Submitting resumes: hard copy | email | online | in person
On this page:
How should I submit my resume?
Hard copy, email, online, or hand-deliver?
Do what the employer instructs.
Check the organization website. This might instruct you to submit to an online system, or email or mail.
If you are speaking with (listening to) a representative in person (career fair, information session, presentation to your club, chance meeting when traveling, etc.), do what s/he instructs. If s/he is not clear (e.g. "you can send me your resume"), ask for clarification (e.g. "Do you prefer resumes sent by email or hard copy?")
Why submitting online may be required
Typically in large organizations applications, applications, resumes and cover letters need to be submitted online, versus via email or hard copy.
• This is the only way the organization can effectively and efficiently recieve, process, manage and track the large volume it receives.
• Federal regulation requires that applicants be treated and defined the same way; thus all applicants may be required to apply in the same way.
• Large employers typically have Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that enable them to manage the volume of applicants.
• Email includes so much spam and virus-potental in attachments. Receiving a large volume of resumes by email is impractical and risky.
What if there are no instructions, and you find both an email address and a mailing address for hard copy?
This is a judgment call. In making your decision, consider:
Is there someone you can ask? Would a simple phone call solve the issue?
Do you know something about the organization or person to help you decide? Have you received a job notice via email? If so, the sender may expect responses via email. Are the organization and industry very formal? Perhaps a hard copy document on good quality paper might appeal in that case.
It is easier to receive, store and forward items sent via email. It is also easier to be overloaded by email and chose to ignore email that is from an unknown source. Email that looks like spam will be ignored and deleted unread.
It takes more effort to print and mail hard copy documents, and suggests you care enough to take the effort. But hard copy is harder to store and share.
Is the job really important to you? Is it worth your time to do both email and hard copy just to cover the bases? If so, state in each sending that you are doing both; e.g. "I am also sending this by hard copy/email in case you prefer to receive this by that means."
Hand-deliver in person?
That's expected at job fairs; just understand the employer may need you to submit you resume online also, or instead, as discussed above.
Hand-delivering might be appropriate if an employer is holding an information session or speaking to your club. Emphasis on "might." If the employer doesn't say s/he will accept resumes, you can ask. Maybe the employer would rather receive your resume later by some other means, and it might benefit you to revise your resume based on what you just learned from the session. And a cover letter thanking the employer for the information s/he shared, and incorporating that information into discussing your fit, could be more effective.
To visit an employer office and hand-deliver a resume takes a lot of work. Obviously you cannot hand-deliver a resume in all situations, and if the employer requires you to submit online, this won't help.
It can potentially make a very positive impression to show up in person, well-dressed, and hand-deliver an envelope containing your resume and cover letter, using a friendly demeanor and excellent interpersonal skills with the reception personnel with whom you speak. This might work for you if you are visiting a location/city/town in which you want to work and/or have identified specific firms/businesses/organizations to target in your job search.
Be careful about showing up without an appointment and expecting that someone, other than reception personnel, can see you. That could appear very naive. Large organizations may have a security desk at the main entrance, with limited access to specific offices without an appointment. Do your research first, and determine if you want to go to this effort.
When emailing resumes
Also see: Email in your job search
See the employer's instructions
Do your research before emailing your resume. Sending a resume that an employer is unable to open or read will put you out of the running. Employers are busy, often receive a large volume of resumes, and will not look at email that looks like spam. Applicants who don't follow instructions are not good job candidates and have screened themselves out.
Check the employers job ad / website for instructions:
Particular subject line requested? Reference to a particular job?
Resume in body of email or attached?
Some employers may want a plain text version of your resume in the body of the email to avoid having to open an attachment.
Attachments accepted? Format? Naming attachments.
E.g., employer might instruct applicants to submit your resume as a Microsoft Word document as an attachment to your email. Some employers may accept a PDF; PDFs are preferred by some senders in design fields because they preserve the exact layout and format of your document. But some employers may not be willing to accept PDFs. Some recipients highly dislike PDFs.
What if I can't find any instructions from the employer?
Cover all the bases: Send two versions with one email: attach an MS Word version of your resume, and include your resume text in your email. That gives the employer an option of looking at the version s/he chooses.
Printing and photocopying resumes and vitae
When you need hard copies, even if you submitted online or by email:
When you attend a career fair.
Even if you submitted your resume online in advance, bring print copies to facilitate conversation. The in-person opportunity is unique to a job fair. Prepare for fairs. Also expect that employers may ask you to apply online directly to the employer's website.
When you have an interview scheduled.
Even though some personnel have already seen and screened your resume, it's a good idea to show up with hard copies. You might have updated, revised or improved your resume since you applied. You may have interview meetings with individuals who haven't seen your resume or don't have a copy during your meeting.
When your content is final, use a good printer to get the highest print quality and professional appearance. If your own printer won't do the job, use a computer lab or professional print service.
Paper stock selection for photocopying
For the most formal appearance, choose resume bond paper available where office/school supplies are sold.
The paper can have a textured or smooth finish; but avoid flecks or heavy texture that will not produce a clear second generation photocopy. If recipients of your resume want to copy it, make it easy for them.
Choose a conservative paper color such as white, ivory, beige or ecru.
Don't use papers that are extremely dark, bright or pastel. They don't convey a professional appearance (aside from interfering with photcopy quality).
You may also wish to buy a matching paper stock for your cover letters, and matching envelopes.
Mailing your resume or vita
It is permissible to fold your resume and mail it in a standard-sized business envelope; however, there are some reasons you might chose to mail your resume in a 9 x 12 inch envelope, unfolded:
• If you have used heavy resume paper to reproduce your resume, folding sometimes causes the print to crack on the fold line.
• An unfolded document is easier to photocopy. Make it easy for the employer to reproduce your resume in case that is what s/he wants to do.
• If you are mailing a lengthy vita, and/or have other enclosures when you mail your resume or vita, it simply makes sense to use a large envelope and mail the materials unfolded.
The cover letter
Never mail or email a hard copy resume or vita without a cover letter.
Even if you just spoke directly with an employer on the phone, at a career fair, or otherwise, and you mail or email your resume that same day, a cover letter is essential for several reasons:
• Don't assume you are the only person to whom the employer has spoken. Busy people need a reminder of why your resume is arriving (by email or by snail mail). A well-written cover letter will remind the employer of how and when you communicated and help the employer remember you individually.
• Don't assume the person with whom you spoke is the one who will open your envelope or email. A cover letter explains why your resume is showing up.
• A cover letter is a basic professional courtesy. You are trying to present yourself as a person who is ready to enter the professional world. You will be evaluated on every detail of your behavior, conduct, presentation, and communication skills. A cover letter exhibits your communication skills and reflects your judgment and maturity.
• A cover letter is an opportunity to call attention to your strengths, interests and qualifications in a different manner than you do in your resume.
• A cover letter is personalized to the individual to whom you are writing and the job to which you are applying. The resume should be customized to the job, but it does not include communication about why you are sending the resume and what you know about the organization and your fit with the job.
For in-person contacts with employers, such as at career fairs, you would typically not hand-deliver a cover letter because in-person conversation with the employer is the purpose of a face-to-face contact. You certainly could follow up the career fair conversation with an email letter thanking the employer for considering you and doing any follow-up the employer advised.
See more about cover letters in the job search.