How to Format and Upload Your Resume for the Online Job Search

Much of today’s job searching takes place online. You scour job-search websites for openings, you submit applications to individual companies through web-based portals, and you communicate with recruiters and hiring managers via email.

Because so much of the job search process is on the internet, it’s important to have a resume that’s optimized for digital use. This means when you upload a resume, whether to a job search site, a company site, or as an email attachment, it needs to be readable, easy to open and view, and not difficult to download.

Believe it or not, employers and recruiters do notice if you can’t follow directions, and they generally favor employees who are savvy with technology. Here are some tips on how to upload a resume.

DO: Follow specific directions provided in the job ad. Sometimes, it may ask that you attach a copy of your resume and also copy and paste it in the body of the email. Make sure to do both if it’s requested.

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How to Upload a Resume: Choose a Format

Resumes are typically created in two major formats: as a Microsoft Word document (.docx or .doc) or in PDF format. Recruiters and job seekers have long debated which format is best. Each format has its own benefits, but in certain situations, you should definitely use one over the other.

In general, go with the format the company requests. If the job application instructions specifically say, “Please submit your resume in PDF format,” then do that. And the same goes for MS Word. If a choice isn’t given, consider the pros and cons of each file format:

  • A PDF cannot be altered, whereas an MS Word document can be edited (either accidentally or intentionally) by the recruiter or company you submit it to.
  • A PDF requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to be viewed correctly, and some computers may not have that software installed.
  • Traditionally, Microsoft Word is the preferred format for ATS Tracking systems. When recruiters upload a resume using this scanning software, it’s easier for the system to scan for keywords and chosen phrases if the document is saved in an MS Word format. However, some experts opine that recent advancements make PDF a fine format to use for ATS tracking system as well, as long as the document doesn’t contain images.

How to Format and Upload Your Resume for the Online Job Search

How to Create a Resume Online

LiveCareer’s Resume Builder can help you create a resume section by section. It walks you through the process and lets you enter the specifics of your education, work experience, and other relevant information. The end result is a polished, professional version of your resume that’s ready to submit to employers.

After using a resume builder, be sure to save a version of your resume locally to your computer. This way, you can easily access it later for printing, editing, or attaching to an online job application.

Once your resume is created and error-free, it’s time to upload it.

How to Upload a Resume Online

You may need to upload a resume and cover letter to a job search engine or a specific company’s job site page. Here are some general tips to follow:

  1. Look for a text box. Some sites will let you copy/paste the text of your resume into a box on their job application form. If you choose to do this, make sure the formatting looks professional and correct within the text box.
  2. Search for a button that says “Upload” or “Upload a resume.” When you click this button, you can then find the file on your computer to add it as an attachment to your job application.
  3. Pay special attention to any instructions about uploading. The company may specify near the button which formats it prefers. For example: Note: Documents should be uploaded in PDF or DOCX format. PDF is preferred.

How to Upload a Resume in an Email

Sometimes when you respond to a job ad, you need to submit your resume, cover letter, and other required credentials via email to the hiring manager or other human resources professional. Some dos and don’ts include:

DO: Follow specific directions provided in the job ad. Sometimes, it may ask that you attach a copy of your resume and also copy and paste it in the body of the email. Make sure to do both if it’s requested.

DON’T: Copy/paste your resume into the body of an email instead of attaching it, unless specifically asked to do so. Sometimes, formatting changes when copying and pasting, especially fonts, spacing, and paragraph alignment.

DO: Include a message in the body of the email with a brief explanation of why you are writing and submitting your resume. Think of it as a mini cover letter. You may want to attach a longer cover letter separately, especially if the application instructions ask for it.

DO: Make the email and cover letter separate attachments to reduce confusion.

DON’T: Give the files generic names such as CoverLetter.doc or Resume.doc. Instead, provide more logical file names that can easily identify you if the employer references the document later. Suggestions for file names when you upload a resume include:

  • JaneSmithResume
  • JaneSmithCvrLtr

DO: Put the name of the position for which you’re applying in the subject line.

When you take the time to upload a resume that’s professional and easy to read, it can help you stand out from the competition and land a job you really want.

About the Author

LiveCareer Staff Writer

At LiveCareer, we live and breathe the belief that we can help people transform their work lives, and so do our contributors. Our experts come from a variety of backgrounds but have one thing in common: they are authorities on the job market. From journalists with years of experience covering workforce topics, to academics who study the theory behind employment and staffing, to certified resume writers whose expertise in the creation of application documents offers our readers insights into how to best wow recruiters and hiring managers, LiveCareer’s stable of expert writers are among the best in the business. Whether you are new to the workforce, are a seasoned professional, or somewhere in between, LiveCareer’s contributors will help you move the needle on your career and get the job you want faster than you think.


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