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The only opinion that matters in the decision of which resume format to use is what the person or system you are sending the resume to wants. Almost always the answer is Word. The reason? The prevalence of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Companies large and small use some form of an ATS. Large companies may only “save” your resume if it matches certain key words. Smaller companies want a standard format and methodology for saving resumes that is easily accessible. Recruiters you work with want the ability to change your resume to reflect their representation and take off your contact information. All of these needs lend themselves to a Word format.

Word Pros:

  • Business Standard – Almost everyone has a copy of Microsoft Office
  • Most easily recognized by Applicant Tracking Systems
  • Easiest to open, edit, share, print and forward.

Word Cons:

  • Loss of control – Others can edit without your permission.
  • Lack of creativity – Less options and fewer tools for making your resume unique.
  • Higher virus risk
  • Text Editor Differences – edits could disappear

PDF Pros:

  • Complete control of any edits.
  • Creativity can be added to the resume.

PDF Cons:

  • Edit Difficulty – You even have a more difficult time editing if you haven’t saved an editable version. Recruiters need edit access to change your resume to reflect their representation.If saved as an image, most ATS will not be able to save or recognize important key words. Graphics may limit the ability of the ATS to save the document.

What about Google Docs?

If you were born in the late ‘90s or later, your go-to format is Google Docs. It is available to anyone with a gmail account and can be made public and discoverable through Google Search. Sharing your resume as a link means no attached file and no virus risk and it is very easy to create and export a resume in google Docs.The openness of Google Docs raises security concerns for some companies and sharing a link doesn’t always make it easier for the HR or hiring manager to easily find your information or capture the key words that match their opening. It isn’t quite universal enough….YET…to replace Word.

Two Final Suggestions

  • Research the format required. Often the ad will designate the resume format preferred or the company’s career page will state a preference. Your recruiter can also provide insight.
  • Name your resume for your target’s convenience, NOT yours. First and last name in capital letters. Do not use dates or version numbers. No one wants an old resume, and no one wants the sixth version.

Interested in more advice on your job search? Smith Hanley Associates’ Credit Recruiter, Sean Murphy, stands ready to help at smurphy@smithhanley.com or 312.589-7584.


2 Responses to “Word versus PDF: What is the Right Resume Format?”

  1. Harlan A Nelson

    Does anybody care about typesetting anymore? I keep my resume in markdown, then produce a pdf or docx file using pandoc. The only thing I have to add is a right tab.

    I’t would make sense if job boards that scan resumes to fill out employment information would be able to read YAML.

    Reply
    • Jacqueline Paige

      Unfortunately not every one is doing what you are doing and the applicant tracking systems are definitely not up-to-speed. For now many of our clients are still requesting WORD documents!

      Reply

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