Looking for a way automate making custom resumes
September 15, 2008 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find a service / program that would enable me to dynamically create resumes and cover letters?

I use a method for fabricating cover letters and resumes.

I tailor my documents to match the jobs I'm applying for.

My method involves annotating my work history with phrases describing my work, my personal projects, my school experience, etc. I've stored common annotations in a large spreadsheet in order to reuse some of my previous work.

Everything relevant to the job is represented. This is the most successful method I've tried and I'd prefer to keep using it.

This process takes quite a long time to produce viable documents.

I'd like to automate the process.

I'm in the process of doing my own research and developing a scripting solution as an alpha method for automating the process. I want to know if this has been done before; To save me some time and trouble.

Thanks for your input.
posted by Pontifex to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
What you want is called mail merge. MS Word will do it, though it sounds like you want a bit more customization than is typical.
posted by exogenous at 7:24 PM on September 15, 2008


Excellent!

Mail merge

The procedure of mail merging is typically carried out using a word processing program. The template is a word processing document which contains fixed text, which will be the same in each output document, and variables, which act as placeholders that are replaced by text from the data source. The data source is typically a spreadsheet or a database which has a field or column matching each variable in the template. When the mail merge is run, the word processing system creates an output document for each row in the database, using the fixed text exactly as it appears in the template, but substituting the data variables in the template with the values from the matching columns.

Yes. This is almost what I'm looking for. Though rather than running for _each_ line in the database, I want to be able to enter a selection of terms and have them matched to my preprepared statements and then inserted.

For example, if the job calls for experience with C++ I want to go through my statements and select all of those that that have to do with C++ and then insert them in a bulleted list associated with my job history, personal projects, education and skill summary. I also want the same process with my cover letter - as I also have preprepared statements related to the skills I've listed in my resume - inserting the paragraphs / sentences into the template. Also I need the program / solution to be smart enough to tweak the font / line spacing / carriage returns / etc; So that the various sections of my resume fit on two pages and my cover letter is restricted to one page.

Though I would be perfectly happy tweaking the customized resume and cover letter myself if I could find a solution that would populate the variables I designate with the terms I outline.

This is quite a bit more customization than the mail merge, as you pointed out.

Thank you for your input.

--Pontifex
posted by Pontifex at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2008


Well looks like I script something with Python and Open Office:

PyUNO
posted by Pontifex at 8:19 PM on September 15, 2008


I wonder if there's very much demand for this type of thing. Googling around shows almost nothing. Most offerings offer tamplates and dissemination techniques. There are tips and tricks for getting your resume in order, but almost nothing for creating and maintaining multiple customized resumes source from a data source with filtering.

I'm assuming not. What say you Hive Mind?

--Pontifex
posted by Pontifex at 8:31 PM on September 15, 2008


You can still do it with mail merge, if you have one of the recent versions of Word (2002/XP and newer), although it won't do the formatting for you. The trick is filtering (Word calls it "mail merge recipients"), which you do in your Word document as an intermediary step between the spreadsheet and the merged document.

It's kind of hard to explain, but I'll try. If you have a prepared spreadsheet with all the possible variables you want inserted, you would also have a column with the key terms that you want to select for - like C++. You would use the whole spreadsheet as the source for the mail merge, but then use the filtering tool (the icon looks like a spreadsheet with a pen pointing to it) to only select a certain subset of the spreadsheet each time, before completing the merge. You can easily filter on certain terms (e.g. "show only rows that contain "C++" in column A"), sort, and select/deselect specific rows to include or not, as you wish.

Combine the mail merge with the Word field code commands available on the mail merge toolbar (e.g. if Row A contains "C++", insert X, otherwise insert Z"), and a combo of Word/Excel can probably do what you want.

It takes a little bit of planning for the spreadsheet (so you may have to tweak what you have). It also takes learning some Word field code commands and switches. But I would highly recommend trying it, at least, as it can be a really powerful tool.
posted by gemmy at 8:39 PM on September 15, 2008


It's all quite do-able with an MS-word mail-merge. You'll just end up with a bunch of what are called "word fields" or something, where you'll have conditions something like "if input_row contains "C++" then don't leave out (this_line_of_C++_related_crap)".

Don't dismiss the tool because of a poorly-worded wikipedia entry describing the world's most basic mail-merge - Word has been able to deal with this sort of complexity for at least 15 years.
posted by pompomtom at 9:12 PM on September 15, 2008


>Don't dismiss the tool because of a poorly-worded wikipedia entry describing the world's most basic mail-merge - Word has been able to deal with this sort of complexity for at least 15 years.

I'm not dismissing it because of the Wikipedia entry, I just don't have access to Word. Open Office has some similar capabilities and it would be a nasty hack to shoe horn my needs into the mail merge utility, but it seems quite possible.

>It's kind of hard to explain, but I'll try. If you have a prepared spreadsheet with all the possible variables you want inserted, you would also have a column with the key terms that you want to select for - like C++. You would use the whole spreadsheet as the source for the mail merge, but then use the filtering tool (the icon looks like a spreadsheet with a pen pointing to it) to only select a certain subset of the spreadsheet each time, before completing the merge. You can easily filter on certain terms (e.g. "show only rows that contain "C++" in column A"), sort, and select/deselect specific rows to include or not, as you wish.

Seems logical. I'll have to see if Open Office has similar filtering capabilities. Thanks. =)

I'd still like to hear opinions about whether this sort of thing is useful in general or just to me. Do others run into this problem? Or is the current wisdom to have a single resume to submit to most everything? Or perhaps most people have a narrower focus that requires less customization than I'm adopting here?

--Pontifex
posted by Pontifex at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2008


Mail merge turned out to be insufficient for my needs.

I then attempted to develop a macro with Open Office to do the work I outlined, but unfortunately that has failed.

For those wanting to begin developing macros or developing using the OOo API, I would caution you against using it at all. The documentation is so poor, the user support so lacking and the API documentation so sparse; It's almost easier just to develop your own functionality with Python or Java, rather than relying on their attempt at a programming interface.

So I'll be taking my own advice and gluing something together with Python.

If anyone would like to help me with either completing the OOo macro or some tips on developing my application with Python, I welcome all advice.

--Pontifex
posted by Pontifex at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2008


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