en English

Best Resume Format? PDF or MS Word?

Candidates often ask: what is the best resume format (résumé format) to use when working with a recruiter or hiring manager.

Specifically, what format should you send via email to a recruiter, hiring manager, or anyone in the hiring process on your career journey.

The answer is simple. Do what your audience needs. Nearly always, this is Microsoft Word format.

Very rarely will you ever want to send a PDF of your resume to a hiring manager or recruiter. Here’s why:

  1. There is a 90+% chance your targeted employer uses an ATS (applicant tracking system). This means they are digitally importing your resume into a candidate database to analyze against the job description. The parsing tools work best using MS Word.
  2. PDF documents often have to be printed on paper, then scanned, and converted back to text using OCR (optical character recognition) technology. This leaves room for mistakes, and presents your resume as substandard compared to those in MS Word.
  3. PDF files include a number of meta data elements, and is a proprietary format specifically designed for security of documents – don’t make that a barrier for the employer’s ATS.
  4. Anything in your resume that makes it harder for a recruiter or hiring manager to include, is a reason for them to eliminate you as a candidate and reduce the candidate list.
  5. MS Word is universal. Nearly everyone has a copy of Microsoft Office, and most corporations have standardized on it. Alternatively, Google Docs is free to anyone, and reads and edits MS Word Docs flawlessly.
  6. Your recruiter is your agent and advocate. If they need to tweak your resume fix your spelling errors, or other refinement to get you in the door at the employer, they cannot do that with PDF.
  7. Don’t make it hard for your recruiter to help you. If your recruiter has to ask you to send a second version of your resume to them in MS Word format, they probably won’t ask – instead submitting the candidate that already did.

Think of your audience, make it easy for them to help you. PDF formatted resumes and cover letters only make it hard for your audience to manage your “paper” (that’s the lingo recruiters use to refer to your resume, cover letter, and handbill).

In choosing the best resume format, be sensitive to your recruiter’s and hiring manager’s workflow, time and process requirements. It may well be the edge you need to be recognized as the best candidate for the employer.

Some have suggested PDF is the best resume format, to include fancy graphics, or unique formatting in order to uniquely stand out.

DON’T! Your resume will stand out, and be tossed out as it can’t be included in the ATS. Spend time polishing the content of your resume. Align it with the job description of the target job. You will stand out, and be selected, too.

A printed resume on paper is good for face-to-face situations like job fairs and interviews as a “leave-behind.” ALWAYS follow up by sending an email of your MS Word format resume.

In the end, the more make your recruiter’s and hiring manager’s job easier, the more likely you will be hired.