Submitting Your Resume as a PDF or Word Document

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 16, 2022

Published October 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Submitting a well-formatted resume is a crucial part of any job application. You may be unsure of which format to use when submitting your resume, as you can typically upload your resume as a PDF or Word document. Understanding when to submit a resume in a PDF or Word format can help you with your job search. In this article, we explore the PDF and Word document formats for submitting a resume, discuss perks and setbacks, and state the essential rules to follow that can improve your chances of passing the application stage and getting the job.

Choosing between a PDF or Word resume

When submitting a resume as a PDF or Word document, it's best to have a clear layout for the recruiters or hiring managers. The best advice is to keep your resume saved both ways so that you can always submit any when needed. You can also export your resume from a word document format into a PDF format and vice versa when necessary. PDF formatting is a useful tool for both school and work because a document saved as a PDF ensures format security and stability.

One aspect unique to PDF resumes is that you can create them using graphic software, which offers you much more creative freedom in how you layout your resume. It's a crucial file type if you're applying for a creative job that requires your resume to depict a specific skill set, such as graphic design. The Word document file is another popular tool for writing documents in the corporate world. Having skills in Microsoft (MS) Word has become a required professional skill for most roles. Here are some pros and cons to using each method:

Pros of submitting your resume in a PDF format

Here are some pros of PDF resumes:

  • easily accessible, as anyone can open a resume in PDF format on their computers

  • maintains your resume formatting and ensures that another user doesn't rearrange it

  • grants you more creative freedom if you employ graphic design tools to prepare your resume

Read more: How To Use Infographics for Resumes

Cons of submitting your resume in a PDF format

Here are some cons of PDF resumes:

  • is not always readable by the applicant tracking software (ATS) of some organizations

  • can sometimes take up more storage space

  • doesn't give the recruiter the ability to make comments, unlike in MS Word

Pros of submitting your resume in MS Word format

Here are some pros of submitting your resume in MS Word format:

  • most people have the Microsoft suite on their computers so they're familiar with the software

  • opening and reviewing a resume in Word format is easy because of its accessibility

  • easy for ATS software to read

Cons of submitting your resume in MS Word format

Here are some cons of submitting your resume in MS Word format:

  • another tool may disrupt your resume format, especially if a recruiter downloads it with a different program

  • deleting sections of your resume is easy for the recipient to do intentionally or by accident

  • a lack of security means your document is subject to change from the recipient or another party

Rules to note when submitting your resume

Here are a few guidelines to consider when submitting your resume:

Follow the application's direction

When a company specifically asks for a particular file type and layout for your resume, follow their instructions. They're the authority on what they're looking for, so giving them what they ask for is essential. Ignoring the company's instructions can lead to them not reviewing your resume, whether as a matter of choice or inability.

If you're working with a third-party recruiter, they may ask that you send a Word document because they often obscure your personal contact information when submitting your resume to their client. In this case, sending a PDF can discourage the recruiter as they may not be able to edit it easily. If there are no clear directions on the job posting, you can contact the company to ask for their preference.

Submit your resume as either a PDF or Word document only

Limit your decision between submitting your resume as a PDF or Word document, and avoid other file formats. If you use a different file format, there's no assurance that the hiring manager reviewing your resume has the necessary tools to open your resume. Once you depart from these two popular file types and can't open them, they may automatically reject your application and review the application of the next candidate instead. Most companies use an ATS to scan resumes, using keywords and other required information to decide if you're qualified for the job.

Most ATS systems recognize full words but not abbreviations like MBA or CPA. This is especially true if the hiring manager includes the long-form of these abbreviations in the job posting. Ensuring you type abbreviations in full can help you avoid the risk of the ATS being unable to read your resume. Some ATS systems struggle to read text within images like .jpeg files. If you choose to format your resume with graphic tools, remember to convert it to a PDF or Word document before submitting. If a company asks for a .txt file or a different style, submit your resume in the requested format.

Related: How To Write Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Resume

Consider how you're applying

Learning how your resume gets to the recruiting company can help you decide which file format is the best choice. If you need to submit your resume directly to a hiring manager or recruiter via email, consider sending your resume as a PDF unless instructed otherwise. Recruiters format MS Word documents differently depending on what version of the software the company is operating. For example, when opening up a resume in MS Word, the margins and alignment can be off, making it difficult to read or spreading it over two or more pages.

PDFs have a significant perk of maintaining their appearance regardless of the computer or software opening them. If the organization asks you to submit your resume through the company's website, it's likely to go through an ATS. An ATS requires your resume to be easily searchable and optimally compatible with the software. The best file format, in this case, is the Word document file type. Word files are much easier for the applicant tracking software to examine into a digital applicant profile. Whatever you do, ensure that the format you decide to use for your job resume is ATS-friendly.

Related: How To Write an ATS-Compliant Resume (With Tips and FAQs)

Take advantage of repetitive online applications

Online job applications typically involve several steps, which may require uploading your resume and cover letter, and then inputting similar information in another section. It's an excellent opportunity to adjust any necessary information that was left out on the resume, or provide details about your most relevant skills and experience for that unique role. It's worthwhile to ensure you're choosing the right format as the fields you'd be editing are the sections that allow you to be searchable in the ATS and what companies look for when searching for specific keywords or titles.

You can submit your resume as a PDF, which ensures the layout of your content, and still input the extra information manually so that it's sure to be ATS-compliant. Use this opportunity to include even more impressive keywords. To be extra vigilant, consider including both short forms and full words within your resume. For example, instead of saying you have a BSc, you could write "Bachelor of Science (BSc)," to ensure the system will identify at least one.

Read more: What To Put in a Resume

Research the company's ATS

With the emergence of ATS software, it's essential to remember that little details such as how you save your resume are essential. If you want to impress a company with your resume, you can research the particular ATS software program they use and format your resume accordingly to be compliant.

There are several ATS software programs that companies commonly use. Learn their operation and limitations, which can help you make an informed decision when choosing a file format for your resume. You may see right on the application page the exact ATS the company is using for smaller companies. This research may take additional time, but it can give you an advantage, so it's especially worth pursuing this information if you're interested in a particular role.

Now that we've explored the PDF and Word document formats for submitting a resume and discussed perks and setbacks, you'll improve your chances of passing the application stage and getting the job.

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