Did you know that every time you create a document in Microsoft Word you leave a trail? That trail includes just how seasoned you are at using the program. Are you starting with a template that someone else created? Are you setting and using tabs? Or do you just use the space bar to line up words and numbers? And why does this matter anyway?

It matters if you write your own resume. For one, the reader can turn on the paragraph marker (¶) to determine how attentive to detail you are. Whether you left extra lines between paragraphs, different font sizes to get everything to fit on a page, or you didn’t set your tabs correctly. You might claim you know MS Word on your resume, but in truth, the skeleton will give it away. So much so, that professional resume writers are required to have a “clean” skeleton when we submit items for publication.

Okay, so maybe you don’t plan to “publish” your document. But consider this: if your resume is submitted online through a resume parsing system, or is converted to a text format, it will look like hell. And that’s not a good impression when your job searching.

I remember when I first encountered the ¶ markers on a document. I thought to myself, “why would anyone want to work in MS Word with those things turned on?” I quickly learned to turn them off. Later, when I became a professional resume writer, and realized the importance of using ¶ in MS Word, I changed my mind. Using the ¶ marker quickly points out why the printer is spitting out an extra blank page (blame the cat leaning on the space bar). It alerts you to a extraneous lines, spaces, and inconsistent font sizes. You don’t need to keep it on when you’re typing, but it’s a good idea to turn it on to check and see how clean your work is.

Another thing to check in the document skeleton is the Properties. The Properties point out if you stole someone else’s resume and made a few edits, such as changing the name, contact, and employer names. Plagiarism doesn’t sit well with employers. The Properties also point out who the software was originally licensed to when the document was created. Some people use their employer’s computers to write their resume. Even if it was copied to a thumb drive, and added to over the years, that company name remains in the Properties. And it sure doesn’t look good when it matches the name of a former employer that’s on your resume.

Make it a point to add the ¶ marker to your list of tools when creating clean, crisp documents. It may make the difference between a job interview, or prolonged unemployment.