Why Resumes Should Be PDF Not Word

resume in pdf or word

Should your resume be a PDF or Word file when you send it? And what should you send your resume as? A PDF or Word file? This is a great question for all job seekers. Sending the right file type can mean a world of difference for your hiring manager and reader.

Let’s jump into why this matters and what you should do when sending your job application by email or through a job portal.

Why It Matters To Send The Correct File Type

Some employers have preferences for the type of files that you send them for your resume. This might be defined through their job or career portal. When you go to send your resume, it may only accept Word files.

Why would they do this? The answer is because they might use tools like Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which scan resumes for keywords. They scan resumes for keywords like “Stanford” or “Adaptability” which bubble your resume towards the top of the priority list for the hiring manager.

They use tools like this because they often receive thousands of applications for jobs posted online and it can take considerable amounts of time to sift through each resume.

What If PDF and Word Are Both Accepted, Which Do I Send?

If your job application through the career portal accepts both Word and PDF, which do you send? Or maybe you’re going to be sending your application through an email. Then which file format do you send?

The answer: PDF

Why send PDF files not Word files? When you send a Word file, you risk the reader not being able to open your file. Microsoft Word allows you to save Word documents under a number of their versions (which are based on the years that Microsoft Office Suite product was in existence). If you send a Word file made from the latest version of Microsoft Office, your hiring manager might not have that same version and it becomes impossible for them to open your resume. You’ll see this be the case when you’re asked to save your file as either a “.doc” or a “.docx” which is where compatibility becomes an issue.

This is why PDF files are best. They are a universal file type. This means regardless of your hiring managers operating system (Windows or Apple) they will be able to open your PDF file.

In addition to compatibility being the biggest factor, they can zoom in on your PDF file quite easily. All PDF files are exported in vector format, meaning they can be zoomed in and out for the reader infinitely.

This is helpful to know in case you use 9-point or 10-point font size, which looks great when printed but can be small to read on the desktop computer

Lastly, PDF files are small in their file size. Meaning, your reader won’t have to spend time downloading a large file in order to read through your resume.

What Should I Send My Cover Letter As?

It’s not just your resume that you should send as a PDF file, your cover letter, reference list, and letters of recommendation should also be in PDF file format.

This will make your entire job application asset package be the same file format, which makes it easy for your hiring manager to open and read as well as keep organized under your Human Resources file.

What If They Want to Edit My Resume?

This is one of the disadvantages of sending your resume as a PDF file, they are not editable. But here’s the thing, your hiring manager wanting to edit your resume would be an odd request.

They aren’t here to review your resume. They are presently reading your resume to see if you’re qualified for the position you’re applying for. If you’re concerned about the fact that your reader can’t edit your resume, don’t be. They shouldn’t be editing your resume, to begin with.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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