The Most Common Job Hunting Mistake for 2011: Choosing the Proper File Format for Your Digital Resume

While you can show your portfolio to prospective employers in person (at conventions like SIGGRAPH, for example), you’re probably going to be submitting your material online which means that your resume needs to sell you pretty much from the moment it’s downloaded and pops up on the computer screen.

Your challenge is to wrangle a bunch of positive, action-oriented words into a cohesive 1-3 page review of your work history, your professional accomplishments, and even school stuff if it’s relevant. This “CNN review” needs to be clever, unique, factual, engaging, and easily understood by a varied audience (HR, Staff Production, Management, etc.) No pressure or anything…

A Yes or No Interview Decision Is Based On Your Resume Presentation

In the “old days,” an actual person reviewed resumes and portfolios. Today, nearly all game companies use some form of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) to handle the initial processing of job applications and resume data.

CRM systems force you to be aware of the digital file formats you choose to save and distribute your resume. Yes,  (file) size matters because most CRMs default to a 3MB file size and will reject larger files—not a good way to introduce yourself to a prospective employer!

Many CRM systems collect resume data directly from a game company’s own website while others extract the resume from job boards like Monster and Career Builder who have partnerships with CRM software providers for data migration.

On top of that, many CRM systems use their own customized or proprietary word processing software in conjunction with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to create searchable, viewable, and/or readable files. (And then there are the automated data retriever bots…)

You Need To Create A Digital Resume That Can Be ‘Read’ By Any Computer!

OCR software analyzes a document and compares it with fonts stored in its database and/or tracks features typical to specific characters. Some OCR software also “guesses” at unrecognized words which means 100% accuracy is pretty much impossible. While OCR software has come a long way, the technology isn’t failsafe, so including images in your digital resume can cause the system to cough up something that wasn’t quite what you intended.

You want the data in your resume to be displayed properly via the CRM system and any e-mail or internal world processing software staff at the game company uses to view the material. You also want to ensure the data on your resume is captured and stored accurately for future consideration.

When you create your resume it’s pretty safe to assume that the Word Processing and OCR software used by the game companies CRM system is a basic bundled module which could be using tech from 2005!  Never assume the software is new or advanced.  This is why selecting the correct file format for your resume becomes a very important decision.

Text Based Formats: MSWord or .DOC, RTF, TXT, and TIFF

Most OCR software is designed to handle MSWord files so this is a good format when submitting your resume directly to a company. Even if the online resume submission guidelines don’t specify a file size limitation, keep the document simple and avoid advanced formatting techniques like multiple columns, inserting images or Excel spreadsheets. The more complex the layout, the more complex the data stored in the text file, and the more room for error when the OCR scans the file.

Graphic/Image Formats: JPEG, GIF, PNG, WebP, etc.

Your resume is a text-based document so standard graphic formats like JPG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, etc. save your resume as an image. OCR software can deal with images but it was really designed to read text so documents are easier to scan than pictures. Graphic file formats are hard on search engine indexing. Remember that 3MB file size limitation? Graphic file formats save as a larger size file, which means that your resume may get bounced out of the system before anyone can read it!

One of the most versatile formats is Rich Text Format (RTF). Microsoft Word, Open Office, Google Docs, or pretty much any word processing software can read an RTF file. RTF keeps your original formatting so you can control how your resume is displayed. This format isn’t specific to a particular word processing program, so it’s more versatile and easy on CRM systems.

The other very basic format is TXT. Some online job sites and career services ask that resume information be directly typed or pasted into a ready-made text box on their website so it’s good to keep a TXT version of your resume on hand; most word processing programs offer this as an option for saving the file. If “Plain Text File” or .txt isn’t available, you can always cut and paste your resume into Notepad or Wordpad (Windows) or TextEdit for (Mac).

Microsoft Word and other common word processing programs offer either “Plain Text File,” “ASCII,” or simply “Text” when you save a text file. If these options aren’t available, copy and paste your resume from the document to Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac).

