PDF vs. Doc: What format should my resume be in?

What is the "best" technical format for my resume?

TL;DR Our best practices suggestions:
  • Word as the base document (this solves most compatibility issues with most systems)
  • Single, 1 column format, vs 2 column format. Standard margins and fonts, no tables/cells (The 'prettier' the resume, the less likely, it will be ingested into ATS systems well)
  • Note that this is not an issue with our system, rather, we want you to have the best possible resume in the hands of employers that all have different systems whether you use our site or apply directly.
  • Take a look at our 7 ways to improve your resume and cover letter article too
    • As always, if you have questions about anything, please reach out.  We are here to help!

"The best" these days, with 90% of resumes ending up in an applicant tracking system, is different than it used to be.

We always recommend formatting your resume as a single-column Word Doc instead of a PDF.

What we like about Word Documents

We encourage everyone to have a Microsoft Word Document to the be base file for their resume.

This will allow the greatest number of systems to "read" your resume the way that you intend the employer to see it.

These days, at some point, your resume will likely end up in an ATS (applicant tracking system), or otherwise, a computer will be "reading" your resume.  Even when you send it to a friend or directly to an employer or recruiter, it will likely get forwarded to a system that will try and read your resume. (note: over 50% of our jobs on the site will feed your resume directly into an employer applicant tracking system when you apply)

A word document can be read much easier than a pdf document by most technology out there.  This will allow you to put your best foot forward when applying to jobs.

What we don't like about PDFs

In our experience, across all the employer systems, we see the worst conversions coming from PDF resumes.  In many cases, a computer will be "reading" your resume and so to be safe, use a Word document. 

If a human is reading the PDF, they will see it as you do, however, if they are using any sort of technology to read the resume, then the technology they are using to read the PDF document can jumble and distort the resume and in many cases, the system reading the resume will not see anything at all.  (not the case with  a Word file)

The way that many PDF documents are created, the system will read the document from left to right so if you have a 2 column format, it will simply read from left to right combining the text and jumbling it up in to a mess that no recruiter is going to wade through.  The other problem we see is that the pdf resumes will convert vertically so a resume can look like this:

Original document:

Jane Doe
Work History: Assistant to CEO  -  Workplace USA ...

A malformed PDF can look like this to a computer reading your resume







Please take a look at our resume best practices article when creating a resume that works across all systems. 

If you have any questions at all, please reach out!

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