I'm drafting a resume for a job opportunity & would love recommendations on a formatting issue. My resume has many bullet points and some tables. However, I'm challenged by online job applications where I can't submit my resume directly but rather must copy it into the employer's online job application. Basically, I end up with a text-only situation where my resume loses all its nice formatting (including my bullet points and tables). I've tried copying in various symbols from MS Word but they get turned into square characters. To cope with the loss of the bullets, I try to recreate the outline like this: "A. Raised $500,000 per year B. Guided project management team C. Reported on revenue and projected future trends D. Etc."

Alternatively, I might just use a long list: "Raised $500,000 per year, guided project management team, reported on revenue and projected future trends, etc."

I have no solutions for the lost tables other than long lists. If I try to use the tab button, I just get sent to a different field. If I try to use manual spacing, I find the result messy.

I think both formats lack aesthetic appeal. Is there a way to use symbols similar to bullets in these text-only online resumes? Are there techniques for preserving tables in some manner?

2 Answers 2


Pretend you are writing an email, and that the recipient will read it as plain text. "To put spacing between sections, hit 'enter' instead of using the space bar.... To highlight subheadings, use all caps. In lieu of bullet points, use "-" or "*" characters" (How to Format a Resume for Online Applications). (You can also use "+".)

See if you can find an email address or fax number for the recruiter or HR person, so you can fax or attach the formatted pdf version.

  • Never use all caps. It is perceived as SHOUTING and impolite. Do not ever do it, especially not if you want the recipient of your writing to see you in a favourable light.
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 17:56
  • 1
    @what - I have received many formal emails that all-cap the section headings. It's a standard way to format plain text. (I do agree with you that the paragraphs should not be all caps.) Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 18:28
  • Okay, for a heading in a plain text document I can accept all caps, but not in the text.
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 18:41
  • 1
    @what - I see what happened. There was a phrase in the text I quoted that gave a different impression than I intended ("to emphasize words"). I have removed it. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 18:44

The sad truth is that today, resumes are read by machines. Machines don't care about aesthetics. In fact, machines can be confused by the characters you insert to achieve aesthetic effect. If humans do read your resume, chances are that the submission system will have mangled the text so that your attempt at aesthetics will simply make the resume hard to read.

I would advise you to make your resume as plain and straightforward as you can to maximize the chances that the machine will read it correctly.

Have a separate formatted copy handy for times when you know that it will actually be read by a human, not a machine.

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