Tagged Image File Format (TIFF or TIF) is a file format for storing images. Popular among Apple Macintosh owners, graphic artists, the publishing industry, TIFF format is widely supported by image-manipulation applications, publishing and page layout applications, as well as scanning, faxing, word processing, OCR and other applications. TIFF is a flexible, adaptable format for handling images and data within a single file. It’s flexibility is both a feature and a curse, however, with no single reader capable of handling all the different varieties of TIFF files since no standard format exists for TIFF files. Although TIFF is still widely accepted as a photograph file standard in the printing industry, unfortunately, TIFF format is not widely supported by web browsers.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the commonly-used language for web sites (especially blogs) is a text-and-image formatting language used by web browsers to format and display web pages dynamically. It’s a flexible language that’s easy to learn and update. Just be sure that you take a look at it on a web-browser test screen before you submit it because there are some issues with the way symbols are displayed on Windows machines vs. Macs.

What about PDF?

PDF (Portable Document Format) and other graphic file formats are widely used for uploading resumes to the web. No one can edit them without permission, and Adobe® Acrobat Reader is free so many people have it on their computer to read documents.

To avoid common problems with PDF files, create the file so that it retains as much of the text as possible in a format that OCR and search engines can read and index it. For Mac users in particular, you can easily convert the file into a PDF. You can also download Adobe’s  online PDF converter and convert your PDF into HTML, a format that CRM systems, search engines, and web crawlers love!

However, as a creative person in a creative industry you might be tempted to create a resume with complex formatting or unique visual design. Adding art images, logos, fancy headers or footers to your digital resume is a recipe for creating a file that actually confuses not only OCR software but search engines, and can significantly reduce your ability to land that job. The answer is to augment your resume with an online demo. Guidelines for art and audio demos are discussed in another Article.

To verify you saved the PDF file correctly as text, upload your PDF to: www.gamerecruiter.com/pdftest/ the results will show you exactly how well the CRM will ‘read’ then create an internal database file on you.  Fix and adjust your PDF until you are satisfied with the results.

Check and Double-check

Although TXT is very OCR-friendly using it can remove layout commands and produce strings of raw text instead of legible data. Once you’ve saved your resume to the acceptable format, proofread and adjust any formatting issues like lost italics, bold, underlines, etc. A mess of words and symbols on a screen which can leave a terrible impression about your technical abilities, your thoroughness, your skills…you get the picture. An attractive readable resume that contains the proper information gets you an interview.

Put the document aside for a few minutes and then proof it again. (Don’t laugh—sometimes reading it aloud to yourself can help you find mistakes that reading silently misses.)

Conclusion: Have Your Resume Ready in Several File Formats!

Be ready to submit a great resume in the requested format, be that RTF, DOC, HTML, TXT and PDF versions. Keep the document formatting as simple as possible and avoid “extras” that can trip up the OCR reader. Proof it—then proof it again—before you submit it.

•    Use DOC, RTF, or TXT files to ensure correct parsing and extraction of your data.
•    Use HTML for onscreen use and searching.
•    Use PDF for printing only.
•    Use HTML, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP in your online demo.
•    3DS, MAX, CCP, IFF, MA, MB, MEL, MP, and SKL are special formats used in the game industry but not commonly used in an online demo. Convert these files into JPEG or GIF files.
•    Save the fancy stuff for your online resume and demo.

Marc Mencher

Game Programmer / Technical Producer turned Recruiter, Marc Mencher has been actively involved in the Game Industry for 27 years, including as Technical Advisor and Executive Producer for several released games. He is founder and CEO of GameRecruiter, an acclaimed recruiting firm that representing the game industry’s hottest talent

He is also the author of Get in the Game!, an instructional book on building a career in the video game industry. Marc was a contributing author to the book, “Game Creation and Careers: Insider Secrets from Industry Experts” and is currently working on a series of articles about game industry management. His articles have been featured in publications like Gamasutra, Industry Gamers, Game Daily, and Next Generation News. He also has been interviewed on television and radio as an expert on working in the video game industry. A frequent speaker at industry conferences, Marc volunteers as an advisory board member for several colleges that offer game design programs.

A detailed bio on Marc can be found here.

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