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ASCII Resumes: Learn How to Convert Your File

ASCII Resumes: Learn How to Convert Your File

ASCIITextDigital Inspiration points us to ASCII-o-Matic, a cool tool that lets you convert a 60×50 pixel JPEG image into ASCII art. I wish there was a similar tool for converting a Word-formatted resume into a nice-looking ASCII file. ASCII resumes are necessary if you need to email your resume or copy and paste to online forms, but properly converting the file is time-consuming. The “save as” text option in Word is handy, but there is always a lot of cleanup necessary to make the file look as attractive as possible in plain-text format.Any developers out there able to automate this process? While we wait for the magic tool, here is an article that provides more detail on converting a resume to ASCII format:Why You Need Two ASCII Resumes & How to Create Themby Kim Isaacs, Resume Expert and Director of ResumePower.comMany job seekers don’t realize that it’s necessary to have two ASCII (plain-text) resumes — one for emailing, and the other for posting to online forms. The emailable version should have forced line breaks at 65 characters or less, and the webforms version should not have forced line breaks.Why should the webforms version not have forced line breaks? Because if you copy and paste a plain-text resume to a webform (say, on a company website or job board) and it has line breaks manually inserted, the end result will be a jagged-looking resume. Each webmaster has a different default setting for how many characters an online form will break text, so if your resume exceeds this limit, your resume will look terrible. If you create an ASCII resume without line breaks, the text should wrap around the webform’s box, eliminating the need for you to go in and reformat the text.Why do you need a plain-text resume that has line breaks at 65 characters or less when emailing your resume? Because there is no standard email program used by everybody, so you need to accommodate email systems that don’t automatically wrap line breaks. Your resume might end up as one long horizontal line of text — this is a “pet peeve” of recruiters who state that they would rather the line breaks are pre-inserted before receiving the resume via email.Here’s the main difference between the two formats:ASCII for Emailing – Has forced line breaks at 65 characters or lessASCII for Webforms – Has no forced line breaks; instead, the text wraps naturallyIt’s best to create the webforms version first, and then convert the webform file into an emailable version. The following instructions are meant to be a basic guide to preparing your ASCII resumes. There’s a lot you can do with ASCII, so feel free to play around with keyboard symbols to see what works for you. Your resume should be easy to skim through, consistent, and attractive given the limitations of plain text.To create an ASCII resume for webforms using MS Word XP:

  • Open your Word document, go to Save As, and under “Save as Type,” select “Plain Text.” Give the file a new name like YourName_ASCIIforWebforms. Important – check the box “Allow Character Substitution.” Click “Save” to save the new file.
  • Exit Word and open Notepad (Notepad can be found on most Windows systems by going to Start> All Programs> Accessories> Notepad).
  • Change bullets to asterisks or dashes if they didn’t convert properly after you saved as text.
  • Make sure the text is coherent, especially if columns or tables were used in the original document.
  • Review the heading to ensure that the address, phone number(s), and e-mail addresses are placed in a logical sequence.
  • Add stylistic elements to the header sections so that they stand out. A horizontal line may be created by using a series of dashes or asterisks. Example:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Professional Experience~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • If you have a cover letter (which you should!), paste the letter on page one (before the resume). Remove extra line breaks by the sig line and add the word “RESUME” where the resume is about to start. Example:

Sincerely,John Doe~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~R E S U M E~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • Remove contact information and page data from the secondary pages if your resume is longer than one page. So information such as “John Doe Resume – Page Two” and “ABC Company, accomplishments, continued” should be removed. The ASCII resume is meant to be read on a computer screen, so there is no distinction between pages.
  • Add a line break before and after job titles to help them stand out.
  • Place “Key Accomplishments” (or whatever the Accomplishments section is called) on its own line preceded by a couple of dashes.
  • Add an extra line between bullets if you have text-intensive bullets. Large paragraphs of plain text can be cumbersome to read.
  • Add two spaces between sections and between jobs.
  • Look for and remove special characters that might have crept in, such as accents over the “e” in “resume” or “San Jose”). Look for special characters that might have morphed into something like the letter “n” or “?” or “1” – this could happen by the address header if symbols were used to separate phone, city, etc. Symbols may also appear in the Education section if symbols were used to separate courses, schools, etc.
  • Look for bullets that have sub-bullets (it’s necessary to refer to the original resume), and use a dash to indicate sub-bullets.
  • Carefully review the document to make sure the resume is perfect and nothing strange is left in the file.

When the ASCIIforWebforms file looks good, it’s time to create the second file – ASCII for emailing:

  • Open the ASCIIforWebforms file in Word. Select all text, change the font size to 13.5, and scroll to the end of each line to see how many characters are on the longest lines. If it’s in the range of 55-65, you’re good to go. If it’s running past 70 characters, that’s not good and you should try changing the font size to 13 or smaller.
  • Go to File> Save As > choose “Plain Text,” but this time check the “Insert line breaks” box and rename to “YourName_ASCIIforEmailing.”
  • Close the file and reopen in Notepad. Look for “orphans” – short lines that can be moved up to the line above (as long as it doesn’t exceed 65 characters). Orphans often appear if a series of slashes are used in the resume – Word considers the string of words separated by slashes as one word and may move the whole string to the next line.

When you’re ready to email your resume or post to an online form, just open the appropriate file, select all, copy, and paste the text to the message box or form. Remember to customize the cover letter to suit the opportunity.Best wishes for success with your ASCII documents, and let me know how your job search is going!You can view a couple of ASCII samples on the site:ASCII Sample #1: TV Network Operations ManagerASCII Sample #2: Network Administrator/Technician