. (See Plain Text, above.) In these documents, “resume,” without accents, is the only possibility.

You don’t have to sweat over this, but, as professional writers, we at Crystal Resumés have to make a considered decision about which spelling to use, and want to choose the best if one is even a little better than the others. When you start looking closely at the question of how to spell the name of that vital piece of paper, it gets rather more complicated than most such questions are, because there are an unusual number of factors involved. Sorting out those factors, weighing them, and working out the best balance between them is a matter for painstaking thought by experienced language mechanics with some specialized linguistic knowledge. We’ve had our shot at it, and we’ve written down our reasons for preferring “resumé.” The result is too long for this Resumé Glossary, but if you’re curious, click here.


Recruiters and HR departments often prefer word-processor resumés (typically Word or RTF) because they often need to re-format the resumés they receive, and are more likely to be able to do this with word-processor files. Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor, but it has many shortcomings (see the article on Word resumés). Word documents created with versions older than Word 2007 were notorious virus carriers, and some employers requested resumés to be sent in RTF format, rather than Word.

That’s probably not as common now, but it’s still handy to have an RTF version of your resumé. RTF documents are also compatible with a wider range of software than are Word documents. One thing will always be true: since RTF is a standard, non-proprietary format (unlike Word) you will always be able to find some software that will open your files, no matter what Microsoft or anyone else does five years from now. As of 2014, that’s the main reason we send RTF versions as part of our standard package.

RTF is a generic word-processor format—a way to preserve the basic visual formatting of a document (type size, boldface, italic, spacing, etc.) when it is viewed in any software program that is RTF-compatible. Most word processors, whether on PC, Mac, or Unix platforms, can open and edit RTF files.

We provide all resumés in RTF versions as well as Word, so you will have an RTF resumé handy to send to employers who request it. The RTF version can also be edited by job-seekers who use non-Microsoft word processors that can’t work with Word’s .doc/.docx formats. (It can also, of course, be edited in Word, including older versions.) If you edit an RTF file, be sure to save the edited file as an RTF file, not as a native application file (a Word Perfect file, Works file, Open Office file, or whatever). Most word processors are able to save files in RTF format.

E-mailing RTF: RTF resumés are normally sent as attachments, just like Word resumés (If you’re sending a resumé in the body of an e-mail, the best format to use is plain text.) RTF can also be e-mailed in the body of an e-mail (“in-line”), which will show the formatted resumé in the recipient’s e-mail display. But this is not a significant option for job-hunting. The results can be unpredictable, and you need to stick with the same standard fonts used in Word resumés. You should never put RTF in the body of an e-mail unless this is specifically requested.

If you do e-mail RTF in the body of an e-mail, you will probably have to select RTF as the message format in the user settings of your e-mail software. Try e-mailing it to yourself first, and see how it looks; then edit the RTF to fix any problems that may appear. (Make a copy of the original RTF file, save the copy with a different name, and work on that.)


A very confusing term. It can mean any of the following three very different things (or some frankenstein hybrid of them):

1) What we call an OCR-scannable resumé.

2) A plain-text resumé.

3) Any resumé that is written to include keywords. (But today, all resumés should be written to include keywords . . . .)

If you want an explanation of this confusion, or if you want more information about OCR-scannable resumés, see our “More About Scannable Resumés” page.


Some people refer to Word resumés as “typeset.” But Word is a word-processing program, not typesetting software. Word processors and typesetting programs are two distinct classes of software, with different uses and different capabilities. A true typeset resumé is designed and formatted from scratch with professional typesetting software (InDesign, or Quark where that’s still used) using all the resources of fine typography that are applicable to resumés—many of which are simply not available in Word or other word processors. In resumés, the difference may seem fairly subtle to people who aren’t graphics professionals—at least when it’s being discussed at the theoretical level. But the difference is quite real, and quite visible in practice—enough to make a true typeset resumé stand out among even the best-looking Word resumés. That’s a profitable investment for job-seekers in certain fields—executives and senior management resumés, people in the arts and media, and some professionals and other specialists.

For more information about typeset resumés in general, and about typeset resumés from Crystal Resumés, see the section on Typeset Resumés on our Services page, and our “More About Typeset Resumés” page.


VITAE (or VITA)—see Curriculum Vitae


WEB RESUMÉ (or WEB-READY RESUMÉ)—see “Why don’t they call them ‘Web resumés’?,” under HTML Resumé, above.

WORD RESUMÉ (that is, Microsoft Word)

Microsoft Word is the standard word processor in the business world, and the most widely-used word processor for home use. It has gone through many different versions in the years of its ubiquity, and most or all of these are still in use by someone somewhere. Documents created with Word 2007 or later are identified by the .docx extension; special types have a .docm or .dotx extension. (More on this below.) Files created by earlier versions of Word are identified by the .doc extension. Word versions are typically named with the year they were issued (e.g., Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2007). The Mac versions are typically released the year after the corresponding Windows version, and their names reflect this: for instance, Word 2008 is the Mac version of Windows Word 2007.

Recruiters and HR departments often prefer word-processor resumés (Word, or sometimes RTF). Recruiters often need to re-format the resumés they receive, and are better able to do this with word-processor files. HR people often use “applicant-tracking systems” (ATSs) to process resumes, and word-processor resumés work better for this than PDFs or HTML resumés. Plain-text documents are even easier to process for some purposes, including ATSs, but word-processors produce documents that are much more readable by humans than plain-text documents. When you read dozens or hundreds of resumés, readability counts.

