You found the perfect job opening to fit your career. You have your resume written, formatted, and tailored up to perfection showcasing the very experience, know-how, and skills you have.

You proofread, you discuss it with friends and colleagues. But when it’s time to click save, however, you wonder: What file type to use for your resume? Should it be a PDF or Word (a.k.a., .docx with version post 2006 and .doc with version prior 2006)? 

Truth is, there’s no definitive answer to that. The world of recruitment is diverse and so are standards and job applications. To prepare as much as possible, figure out the specs required based on where, how, and why you submit a job application. 

Still, are there rules, or nitty-gritty tips one should know? Absolutely.

Should you go with PDF format or Word format when sending a resume? 

This is a topic that is close to the heart of job seekers. There might not be a straightforward answer to the question, but nuances come into play. 

At UsefulPDF we know multiple factors play a role when you decide between both file types, as PDFs and DOCs have their advantages and disadvantages.

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Truth is, most companies receive thousands of resumes for a single job position. To sort the wave of applications, they use certain software – Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Recruiters use it to rank the CVs which contain relevant to the job description keywords. To stand out, we recommend nitty-gritty tailoring your resume template, so it fits the job posting as tight as possible. Add the proper keywords to your CV to catch the eyes of both hiring managers and recruiting systems. 

Most hiring managers will accept a Word (.docx) document or a PDF (.pdf) file, however, before you send in your resume, be sure to check the employer instructions as many times as needed.

Some recruiters will ask for a certain file format, in which case, you should meet requirements up to the word. Of course, in many cases, using the opposite file type might also work, but that’s not a bet you should make. 

  • What if the person to review your job application doesn’t have the software required to open your resume? 
  • Besides, that would also give the wrong first impression, right? 

You wouldn’t want to be the one job applicant not paying attention to details. 

In this guide, we cover the pros and cons of PDF and Word formats. Before we get started, there is one rule that should always come first.

Follow the instructions in the job description

This is a rule of thumb all job seekers should follow. 

  • Read the job description thoroughly to see if the hiring managers prefer a certain file type. 
  • Test your resume file before submitting it. Send it to family, friends, and colleagues.

It is unnerving for recruiters to receive a resume in Word when they specifically asked for PDF format. 

This kind of mistake may cost you the position you want to apply for, so watch the details.

How will you apply?

Different companies use different channels. 

If it is an email, go with a PDF. Word documents can experience layout shifts and font bugs, because of different versions of software used. A failure in margins can ruin the first impression you make. Contrary to .docx files, PDF files are consistent on all devices and programs, be it native readers or browsers. 

If you are to upload your application via Linkedin, a company site or ATS, then a Words file might be a better option. Docx files are just more compatible with third-party tools that stay in the middle between you and the one reviewing your resume in the end.

When to use a PDF resume?

In most cases, it’s best to submit your resume as a PDF. 

One exception to this rule is if the employer asks for a different file type, such as a Word document. Often, job descriptions specify formats applicable to submit a CV. 

Advantages of using a PDF resume file:

  • Various programs and devices execute PDF files without a problem.
  • Margins, fonts, images, and other formatting stays intact.
  • PDF file formats don’t allow recipients to change your document.

Disadvantages of using a PDF resume file:

  • PDF files take up more storage space.
  • Some employers use an older applicant tracking system (ATS) which may not support PDF files or may have trouble scanning them.
  • PDFs pose a risk as they can carry malware.

When to use a Word doc resume?

Some companies still prefer Word documents, and they have good reasons for that. They may use an applicant tracking system (ATS) that works best with Word documents. 

In that case, sending a PDF may lower your chances because the ATS may not be able to scan your CV file. Larger companies are likely to use such software assistants, and it’s best to “do your homework” and check if they do before you send a resume for review.

The Word format is also suitable if you want the recipient to be able to edit your CV. For instance, if you want to apply through a recruitment company or employment agency, the Word format gives hiring managers the opportunity to correct any errors they spot. 

This is how you take a step closer to your dream job.

Advantages of using a Word document:

  • Older applicant tracking systems scan Word documents better than PDF files.
  • Word files don’t take up much space. 
  • This format allows the recipient to edit the document.

Disadvantages of using a Word document:

  • The recipient could make accidental changes.
  • The formatting can change if the document isn’t open in Microsoft Word.
  • The Word file can contain a software virus.
  • Compatibility issues may occur on operating systems other than Microsoft.

What if there is no format specified on the job posting?

If the job posting doesn’t mention a format to send your CV in, do some digging and check for information on other job listings by the same employer. If you still cannot find whether the recruiter wants your resume in PDF or Word, it is best to email or call to ask which they prefer. Just make sure to the file compress in case of an oversized document. 

This also shows employers that you are determined and truly want the job. If you cannot contact the company, then attach your CV in both PDF and Word formats. Just make sure you properly format your email with a concise intro, structure, and signature to give it a neat and professional appearance.

You allow recruiters to choose, thus you make a great first impression. 

Select the proper resume title

Once you select the file format, there’s one last step you need to make – you must choose an appropriate file title. Avoid generics such as “resume.doc/pdf,” and use “WilliamBrownResume.doc/pdf” or “Resume.William.Brown.doc/pdf” instead. 

Make sure you include the word resume in the title, so it’s easier to distinguish it from your cover letter, which should also take on the same format when saving.

To name and save your CV takes a few clicks of a button, but you shouldn’t underestimate these steps. They can make a difference in your job application, so put in the effort and the results will come. 

Third-party recruiters

Some industries are so delicate that trusting the expertise and know-how of third-party recruiters is a must, but upon chance, the person you trust to help might accidentally make a mistake costing you the job you want. Also, a recruiting expert will likely ask you for details on Word to amend adjustments, suggestions, or additional resume sections.

That’s why as a healthy rule of thumb, you should always double-check the file type before you send the email that matters. Bear in mind that recruiters are there to help you get in touch at the right places and make the right impression. 

PDF resume or a Word resume file? 

The main goal is to make it easy for the employer to open your CV resume and learn about you and your qualifications. Therefore, stick to guidelines and keep your format, resume title, and job applications concise and clear. Use the information in this article properly and you’ll get that interview!