Resume: PDF or DOC? Which File Type Works Best

Should you send your resume as a pdf or word document? What are the pros and cons of pdf and doc? Read on to find out the answer.

Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Resume: PDF or DOC? Which File Type Works Best

Should I submit my resume as Word or PDF?

 

Some call it the paradox of choice. Some, informed decision-making.

 

The truth is:

 

You’re here because what seemed obvious turned out to be a head-scratcher.

 

Keep calm.

 

This guide will show you:

  • Why choosing between a PDF or Word resume is so confusing.
  • What are the pros and cons of a pdf vs Word resume.
  • How to decide what format to send your resume in.

 

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1. PDF or Word Resume: Why So Much Fuss?

 

Congratulations.

 

Your perfect resume is ready. Time to send it out.

 

The problem?

 

Should you send your resume in a Word or PDF format?

 

Well—

 

Both file types are extremely popular, and it’s this very popularity that makes it so difficult to decide upon the best format to send a resume.

 

Not to worry.

 

Before making any decision, answer the following questions:

 

What does the job ad say?

 

As easy as this.

 

Go back to the job listing to see if the employer states whether they’d like to receive a pdf or docx resume from you.

 

If you don’t find any information, move on to the next question:

 

Are you sending your resume to a person as an email attachment or submitting it via ATS?

 

If you're emailing your resume straight to the recruiter's inbox—

 

Send your resume as a PDF.

 

That’s it. If you want to learn more about the advantages of PDF files, go straight to the next section.

 

If you’re submitting your documents via an ATS system—

 

Send your resume as PDF. Or docx.

 

The choice is yours.

 

The ATS will parse your resume in search of resume keywords, so the text will be sucked into the system, and your resume formatting will be lost anyway.

 

A caveat:

 

Some old-school ATSs may have problems reading resumes submitted as PDFs. Especially if the formatting is on the creative side. If you want to be 300% sure any kind of ATS will parse your resume, send it as a doc.

 

Expert Hint: 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS. Not sure what ATS is? Go here.

 

Are you sending your application via a proxy recruitment company?

 

Recruitment companies prefer “doc resumes.”

 

Why?

 

A resume in Word is easy to edit.

 

Recruitment companies will want to remove your contact details, rearrange your resume sections, or edit your resume job description to boost your chances.

 

PDF has come into being as a delivery format. As such it’s not the best choice if you’re planning on editing the document.

Expert Hint: Consider sending your resume both as PDF and Word. Send the PDF version to the recruiter, and submit the doc to the ATS.

2. Pros and Cons of Resume in PDF or Word

 

Here’s a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of each file type:

 

Word Resume

Pros
  • Popular file type
  • Easily editable
  • Hassle-free creation
  • ATS readable
Cons
  • Formatting may look weird (Open Office, other versions)
  • Easily editable

Let’s consider the pros of a Word resume first.

 

MS Word is the most popular word processor the world over. Why? Because documents created in MS Word are easy to edit.

 

In fact, if you want to start creating a text document (including your resume), 9 out of 10 times you’d think of Microsoft Word first. Even if you end up using another piece of software.

 

And—

 

On top of this, you can be sure your Word resume is 100% readable to any ATS system.

 

The shortcomings?

 

A resume in Word may lose its formatting on other computers, systems, or software.

 

Back in the day when Word was the only reasonable word processor on the horizon, the documents looked pretty much the same on all computers.

 

With the advent of different Windows versions, Word iterations, open-source software, the growing popularity of Macs, and omnipresent mobile devices of all sorts—it’s really hard to tell what your resume in Word will look like on somebody else’s screen.

 

Sometimes it may just be the case of a missing resume font. And that’s not bad.

 

In the worst case scenario, your Word resume may turn into a garbled paragraph of indecipherable characters.

 

And—

 

The fact that Word resumes are easily editable may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

 

It’s not that hard to imagine someone accidentally messing the file up.

 

An inadvertent deletion of a digit in your phone number can change quite a lot.

 

PDF Resume

Pros
  • Universal
  • Works on any system and device
  • Formatting will stay intact
  • ATS readable
Cons
  • Old-school ATS may find it problematic (especially if you go too creative with the formatting)

Now—

 

Let’s consider the PDF file format.

 

Upsides of a PDF resume?

 

PDFs are universally recognized across a variety of devices.

 

Also—

 

They look the same, and their formatting is pretty much set in stone.

 

In fact, the PDF was conceived by Adobe as an open-source file delivery format. PDFs were designed to look the same on all end devices.

 

Plus—

 

The vast majority of resumes in PDF are ATS-readable.

 

What are the downsides of PDF resumes?

 

PDFs are extremely versatile.

 

And too much of a good thing is not such a good thing.

 

For one thing, you may accidentally save your resume as an image PDF document. This may not just result in having a massive file but also rendering it useless for any ATS.

 

Plus—

 

If you go too creative with your formatting (fonts, multiple tables, graphics, and other embellishments), the ATS may not be able to parse your PDF resume right.

Expert hint: Want to be sure your resume in PDF is readable for the ATS? Highlight the text, copy it from the PDF resume, and paste it into a blank text document. Don’t worry about formatting. Just see if all the information is there.

3. Resume in Word or PDF Format: Decision

 

In the vast majority of cases, you should—

 

Send your resume as PDF.

 

Unless the job ad specifically defines what file format is required, or you have mixed feelings whether or not the ATS will scan it right.

 

Most of the time, though, you’ll need Microsoft Word to create and/or edit your resume, but you’ll be exporting the ready-made document to PDF.

 

Thus—

 

You’ll end up with two files: a resume in pdf and Word.

 

Last but not least:

 

Keep these in mind when choosing the best file format for your resume:

  • Optimize your resume for the ATS and the recruiter alike.
  • Microsoft Word is great as an editing tool.
  • Adobe PDF is great for content delivery.

 

What are your thoughts? Did you send your resume in a Word or PDF format? Want to share advice on how to send a resume online and what format is the best? Give us a shout out in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Career Expert
Maciej Duszynski is a certified professional resume writer (CPRW), career advice writer and a resume expert at ResumeLab. With over 8 years of experience in recruitment, hiring, and training, Maciej shares insider HR knowledge to equip every job seeker with professional advice to nail the job hunt. His insights have been featured by the Chicago Tribune, SparkPeople, Toggl, Referral Rock, and Databox, among others. Maciej has helped job candidates at all stages of their career paths, from interns to directors to C-suite members, to thrive in their job. His mission is to help you find the right opportunity and create a job application that gets you the career you deserve. Maciej holds a Master’s degree in English with a specialization in communication and education management.

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