PDF Vs Word: The Best File Format For Resumes in 2021

Jan 26, 2021

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Career Expert, ZipJob

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

You have your resume written, formatted, and tailored just the way you want it. Now it’s time to click save…but what file format are you supposed to use?

There are almost as many answers as there are options for files! When the stakes are getting your resume noticed vs sending an unreadable document, you want to be sure to choose the right file type.

We’ve got you covered!

This post includes the latest advice from Zipjob’s professional resume writers. This article covers a variety of situations, and when you should change what file type you send. Before we get started though, there is one exception that should always come first.

Use the file type specified in the job description

Not all companies will specify. However, if the job description includes something about “please send your resume as a PDF attachment to hr@yourdreamjob.com,” then you should always send your resume as a PDF to that email.

Read the job description thoroughly to see if the employers prefers a certain file type. You should always send the format the employer asks for.

In the rest of this article, we’ll go through which resume format to send if there are no instructions.

What are the most common file types for resumes?

The most common resume formats are:

  • Adobe PDF
  • Microsoft Word .doc or.docx
  • TXT (Plain Text)
  • HTML

Of these options, the top two (PDF and Word docs) are by far the most common.

Your best options for a resume: the PDF and .doc

The two most common resume formats are best suited for two different purposes.

1. The best format for a job application

When applying to a job online, the best format to send your resume in is usually a Word doc. This format is most easily read by the majority of applicant tracking systems (or ATS). While it is more and more common for companies to invest in more sophisticated ATS software that will parse your resume, you can be confident that virtually all ATS scans can read a .doc file.

Why take the risk of getting overlooked because of your format? Submit your resume as a Word document.

2. The best file format for attaching your resume

On the other hand, many job seekers pass our their resumes like business cards while job searching. If you are sending a direct message to someone and attaching your resume, you may want to send it as a PDF. This will preserve your formatting and look the same across computers.

However, take note: sending your resume as a PDF does NOT mean it’s a good idea to use a creative or graphic resume format. Computers, hiring managers, and recruiters all prefer traditional, single column resumes that can be quickly understood.

💡ZipTip: if you aren’t sure what resume format to use, this guide walks you through the three most popular resume formats for American and Canadian employers.

Here are some additional tips for sending your resume out correctly.

What to know about sending a resume in PDF format:

Sending a resume in pdf

Many job seekers prefer sending a PDF as it keeps the formatting the same for whoever views it, and that it’s compatible across most operating systems.

Here are some problems with sending your resume in a PDF format:

  • The employer or recruiter might want to make a change, note, or highlight on your resume to organize it. If you’re sending your resume to someone for a review, the “suggest edits” feature on Word is quite valuable!
  • A PDF can be locked–nice for security, and not so good if the password doesn’t arrive with the file.
  • The receiver may not have the correct software to open a PDF file (less of an issue for a hiring professional, more of a concern for sending your resume to someone in your network who offered to take a look or pass it along).
  • Although this issue is now rare, some Applicant Tracking System (ATS) may have difficulty reading a PDF file. (More information on ATS and your file format below). For example, a two-column resume format might be read from left to right, despite that information being unrelated.

Should you send your resume as a PDF?

A PDF is acceptable for many employers…but you’re better off sending a .doc if it’s one of the 90%+ big companies using an ATS. If you’re sending your resume to a recruiting agency, a .doc is preferred because it’s easier to make edits to your resume.

💡ZipTip: 33% of people decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line. Here are expert tips to increase your open rate when you’re sending your resume.

What to know about sending a resume as a Word doc:

A Word document is the easiest file type to edit, giving it a huge advantage. It’s also possible to keep your Word document neat and organized, giving it a strong advantage over TXT files.

Send your resume as Word document

A Microsoft Word document is the safest bet for submitting your resume. Here are the reasons why you should always submit a Word document:

  • There have been surveys done that show employers and recruiters prefer a Microsoft Word document over PDF.
  • A Microsoft Word document is easily opened by many programs and devices.
  • An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) could easily read a resume

Should you send your resume in Microsoft Word?

Yes, sending your resume in Word is the safest bet. Employers prefer it and it can easily be screened by ATS.

Always send a Microsoft word resume

Microsoft doc vs docx

A previous version of this article recommended a .doc over a .docx. This is unlikely to make much of a difference in 2021, since all versions of Word made after 2007 will open either .doc or .docx files without a problem.

Can I send a resume as HTML and TXT (Plain Text) files?

HTML and TXT formats should generally never be used when submitting a resume.

The only time you may want to use a TXT format would be for job board submissions that don’t allow you to attach your resume.

To save your resume as a TXT file, simply follow the same steps we outlined above regarding Docx and Doc. After you click save as, choose “Plain Text” or “TXT” when you save it.

Applicant Tracking Systems and your file format

ATS is software which the majority of companies now use to screen your resume. The resume the ATS processes as a good match for the position are sent forward or recommended to the hiring manager.

Over 76% of resumes submitted aren’t considered, and an incorrect file type may be one of the reasons why. Other resumes are scored poorly by the ATS for lack of keywords, experience mismatch, or complicated formatting. Always send a Word documents to ensure your resume goes through.

Also note that a PDF may be locked, meaning that an ATS would be unable to scan the text in your resume.

Check ATS compatibility

Final note: what to name your resume file

The name you give your resume is also an important factor to consider when sending out your resume. Your resume should named a combination of your name and “resume”.

For example:

  • Scott.Brett.Resume.Doc
  • ScottB.Resume.Doc

Recruiters or hiring managers will sometimes go back to search the database for your resume. You want to ensure that they find your resume easily when they type in your name. It also comes off as professional!

Be sure to use your name and “resume”.

Summary

Your file format is another important factor to consider when sending out your resume. The last thing you want is for it to be rejected by a resume screener.

Although the PDF is becoming more widely accepted, submitting your resume in a Microsoft Word format is still the safest bet. If there is any doubt at all, send a Word doc that is simple, easy to read, and specifically tailored for your career goals.

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An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

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