How to Create Resume PDFs and When to Use Them (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 18, 2022

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.

While employers often state which format they want you to submit your resume in when applying for a job, sometimes they don't specify. In these cases, you might wonder which format is best when submitting your application. Understanding the different formats for creating and saving resumes and other documents can be helpful for job applications, and is a transferrable skill you can use once hired. In this article, we define resume PDFs, reveal how to choose formats, provide tips for sending PDFs, outline how to make PDFs, and offer tips for sending the right format.

Why create and send resume PDFs?

Resume PDFs are a type of formatting for job application documents. Portable document formats (PDFs) are a commonly recognized way to create, send, receive, and print various types of documents in business While an employer often states how they expect applicants to send their resumes and cover letters, others may not. When the potential employer doesn't indicate their preferred file type for receiving applications, it's often more convenient and even beneficial to send your resume as a PDF for several reasons:

Clears underscored words

Word-processing documents typically underscore potential grammar or spelling errors. While this may be beneficial when creating a document, these features often underline items that aren't actually wrong, but just unfamiliar, such as industry terms, names, or acronyms. This might not only be a distraction for someone receiving the document, such as an employer. PDFs provide a clean, professional-looking file.

Maintains your intended formatting

While the receiver may have the programs to open various types of files, it doesn't mean they look the same when they open them. For instance, Word documents can differ depending on the receiver's version of the program, available fonts, or their operating system. Even a slight change in margins, or fonts, for instance, can throw the entire formatting off and potentially make your document seem illogical or unprofessional. A PDF is essentially a photo of your document, so it saves it exactly as you intended and still allows workable hyperlinks if you have them.

Locks documents

PDFs are typically unmodifiable. This means that because they're like an image, the potential employer isn't able to change anything within them by mistake. This can sometimes happen during the downloading or reviewing process and might mean your document is at risk of losing potentially important information like specific qualifications or other pertinent data.

Ensures potentially virus-free documents

E-mail attachments can occasionally carry unwanted viruses, which can put other computers at risk. PDFs tend to eliminate this issue, as they're generally less likely to get viruses. A virus-free document also makes it more likely an employer flags and eliminates your resume because of a potential virus.

Related: How to Convert a PDF to Word (4 Different Methods)

Choosing a resume file format

There are several file formats available for creating and sending various kinds of documents. Which format you choose can depend on several factors. Here are some tips that might help you decide which format is best to send your resume:

  • Review job postings thoughtfully. Potential employers often indicate in their application instructions how they prefer to receive documents, so consider choosing the file format they suggest.

  • Choose a file format in line with industry standards. Some industries may expect files in specific formats for various reasons. For example, if it's standard to send files as JPEGs, then that may be best.

  • When unsure, consider asking. When employers don't indicate a specific file format for sending resumes, and there's no instruction stating not to contact the employer directly, you might ask them.

  • Use good judgment. If the instructions explicitly state not to contact the employer, it's usually best just to use your best judgement on which file types to send.

Related: Submitting Your Resume as a PDF or Word Document

Tips for when to send a PDF resume

While PDFs are increasingly a more preferable file format for sending and receiving documents, not all employers may want this type of file. Here are some situations when sending your resume as a PDF might be your best option:

  • Employers want PDFs: If there's an explicit instruction to send your resume as a PDF, you can use this option. Following an employer's guidelines during the application process can help ensure they select your resume for a more thorough review.

  • E-mail attachments: If the application process requires you to send your resume by e-mail, using a PDF file can help you avoid the e-mail host flagging your application as a virus. This can also prevent your resume from going to the employer's spam folder.

  • Online application systems: Online application systems typically request resumes as simple text documents because they're easily scanned. You can often also attach a PDF as an additional document, so it's readily available to employers.

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

Creating PDFs in various programs

Creating PDFs has become much easier as this file format has grown in popularity. Each program can have different processes for how to change a document from its original file format into a PDF. You can follow these detailed instructions that might help you make PDFs using various programs and operating systems:

Microsoft Word

Word is a common word processing program used by businesses and individuals because it offers many options for creating reports, resumes, charts, and tables. It's a program that allows users to choose from various templates to create professional-looking cover letters or resumes. If you've used Word to create your resume and have already saved it, here are some steps to make a PDF version:

  1. Click on “File” in the upper left-hand corner.

  2. Click on “Export” in the dropdown menu that appears.

  3. Choose “Create a PDF/XPS Document” in the new window.

  4. Choose your filename in the new window and confirm the file type as PDF.

  5. Click "Open file after publishing" if you want to open the new PDF automatically once converted.

  6. Click "Standard (publishing online and printing)" or "Minimum size (publishing online)." if you want to choose the file size. You might consider the standard option because it allows an employer to have a clear, printable file.

  7. Click "Publish" and the program opens a new PDF you can view for any potential errors. If it's good, simply close it.

  8. Click "Options" before publishing if you want to choose many other features, such as only creating a PDF of specific pages in your document. You can explore these, but the above process suffices to create a standard PDF.


Creating a PDF from Word if using a MAC is fairly easy. This process allows you to create a PDF quickly, although you might also consider exploring Mac's standard PDF maker, Preview. This program allows you to add and delete pages, order pages, or even rearrange them from other PDFs. Here are the steps for creating a basic PDF from a Word document using a Mac:

  1. Open your resume file in Word.

  2. Select “File” from the menu bar.

  3. Select "Save As" or simply click the small disk icon in the title bar.

  4. Find where it shows the file format on the menu and select "PDF."

  5. Rename the document or keep the same name as your Word doc.

  6. Click "Save" and the new PDF format typically saves in the same folder as your Word doc.

Google Docs

Google Docs offers several resume template options by clicking on the "Template gallery" under the search bar. It also allows you to open your documents from anywhere, which can be convenient. If your resume is a Google Doc, here are some easy steps to create a PDF:

  1. Click on “File” in the upper left-hand corner of your document.

  2. Select “Download.”

  3. Click “PDF Document (.pdf).” The program saves the new PDF resume format in your computer's "downloads" folder or the default folder you've previously selected for downloaded items.

Related: A Step-by-Step Guide to Converting a PDF to a Google Docs File

Tips to ensure you choose the correct resume format

Every application process can differ and understanding which format is best to send your resume can increase your chances of getting the job position. Here are some useful suggestions to consider that might ensure you select the best resume format for each job application:

  • Review directives. An employer often puts their preferred resume format near the bottom of the job description, but if you read the posting thoroughly, it can help avoid any confusion.

  • Create several file formats. By creating your resume in several formats beforehand, you can save time and assure you always have the correct format available for each application.

  • Ensure you have an ATS-friendly version. Employers often use applicant tracking system (ATS) software to organize the documents they receive from candidates. Creating a professional resume that includes keywords and is easy for this software to scan can improve your chances of receiving an invitation to interview.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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