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How To Stop Your Resume From Becoming Spam

Today’s more sophisticated e-mail systems often look for certain characteristics in e-mail text and in any e-mail attachments. Unfortunately, words or graphics that may be perfectly appropriate in some cases can cause spam filters to stop your e-mail, thus rendering your resume “never received.” Related: Resume Clichés: What To Avoid And Why As crazy as it may seem, totally innocent words can create problems for spam filters. Consider the alternate meanings of these words (as examples) and how spam filters would likely block your resume if it contained them:


  • Free
  • Expand
  • Trial
  • Mortgage
  • Cum (like cum laude)
  • Unusual fonts or colors
  • Dollar amounts
  • HTML formatting in your e-mail (vs. flat text)
Many of the words above could easily relate to common spam schemes like pharmaceuticals, obscene text, online scams, and the like. The end result may be your address or even your overall ISP appearing on a blacklist or a white list. In the above examples, you could substitute “summa cum laude” with “high honors” or “with honors.” Attachments can also create issues as many viruses and spyware programs are delivered by bogus attachments. You may consider creating a flat text resume and cutting and pasting it into the body of your resume, along with your cover letter, to avoid this issue. You will lose some aesthetics, but it’s better than not being seen at all. Be sure to use the subject line to accurately describe what you’re sending – for example, “highly adept project manager with CRM experience” – this will help to not have the recipient automatically delete your e-mail. Networking with the recipient beforehand can help to get your e-mail read, especially if your resume is unsolicited. There are just too many e-mails in a day for most people these days, and an unsolicited resume isn’t likely to be noticed. If you must apply quickly, send the e-mail, and follow-up with a phone call or hard copy of your resume as this will increase the odds of it being seen. Sending your resume as a PDF attachment may also help as it’s far less likely it will trigger spam filters; however, the downside is many automated resume software programs cannot open PDF files.

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