A plain text resume, also called an ASCII resume, is a document with only the most basic formatting, such as dividers for each section. It does not use any fancy fonts or formatting such as underlining, italics, headings, headlines, or bolding.
In short: It’s a resume written in plain text format (.txt).
Why Do You Need a Plain Text Resume?
The term is sometimes used in a derogatory fashion to describe a document with minimal formatting. Generally, a plain text document is used when the resume’s contents are more important than its appearance. Most people who use this sort of format do so because they have other means of creating their professional image, such as an online portfolio or design skills.
It is an easy way to create a resume, especially if you don’t have a lot of background information to include. If you have never created a resume before or only need to include some basic information, a plain text document may be the most appropriate choice.
But generally, it is not a style that one should use if he or she expects to be interviewed by hiring managers unless they expressly ask for it.
Why Do Employers Ask for a Plain Text Resume?
Plain text resumes are usually requested when a company first puts out an opening for a position. They have not yet decided on the exact qualifications they are looking for in an applicant. This may be true if the job does not have set published criteria.
When a company puts out an open position, they sometimes receive hundreds of resumes, many of which look similar to one another: They are neat and orderly documents that adhere to the company’s specific format. Those who use plain text resumes know what kind of document they are expecting to receive.
In other words: employers want a well-organized resume, but they also want something that is less intimidating and more manageable than the traditional format they have come to expect. Suppose they receive a document with too many fonts and other formatting, or with section headings, bulleted items, etc. In that case, they will likely disqualify the candidate without even looking at their application.
Applicant tracking systems (ATSs) and other technological tools that we have all come to depend on are designed for this kind of document. ATSs do not go out looking for resumes that do not follow the company’s format, nor will they be able to properly sort and categorize them. So, to make the hiring process less overwhelming, employers ask for a plain text resume.
Another reason is that many companies have email policies where they specifically ask that candidates not include any attachments. The risk of getting virus from attachments, like a Word document, outweighs the benefits of receiving one, and the company has also come to expect candidates to abide by this request.
Finally, the small file size of .txt documents makes them easy to attach to or include in the body of an email.
Disadvantages of a Plain Text Resume
A plain text resume lacks the formatting associated with a PDF, DOCX or ODT file. Candidates who use plain text resumes may be rejected if they apply for jobs in industries that require a more professional format.
The plain text format makes it hard for candidates to stand out. Typically, you can show a little bit of your personality and abilities in your resume, using creative fonts and colors. A plain text file cannot do this.
When creating a text document, you must be careful about spacing, fonts, and line breaks. Otherwise, it can look disjointed. If a person does not format their files correctly, the text and formatting of the document will not display correctly on many computers.
Formatting a Plain Text Resume
Resume font: The typeface will vary based on the settings of the recipient’s computer, which you have no control over.
Resume line spacing: The spacebar is an excellent way to add spacing to your text. The Tab key can sometimes mess up formatting, so avoid it if possible.
Resume margins: Set your margins at 0 and 65 or simply set your right margin to 6.5″.
Resume graphics: Do not use graphics in your plain text resume
Page numbers: Don’t use page numbers either. They are not vital at all.
Headers: Use CAPITAL letters for section headers.
Text alignment: The text should be left-aligned.
Bullet points: Use common keyboard signs, like +, -, # or *.
Section Separation: Write a long string of -, ^, / or something similar to create a neat section divider that can handle the ASCII format.
How to Save a Word Resume as Plain Text
Let’s first make one thing clear. The terms plain text, ASCII file, text file, and txt file are the same in this context, and you can use them interchangeably.
So, you have your (fancy) resume ready and have saved it as .docx in Microsoft Word. Now you find out that the recruiter wants a plain text resume! How do you convert it to an ASCII file?
Step 1: Click File > Save As.
Step 2: Choose the plain text (.txt) format from the Save as type drop-down menu.
Step 3: Give your file a name and click Save.
Step 4: Correct or add any formatting if necessary.
And you’re done! Your resume is now in plain text format!