What is the best file format for a resume? PDF or Word?

2023-12-06 by Amanda Sterling


In today's competitive job market, every detail counts—including the file format of your resume. This often-overlooked aspect can be the difference between your resume being read or ignored. But what is the best file format for a resume?

In most cases, the best resume file format depends on the employer's preference and the job portal's requirements. Always adhere to specific instructions given by employers or job portals regarding resume format. Most employers prefer a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file, but sometimes, they might request a plain text version. This preference often depends on the company's applicant tracking system (ATS) capabilities. If the employer accepts multiple formats, you can decide between PDF vs Word based on the following pros and cons.

Microsoft Word resume: the safe bet for ATS

Word documents are generally the best resume file format for ensuring ATS compatibility. These systems, which employers use to filter and manage applications, often struggle with PDFs. And if you're working with a third-party recruiter, they might need to annotate your resume before forwarding it, making a Word document more suitable.

If you're requesting feedback on your resume draft from either friends or from an artificial intelligence that can tailor your resume to the job description, it's better to send your resume as a Word document, so you can incorporate the suggested edits in it afterwards.

Whether you're using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, save your document as a .docx file. Avoid the outdated .doc format unless the employer requests it. For those using Google Docs, remember to check for formatting consistency by opening your file in MS Word on someone else's computer.

How to save your resume as a Word document?

PDF resume: perfect for human readers

PDFs guarantee that your resume looks the same on every screen: laptop or smartphone, Windows or Mac. A well-designed resume with a lot of spacing will make you look more professional. But beware: ATS may struggle to parse PDFs correctly.

To make your PDF resume ATS-friendly, avoid using:

How to save your resume as a PDF file?

Plain text resume: special case

Sometimes, an employer may ask you to submit your resume in plain text, either via email or a form. This format strips away all formatting, leaving only the text.

Copy your resume into a plain text editor like Notepad and make necessary adjustments:

Naming your resume file

A clear, descriptive file name can demonstrate your professionalism and attention to detail. Instead of "resume(2).docx," use something like "jane_doe_resume_project_manager.docx." Avoid special characters because they may confuse ATS. Use underscores instead of spaces. Keep the name short, around 24 characters, to ensure it's fully visible.

Remember, your resume is your first impression—make it count!