Microsoft Word is by far the most widely-used word-processor application. But it is important not to overestimate what this means. Employers often request Word resumes, and may not be able to use native files from any other word processor. But there are many well-known and serious problems with Word, and it is by no means universally loved. Many who use it regularly do so only because there is no alternative in their professional setting. Word files in .doc format were notorious for carrying macro viruses, and Word itself, like other Microsoft applications, still has some characteristics of malware. Most employers accept Word resumés, but don’t take it for granted. Always check the list of acceptable formats. And look to see which Word formats they accept: the .docx format is probably universally accepted now, but there was a time when some employers accepted only the .doc format.

Because of the problems with Word, some employers may prefer resumes in RTF format, rather than Word. (This is less common now than it used to be.) RTF is a universal word-processor format that virtually anyone with any word-processor can open and use. Many word processors can save files in RTF format—if you use a word processor other than Word, this is what you should do with your resumé. But if an employer requests a Word resumé, send them Word, not RTF.

Technical Limitations on Word Resumés. Of the resumé formats commonly used, Word produces the best-looking and most readable resumés. But the technologies widely used for automated resumé processing, and the fact that a resumé must be distributed widely to people who use different computer systems and different versions of Word, place rather narrow limits on what can be done in the way of making a Word resumé visually appealing.

A major problem is fonts. If the person receiving your resumé doesn’t have the fonts you used to compose it, another font will be substituted. When this happens, lines will rerun, and the appearance and readability of your resumé will be seriously degraded. Forget about claims that one or another font is “standard.” The only fonts suitable for resumés that can be counted on to be universally available are Times and Helvetica/Arial. Of these, we think Times is a bit better for resumés. One of the worst mistakes made by resumé services—including a lot of expensive and highly certified ones—is using other fonts that aren’t really universal standards.

Another problem that employers and recruiters often complain about is Word features—especially tables—that can’t be handled by automated resumé processing systems, and turn into garbage if they are used with software other than Word.

So it’s essential that you have a Word resumé that observes these limitations. If you want to, you could also get a second, more refined version in Word—but the only use you can make of it is to print it out and give or mail someone the paper. (You could also make a PDF, which can be sent electronically and will display all the formatting on any computer system. But PDFs can’t be used in automated resumé processing, and should only be sent when someone has specifically requested one.)

However, if you’re going to the trouble of getting an extra version of your resumé for use in paper or PDF, you can do a lot better than Word. Crystal Resumés offers true typeset resumés, produced by a professional typographer with professional typesetting software (InDesign). A typeset resumé can be made to look far better than any Word document—and with no more trouble than it would take to do a fancy Word resumé. We don’t know of any other resumé specialists who offer true typeset resumés. For more information on typeset resumés, and on the limitations of Word, see our special page on Typeset Resumés.

.DOCX FORMAT: new with Word 2007. Word 2007 (and Word 2008, the Mac version of Word 2007) marked a major change in Word. From Word 97 through Word 2003, all versions of Word used the same basic file format. This means that documents created by one of these versions could generally be opened by any of the others. In Word 2007, the tool set remained much the same (except for macros, discussed below), but the interface was reorganized, and the file format and technical underpinnings are fundamentally different. (Microsoft botched the interface badly, and has backtracked in later versions.) Word 2007 and later versions can open documents created by pre-2007 version. But documents saved in the standard native Word 2007+ format cannot be opened by earlier versions. (Standard Word 2007+ documents have the .docx extension.)

Perhaps the most important change that came in with Word 2007 is the disabling of macros in Word’s standard tool set. This change had one huge advantage for everyone, and one huge disadvantage for an important group of Word users. A Word document in which the macro capabilities have been disabled cannot carry the macro viruses that made Word infamous as an electronic disease carrier. (For this reason, some employers will accept .docx resumés, but not .doc format.) Macros, however, are an extremely powerful tool, which is of critical importance for some Word users, especially in the business world. Microsoft has therefore included in Word 2007 the option of enabling macros in a given document. Word 2007 documents with macros enabled are saved with the .docm extension. These documents, like .doc files, can still carry macro viruses.

(If you run into a Word file with the .dotx extension, it’s a Word template.)

All Word resumés from Crystal Resumés are still provided in both .docx and .doc formats. To see what some of our Word resumés look like, go to the Our Work page.

Old information: For a while after Word 2007 was introduced, many employers continued to use earlier versions, so if you had a resumé created in Word 2007 and saved in the .docx format, those employers wouldn’t be able to open your resumé. This isn’t likely to be a problem any more, but just in case, here’s the technical information we posted to help people deal with it. You can create documents in Word 2007 and save them in the .doc format, so that they can be opened by earlier versions. (The .doc format can be chosen in the Save window, in the “Save as type” menu.) It is also possible to change the default behavior of Word 2007+, so that all new documents are saved in .doc format. (To do this, click the Office button at the upper left corner of the Word window. At the bottom of the resulting window click Word Options. In the resulting Word Options window, select Save, and, for the “Save files in this format” setting, select the *.doc choice.)



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