Editor’s Note:  This is another in an ongoing series of posts John is writing on the job search process.

Know your audience.  That is a cardinal rule that performers learn early in their careers, especially if they want to continue performing.  The same rule applies to job seekers.

It all begins with the resume.  The first question is how you will submit your resume — electronically on a  website or by email.  If you are using some corporation’s web site, the information more than likely will feed into an applicant tracking database.  That electronic-shutterstock_380400835means you will want to submit a resume that is designed to be electronically scanned.  This is a great example of when the expression less is more is spot on. 

Here are three quick tips to remember when submitting a resume electronically:

  1. Lose the boxes, the color and all that fancy stuff that resume “experts” say will attract the attention of employers. Use the scanner friendly plain text format.
  2. Times New Roman and Ariel are they safest typefaces.
  3. Be focused. Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. You can get away with listing only the jobs from the last 10 years versus your entire career.  Try to keep the document to two pages. Anything more might get cut, depending on how a particular company’s scanner software is designed. 

Your resume won’t be pretty but the chances of the computer loving it and placing it in the database are much higher than if you just attach the same resume you might send to a recruiter.   If you don’t believe me, do your homework. There are ample articles on the subject on the Internet.  If you are selected for additional consideration and you have the name of a contact person, that is when you can (and probably should) send the comprehensive, pretty resume.

Executive recruiters, excluding the global behemoths like Korn Ferry or Hedrick Struggles, for example, do not use the scanner technology.  Moreover, while they want a resume that is specifically focused to the job they are recruiting for, recruiters want a resume that provides a comprehensive review of your job history. The length of this resume should be proportional to your years of experience, the number of employers and your accomplishments.   If you don’t include that information, and the consultant begins asking questions regarding your earlier career, be prepared for an arduous interview that will take much longer than you initially thought.  So save yourself time and the aggravation of having to verbally provide  that information.

Why are 20-year-old jobs relevant, you ask?  First, search consultants need and want to know the arc of your career — jobs, experiences and lessons learned.  Secondly, recruiters do not like to be surprised.  They cannot complete their due diligence on your candidacy without this information. 

In short, the type of resume that makes me happy  may give the applicant tracking scanner heartburn.  So know your audience.