How to Select the Best File Format for Your Resume

Resumes for a job
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It is often the last thing you think about when writing a resume, but the file format you select for your resume is important. If you send your resume in a format that is impossible or even simply difficult for the employer to open, he or she may toss out your application.

How to Select the File Format for Your Resume

Most employers want a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file of your resume. However, there are many factors to consider when selecting your resume format.

Most Important: Follow the Directions

The file format an employer wants may vary based on the company's applicant tracking system (ATS). For example, some tracking systems are not compatible with PDF files.

The employer may also ask for a particular format depending on how you are submitting your resume—posting it online versus emailing.

Online Resume Posting: If you are posting your resume online, there should be instructions on which file format to use and how to upload your resume. Some employer websites and job sites specify in which format you should send your resume. For example, Indeed suggests uploading a Word document (.doc, .docx), a PDF created from a text file (not scanned in as an image), or a plain .txt, .rtf, .html, or .odt file.

Emailed Resumes: For emailed applications, some companies may ask you to send your resume as an attachment. For example: "Submit Resumes as Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word attachments."

Other employers may be concerned about viruses, which can be found in email attachments. In the job ad, employers may specify that any emailed documents be PDFs, which are virus-free. Some employers may request that you copy your resume directly into the body of your email, avoiding attachments entirely. 

It's very important to follow the instructions in the job posting. Don't send a different file format, or your resume may not be viewable and may not even be reviewed.

Naming Your Resume

Whatever format you use, make sure the title of the resume file is clear and straightforward for the employer. Unless the job application advises otherwise, use your name as part of the file name (i.e., JaneDoeResume.doc), not simply the word “Resume.”

Saving Your Resume as a Microsoft Word Document

To save your resume as a Word (.doc or .docx) document, click on File, Save As, and type in the file name you are giving your resume. 

Saving a Google Doc as a Word Document

If you don't have Microsoft Word, you can save a Word (.docx) version of a Google Doc.

To save a Google Doc as a Word Document:

  • Go to File > Download As and choose Word Document (.docx).

It's important to note that there may be formatting issues when converting files to another file format, so it's a good idea to have someone with Word on their computer check your resume to make sure it has retained the formatting. If it hasn't, you may consider going with a PDF.

Saving Your Resume as a PDF

While nearly every company either has Microsoft Word or access to Google Docs, which makes opening a .doc or .docx file easy, there are some significant advantages to saving your resume as a PDF.

Microsoft Word and other word processing programs often place squiggly lines under misspelled words or grammatical errors, but many of these "mistakes" are not errors at all when it comes to resumes.

A lot of industrial jargon or company names, for instance, may not be in the word processing program's dictionary, but that does not mean they are spelled incorrectly. By saving your resume as a PDF, those squiggly lines, which could be distracting to hiring managers viewing a document on the screen, will not show up.

Plus, while both Macs and PCs can run Microsoft Word, documents often appear differently when opened on a Mac than when opened on a PC. It's possible that some of your careful formatting will not show up correctly if hiring managers use a different operating system. That's not the case with PDF documents.

If you are sending a resume directly to a contact or hiring manager through email, a PDF is often your best option. For resumes submitted through an application system, follow the directions specified.

To save a Word document as a PDF:

  • Go to File > Save As in Microsoft Word.
  • In the box that opens up, select PDF from the Format drop-down menu.

To save a Google Doc as a PDF:

  • Go to File > Download As and choose PDF Document.

Make it Simple for the Employer to Review Your Application

The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the employer to open your resume and learn about your qualifications. Therefore, follow directions carefully, and keep your format and resume title as straightforward as possible.

Article Sources

  1. Indeed.com. "How to Post or Upload a Resume," Accessed Oct. 3, 2019.