You know how to write a standard résumé for a job, I’m sure of that. You list all your prior positions, titles and duties, put in some dates, your education and some small stuff about your hobbies and church, attach a generic cover letter and send it off unchanged to every job you come across. I know you do that because that’s what I see all the time in my recruiting business.

Well, you know what? That approach is all wrong.

Times change
You’ve convinced yourself that your job titles and duties will impress a hiring manager and he will call you for an interview. But things have changed. Hiring managers don’t even see your résumé until the clerk, secretary, subordinate human resources person, outsourced résumé service, or HR’s own computer program kicks your résumé into the next level review. Those left behind are trashed. With your old approach yours will be in the trash heap too.

The “Clerk Check” is the narrow gate through which your résumé must pass before your intended reader, your future boss or your carefully targeted manager, ever gets to see it. There are too many résumés out there for any one person or hiring team to look at them all. So employers are filtering out résumés as fast as they can come up with methods to do so.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the increasing ease of submitting a résumé online. That part works great and it’s very simple to put in a few clicks, paste in some text, and send a résumé on its’ way. The result is a tsunami of résumés hitting employers’ inboxes. Thousands and thousands arrive from all over the world 24 hours a day.

I hate to admit it but even recruiters get caught up in the “Clerk Check” system. Many of my client companies require me to submit résumés using their candidate input site. Sites such as or pscareers or Resumix partner with companies to do the filtering for them regardless of where the résumé comes from, recruiters or the candidates themselves.

Getting past the gate
So, to get through this gate what do you have to do? Your résumé must pass the “Clerk Check.” Here are some of the check points:

1 — You must have a complete name, address, phone, email, zip code, certification, normal typeface (try Courier New) and font size, black color, conventional word spacing, centering and line spacing. And your .doc file name for the résumé itself should be like Brockman, Dan.doc.

2 — Don’t even think of sending another .doc named Tomsrésumé. You cannot use a résumé template from Microsoft or anyone else to do this résumé for you. Compose every word yourself. No lines or sections or predetermined headers either. An excellent guide to acceptable résumés can be found at Western Digital —ésumé_tips.asp.

3 — Your objective or goal must be the exact same as the job title you are applying for. Try “Corporate Safety Manager for a world class manufacturing plant” if that’s the job you are applying for from an advertisement.

4 — There should not be any arrows, stars, line, tables, background color, shading, underlines, asterisks, dashes, plus signs or other special characters to cause an OCR failure. Even the apostrophe in Irish or Scottish names causes some scanners to quit or skip.

5 — Take the job description you are looking at and break it down into ten key words. Take those words and use your “Find” command to see if they are in your résumé. If they are not, add them. That’s what the clerk or his or her computer program will do. If you get ten out of ten you pass.

If your résumé length is more than three pages you run the risk of having it deleted. It’s not the purpose of a résumé to tell your life story. Keep it to the point and leave off anything that is not career related. Do you think a company is interested in your soccer game coaching or your church activity? If you do, you are sorely in need of a short course in modern corporate behavior, ethics, privacy rules and nondiscrimination policies.

6 — I receive résumés by mail, carefully folded in envelopes, with nice paper, a cover letter, handwritten signature in black ink, etc. What do you think will happen to that submittal at most employer’s HR departments? At least I open it and see if there is an email address that I can respond to and demand an electronic copy. That’s only after I check for white powder. Stick with emails please.

7 — The cover letter is dead on arrival. It’s a relic of outdated social conventions and Emily Post rules. I don’t think anyone will read it or save it or run it through the system.

Bottom line: The outsourcing of résumé clerk checks is already taking place and will only continue to grow. Your résumé can be sent to a foreign country for the check just as easily and quickly as to the employer’s home office. What I have outlined is sort of the antithesis of traditional English or Indian legal red tape. The clerk’s job is to throw something away as fast as possible so as to not deal with it, store it or respond to it.

These are some of the current trends that I’m aware of in the résumé game called “The Clerk Check.” Let me know if I missed anything that you ran into.