Press & Media

Word vs. PDF: What’s the Best for Applying for Jobs?


When you submit a resume on a job platform, please think a moment before clicking “Send”. It is because the resume formatting should be able to both remain the same after you submit them and at the same time, it can pass the applicant tracking system. Although you do not know exactly what document software or ATS system your potential employers are using, there are ways to get your resume to the end-user

There has been discussion of advantages and disadvantages to Word and PDF format for resumes, and your best method for avoiding any formatting issues if by knowing which one suits your targeted job application better, especially when applying online. 

Word Format

For most online job apps, employers will often request a Word-formatted resume. This is because MS Word is the most versatile and popular format used by employers. Plus, nearly all employers have some version of Word that they use in their daily work processes.

Word format is also simple to use, easy to scan, and accepted widely by the ATS system. The disadvantages of this format is that incorrect word versions might cause compatibility issues, special character conversion issues, not enough creativity/flexibility options, and document formatting might be skewed if opened in an incorrect program.

See also: How to Detect Job & Employment Scams 

To avoid skewed formatting by ATS, the best thing you can do is save your Word-formatted resume as a .doc. Avoid the .docx file extension, because some of the smaller- to medium-level companies might not have access to the most current word version.

Saving and sending your Word-formatted resume as a .doc will ensure its format remains the same, and resolve any issues with compatibility. The .doc extension allows for earlier versions of Word (97 - 2000) to open your document easily, without sacrificing your special characters, formatting or layout.

PDF Format

While most employers prefer Word, some others would like job seekers to send in a resume in PDF format. The reason is that PDFs can be viewed on many operating systems, including mobile, without disturbing the overall formatting.

PDFs are often the chosen format for most creative resumes since they will always maintain the original formatting. Artists, graphic designers, musicians, and similar types of creatives often use InDesign or Illustrator to design their resumes, and then save the resume as a PDF. Even so, there are benefits and disadvantages to using PDFs, especially if your job type doesn’t fall within the creative industry.

The benefits of PDF format include no visual impairments (grammar/spelling lines as seen in Word), sharper image quality, better graphically designed resume, and it can be opened anywhere. On the other hand, unfortunately, PDF text might not be read on all ATS systems, especially older systems, ATS will skip graphics or text hidden within images, and large PDF documents might not download, frustrating the end-user

If you’re sending in your resume in a PDF format, make sure that the text can be highlighted with your cursor. This ensures that the ATS system will be able to read the text. Remove any text that is in picture format, since the ATS systems will not read any images.

All in all, both formats are used frequently for online job applications, it is vital to send in the format that the employer has requested. Even if you’re worried that the format might become skewed, there is a reason the employer is requesting a Word.doc or PDF file. Pay attention to which format they want, and adjust your resume accordingly.

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