It can be unnerving to repeatedly edit your resume, polishing it again and again before sending it off to prospective employers. Just when you think you're finally done tinkering with your application documents, you have one last obstacle to overcome: how to save your file. Unfortunately, the decision isn't merely a matter of personal preference.
Before you decide which file format to use for your resume, you'll have to consider a variety of file types, pay attention to the stated preference of your potential employer, and consider the constraints of their hiring software. I
n most instances, you'll have three possible file types to consider: a Word document; a PDF file, or a TXT file, which is a plain text format necessary for some candidate information collection systems.
Let's explore the pros and cons of each resume file format so you can determine which one will work best for your application. Know that you can get help with the writing and formatting of your resume with our professional Resume Builder, which also allows you to download your document in Word, PDF or TXT format.
1. Adobe PDF resume file format
The safest and most common file format for a resume to use when transmitting your career collateral electronically is an Adobe PDF file. Although you'll likely have created your resume in Microsoft Word, you'll save it to PDF format before sending.
Using this format is like creating a digital "print" version of your resume. The recruiter or hiring manager will see on their screen exactly what you have crafted on yours. They or a well-meaning admin won't be able to inadvertently make changes to your resume in the process of opening or forwarding it, and all of the formatting you carefully chose will remain the same.
Another scenario that calls for the use of an Adobe PDF resume file format is when you save your resume to your personal website or online portfolio for others to download. In this instance, you definitely don't want anyone to have access to the source file to make any changes. The people who need to see or get a copy of your resume can easily download an unchangeable PDF and see an accounting of your career.
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2. Microsoft Word DOC/DOCX resume file format
While many hiring managers and recruiters prefer and will specify the need to send them your resume in PDF, some may request a Microsoft Word document. They may be planning to use resume scanning software to analyze your resume or have a policy of uploading your resume to in-house software that only works with Microsoft formats.
Others may like the commenting capabilities on Microsoft Word documents, where they can mark up what they like — or don't — about your resume. So, when do you use or send a Microsoft Word document for your resume? The simple answer is when it's specifically requested.
But even simple Word documents sometimes aren't that simple. Microsoft Word can create multiple formats of documents. Users with the most recent versions of Microsoft Word use the DOCX format. This format is similar to its predecessor, the DOC extension, but is a bit more feature-rich.
However, you may encounter a recruiter or hiring manager who uses older software, or whose candidate-tracking software works with older versions of Word documents, and specifically asks you to save your file as a DOC extension instead of the default DOCX.
The key here is to pay very careful attention to what is requested in the job posting or in your direct communications with the organization. Nothing drives a hiring manager crazy faster than an applicant who can't follow simple directions.
Before you decide which file format to use for your resume, you'll have to consider a variety of file types, pay attention to the stated preference of your potential employer, and consider the constraints of their hiring software. In most instances, you'll have three possible file types to consider: a Word document; a PDF file, or a TXT file, which is a plain text format necessary for some candidate information collection systems.
3. TXT resume file format
These files can be exported from your same Microsoft Word document, but in the saving process, all formatting is stripped out. That means any spacing, colors, bolding, italics, or underlines — anything except plain characters on a screen — gets taken away.
While that may sound extremely boring to look at, there's a good reason some companies require this format. Older candidate-tracking systems and resume-scanning software can't handle that formatting; they are programmed simply to gather data from plain text.
You'll most often encounter requests for this file type when applying for jobs directly over the internet versus sending resumes via email. When you get to the place in a candidate survey when your resume file needs to be uploaded, you'll see the specification for a TXT file type.
If you haven't thought ahead to make one, however, there's some good news: some resume gathering systems can take a Word or PDF document and strip it down to TXT format on your behalf, populating a text box with the resulting plain text resume. If you choose to do this, however, you'll need to proofread what appears in that box carefully to ensure that it looks as clean as possible, even without any included formatting. It may be simpler to save your file to TXT format and proofread or revise before uploading.
Whichever resume file format you use, ensure it's the specific one the company contact or software has requested and that you always put your best foot forward in the content you have crafted about your career.