You're about to choose between PDF and Word resume formats, but first, think about this:
Star Wars or Star Trek? Quick, pick.
If you’re not a hardcore Warsie or Trekkie you’re probably thinking, what’s the difference?
It’s space people doing space things in space with glowy swords. Right?
Wrong. There are obviously no glowy swords in Star Trek.
Now, quick - PDF resume or Word resume? Pick.
Again, I’m sure you don’t see much difference. Hint: Word doesn’t have glowy swords either.
It might not seem like it, but there are big differences between the two formats and choosing the right one is critical.
So, which file format do you choose? Should you pick an MS Word doc or the PDF resume format?
This article will tell you how to decide which file format to use when saving a resume so that you can be sure that a hiring manager will read it.
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Resume Formatting - Word or PDF?
Why is a simple thing like choosing between a PDF resume or a Word resume so important?
Some companies can receive up to 250 resumes on average in response to a single job opening.
And they use software to help them sort through that mountain of resumes. Because let’s face it, recruiters are only human.
The software is called Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, and it sorts resumes by relevancy, checking them for keywords from the job description.
So, if you’ve taken the time to carefully tailor your resume to the job description by adding keywords to your resume, you’re already one step ahead of everyone else.
Hiring managers then read those resumes at the top of the ranking to choose who they are going to interview.
That means that hundreds of resumes will never reach a human person.
But what does all of this have to do with the file format you’ve chosen for your resume?
ATS software is not able to read special formatting. Therefore it is critical for you to email your resume right.
For example, some older versions of ATS software can have problems reading PDFs—specifically the resume fonts.
While the software continues to improve, you need to make sure you have an ATS-friendly version of your resume.
How do you know if your resume is going to have to pass through ATS?
Many large companies now use some form of the software.
Have you ever filled out an application online and then attached your resume separately? If yes, then ATS software probably scanned your resume.
If you are applying to a large firm with 100+ employees, there is a good chance that the company is processing your information with the help of ATS software.
And if you’re applying to a Fortune 500 company it’s more likely than not.
Smaller enterprises and startups are less likely to use the software, but that trend is changing.
The strategy to getting past the software is the same in almost every case:
- Your resume needs to match the job description.
- You need to use the best keywords for a resume.
- Plus, you have to make sure you know how to format a resume so that the software doesn’t automatically reject it.
Pro Tip: If you’re sending your resume as a PDF, make sure it is not saved as an image.
How do you know your PDF file is okay? Try to highlight, copy, and paste the text. If your computer can read the text then you’re good to go.
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Do you need information on how to format your resume to highlight your skills and achievements? Read our guide: 3 Resume Formats: How to Choose the Best One [Examples]
Here’s How to Choose Between a Resume in PDF or Word
So, what’s the best resume format - Word or PDF?
Well, that depends on how a company wants you to apply for a job. One isn’t necessarily better than the other.
So, the first thing you will want to do is to check if there are any specific guidelines concerning the format of your resume.
If the job description or online application gives you specific instructions, follow them. That’s all you have to do.
If you are sending your resume directly to a human being or there are no specific instructions, consider saving your documents in multiple formats (PDF, .doc, .docx) so that you can pick and choose which to send in different situations.
Here are the pros and cons of PDF resumes:
|Pro For The PDF Resume Format|
Virtually everyone can open a resume in PDF format on their computers.
Saving your document as a PDF ensures that the formatting will not get messed up when a user opens it.
Creating a PDF resume gives you more creative freedom (more on that later).
|Cons For The PDF Resume Format|
Some ATS software may have trouble reading PDF resumes.
If you’ve used a PDF resume format to make your resume more creative, ATS software may skip parts of your resume as it will not read graphics or text hidden in images.
Here are the pros and cons of submitting your resume in Microsoft Word formatting:
|Pros For The Word Resume Format|
Everyone has Word. Everyone. Well, unless they live in a remote part of the world in a cave with no access to computers. And in that case, you might want to send your resume via Owl ala Harry Potter.
ATS software can easily read a Word doc resume.
Many companies simply prefer documents saved as .docx, plain and simple.
|Cons For The Word Resume Format|
Your formatting can get seriously messed up if a hiring manager opens your resume in Word or with another tool other than Word.
Others have the ability to change or delete sections of your resume in a doc file either deliberately or accidentally.
You do not have the creative flexibility that you may feel you need to express yourself.
Let’s assume that your resume needs to pass a round of ATS before it lands in the lap of a human reviewer.
If you know there is a big chance that your resume is going to pass through ATS here are the rules about formatting:
- No charts, graphs, images, text boxes, or special formatting of any kind.
- Do not use special symbols to separate information unless they are standard symbols on a keyboard (- / *).
- Only upload a resume in a Word file (.doc / .docx) not your PDF resume, RTF, or JPG.
At times, you will not have to send a resume at all. The system will require you to cut and paste text from your resume into text boxes online.
In other cases, you will send your resume directly to a human. If that’s the case, you may want to send your resume as a PDF.
Especially if you want your resume to maintain formatting and if are applying for a creative job that requires your resume to reflect a particular skill set such as graphic design.
Why Sending a PDF of Your Resume Is Important
The best advice is to keep a file saved both ways - PDF and .docx - that way you can pull out either one in a given situation.
Here’s the thing. Handing in a resume for a job application as a PDF is a good idea if you want your resume to look exactly the way you’ve made it.
When a recruiter attempts to download a resume in a doc file, it can mess up the formatting enough to result in the accidental removal or rearrangement of content.
That’s why choosing the right format for sending a resume is important. Even if the ATS robots can read it - people need to have a good experience too.
Another thing about PDF resumes is that you can create them using software like Photoshop or InDesign, which gives you much more freedom in how you layout or graphically design your resume.
It’s a good idea for creatives to use PDF if they want to do something fancy with the design of their resume.
You can always copy and paste text from a PDF if you are going to fill in an online application and then send your full resume in PDF file formatting later when a hiring manager has invited you to do so.
Ultimately, it’s up to you, but it’s easy to export a Word resume in doc format into a PDF format and vice versa to have both.
Remember to keep these points in mind as you save your resume format:
- With the birth of Applicant Tracking System software, it is now more crucial than ever to remember that tiny details such as how you save your resume are important.
- It may not seem like a big deal, but if you send a resume that is not formatted to pass through ATS software, then there is virtually no chance of your resume reaching a human recruiter.
- If you want to keep your resume in the running, make sure you’ve given yourself a fighting chance by creating both a Word resume and a PDF resume.
Still not convinced that one format is better than the other? Let us know in the comments, and we will do what we can to address your concerns. Thanks for reading!