The Guide For Choosing Word or PDF For Your Resume

This question is one of the most hotly debated question in 2021….okay I guess there may have been a few more pressing issues so far this year.  It is though, a pretty popular question when it comes to resumes.  Which format is better, Word or PDF?  Does it even really matter?

The answer is, yes it does matter, but as with a lot of things in life, it isn’t a smple yes or no answer.  There are a few questions that need to be asked before you decide which version of your resume that you need.

-Where is your resume going?

-Who is your resume for?

-What does your resume look like?


Now these these questions may not seem that important upon first read, but I can tell you that when it comes to making a resume decision, they are actually important.  Let’s take a look at these three questions above.

Where is Your Resume Gong?

Determining where your resume is going should determine whether you send it in a Word Document or PDF. As you may or may not know, many companies use these things called Applicant Track Systems which are programs that recruiters load resumes in to have them scan for specific keywords and phrases.  These types of systems do not do well with PDFs.  For some reason on the backend, the PDF format will interfere with the scanning.  I’m not a computer scientist and I don’t pretend to be one, so if you really are interested in why that happens you can call one up and ask them.  But for the purposes of a Career Coach and Blogger, what I can tell you is that it’s a bad idea to submit a PDF when you’re applying to a job on a company website or job search sites.

open bible

You want to make sure that you are submitting a Word Document whenever you are applying oline, whether on the company’s website or sites like or Monster.  But just because you are submitting a Word document, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about that Applicant Tracking System.  If you’re trying to make your resume look pretty by adding some nice looking borders, save it for the PDF.  Keep the Word file plain and simple.

Who is Your Resume For?

The answer to this question will also determine the type of resume you use.  Basically, if you are going to be emailing a resume to someone, 99% of the time you should be sending a PDF.  The exception to this rule is if you’re sending it to a recruiter who you think may be putting it into that world famous Applicant Tracking System. If it’s going to someone who’s going to pass your resume along to a hiring manager, you should be doing a PDF as it will look a little more appealing rather than a plain old Word file.

businessman man love people

If you are going to an in-person interview (which no one thought was ever going to exist again a year ago)..but if you’re handing your resume to someone, you should use the design from your PDF resume.

What Does Your Resume Look Like?

If you’re in a career that doesn’t use traditional resume formats, such as design or some technical careers, the design of your resume is probably a little different than a Finance person or Law person.  If that’s the case, you are probably not submitting a resume through the traditional Applicant Tracking System.  You should most likely stick with a PDF to avoid anyone accidentally editing your work or designs.  Also you’ll most likely be posting a portfolio of your work to a specific location for your potential employer so the PDF format won’t have a negative effect.

close up of human hand

The bottom line is, you should always have two versions of your resume ready to go at all times.  A Word and a PDF version.  These should be formatted differently, the PDF looking a little more “pretty” to catch the intended reader’s eye.  The Word version should be very plain and really only be used when you are applying online.  It may seem like there are a bunch of different rules and scenarios but to sum it up in one sentence I’ll say this.

When you know the person who it’s going to, send a PDF and when you are applying online, go for the Word document.

I guess I buried the lead on this one…but thanks for reading J

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