Here's When You Should Send a Resume in PDF or Word (And Why)

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Sep 8, 2022 4 min read

You have written your resume, following the best practices for a resume in 2021.

And it’s time to send it to the Hiring Manager.

But what to send?

A Word or PDF resume?

What’s the difference?

We will now look at why one format is better than the other and in which cases you should send a PDF over Word resume.

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What Is A PDF resume?

A PDF resume is just a copy of your resume saved in PDF format. It is one of the most well-known file formats when sending resumes. In some cases, an employer will state that they require a resume PDF in the job description. It will be easier if you have a copy of your resume saved as a PDF so you can send the correct format immediately.

Even when the employer does not explicitly request that you send your resume as a PDF, there are some important advantages to using it, and they include:

  • No flagged words or phrases;
  • No unpredictable format changes;
  • PDFs cannot be altered;
  • PDFs are typically virus-free.

What's wrong with Microsoft Word anyway?

What is more, Microsoft Word has some problems when it comes to sending applications with a word resume.

  • When converting files to another file format, there are formatting issues that may arise.

If you have sent it to the Recruiter in .docx format, and they need a .pdf one, they will format it. However, this action could create issues which most of the time the Recruiter won’t fix, because it’s not really their job.

  • Consider checking your resume with someone that has Word on their computer to make sure it has retained the formatting.

Often the margins are different sizes, a one-page resume can break and go onto the next page, fonts can appear differently (as the program may not have the font you chose), or your resume may appear as an unreadable cipher.

You’ve probably spent a lot of time working on your resume, and you have made the resume format and layout perfect. It would be tragic for an employer to open a messy CV instead of your well-produced one. It would give a wrong impression.

  • If your resume is sent to a hiring manager in Word, it can easily be edited.

This could be a benefit and a disadvantage.

Sometimes, the Recruiter may need your resume in Word format to change a couple of things so as to have better chances to get this job. Then it would be harder if you send it in PDF format, and it could make a lot of issues when converted

The disadvantage is that it is easy for someone to copy-paste your data and use it without your permission.

  • Microsoft Word doesn’t have the creative flexibility that some people want.

When you are working in a Word format, you can make a lot of graphical illustrations and insert photos. However, when somebody opens it on another computer and resolution, it may break.

That’s why PDF gives you much more flexibility.

So, What’s Better About PDF format?

PDFs are useful for formatting because there are no squiggly lines or words in the document that could be distracting to hiring managers viewing a document on the screen. Because we all know that there are words, such as names and the like, that Word doesn’t recognize and thinks they are wrong.

What is more, PDFs are useful when sending the document directly to a contact or hiring manager through email because the formatting will not show up differently.

You can be as creative, as you want.

However, if you know that your resume will go through an Application Tracking System (ATS) better exclude graphical illustrations of things that are important. A PDF resume without any charts or graphs can easily pass through most modern ATS systems without fail.

Most Important: Follow the Directions

Research the Company and read the job description carefully.

  • If your resume is going to be processed by ATS, keep it simple. It should not have any charts, graphs, boxes, or special formatting;
  • Recruiters will specify in the job posting which file format you should send your resume;
  • If they didn’t, or they gave you a free choice, always go with PDF;
  • Avoid sending both Doc and PDF, as this will overwhelm the hiring manager process.

Where can I find PDF resume templates

When it comes to finding PDF resume templates, don’t worry.

We got you covered.

You can see our Resume Templates and choose the one that fits you best.

Ours are all in PDF format and are made in order to easily pass the ATS.

Takeaways: Resume in Word or PDF?

Here’s what you need to take away from this article:

  • Sometimes an ATS scans your resume before it goes to the Recruiter, so you need to make it easily readable by the systems.
  • The best format for your resume at the moment is a PDF. A PDF resume is readable by ATS and also keeps your formatting and illustrations in place. You can use an online resume builder like Enhancv which downloads your resume as a PDF.
  • Word resumes also do the job, but sometimes they might be incompatible and messy on another computer. Use Word resumes only if specified in the job posting.

Now stop procrastinating on your resume and send it to the Hiring Manager!

What are your thoughts? Did you send your resume in a Word or PDF format? Give us a shout out in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Kal Dimitrov
Kaloyan Dimitrov is a resume expert and content manager at Enhancv. He frequently publishes blog posts around resume writing, cover letters & job applications, and authors more than 500 publications on the site. Kaloyan also runs a Career Accelerator Bootcamp for young graduates where he applies his practical knowledge of job applications and writing resumes and educates people on how to present their best selves in front of business representatives. His opinions on resume writing and career development have been featured in Chron., as well as cited by top universities such as Simon Fraser University and UCL.
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