Should You Send Your Resume As A PDF?

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 26, 2021

Landing a new job can be a daunting task. The job search might seem like a simple process of applying for a job, completing an interview, and landing the job. However, the process is a lot more intricate than three simple steps.

One small step that is often overlooked is making sure you send your resume in the correct format. You might be asking yourself, “Should I send it as a PDF or a text document? Is there a difference?”

The short answer to this question is yes, the format does matter, and there are some differences, pros, and cons to choosing one format over another. Knowing which situations work best with each format makes it easier for you to choose the correct format for each job application.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to decide if you should send your resume as a PDF:

  • Double-check the requirements of the application. If the application asks for a specific format, make sure to submit the resume in the format asked.

  • If you use more outdated forms of templates, fonts, and word processors, save your resume as a PDF so it can be read across different computers.

  • Sending your resume as a PDF will look more polished and professional.

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Which Formats to Save a Resume As

When saving a resume, there are two main options: a PDF or a word document. There are many places where you can write a resume. Some people may write a resume from scratch in a word document, and others may code their own. Most people, however, use online resume builders or premade templates to write their resumes.

When using an online resume builder or template, you may have fewer options for saving a resume. You may only have one chance to save a copy of your resume before your subscription expires on the site.

If this situation is similar to yours, make sure you download a copy of your resume in every format available on the online builder so that you have the most flexibility later when thinking about which resume format to use when sending your resume to a potential employer.

When to Send Your Resume as a PDF

When sending your resume to a potential employer, you want to make a good impression. Sending your resume as a PDF will help make sure your resume loads correctly and that there aren’t any roadblocks for a potential employer to read it. The last thing you want is to write a beautiful resume and have it come up as a jumbled mess when it tries to load on a computer different than yours.

As you’ve probably encountered, Macs and PCs have different programs for loading documents. Sometimes document formats don’t transfer over correctly between devices — that’s why sending as a PDF is so important.

Other than formatting, there are other reasons why sending a resume as a PDF is a good idea. PDFs make it more difficult for your resume to be changed, and it also gives your resume a more professional, polished look.

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When to Send Your Resume as a Word Document

Sometimes employers will want a word document form of your resume. If the application specifically asks for a text or word document version of your resume, then do not send a PDF copy. An employer won’t want a word document version for the following reasons:

  • They can edit your resume to take out identifying information to make the hiring process fairer.

  • They can open it up in older software types (maybe their resume scanners need older formats)

  • Be able to add information to the resume relevant to your application.

Even if you know you will only be needing a PDF version of your resume for the application you are working on now, there are several reasons why you should have a copy of your resume in a text or word document version anyway.

The first situation is one that many job seekers encounter on online applications that is often incredibly frustrating. All you have to do to finish the online application is to upload your resume. But you can’t upload your resume because you have to enter the text into an online text box instead. Frustrating, right?

For this reason, you will want to have a copy of your resume in a text document or word format. Then you can easily copy and paste your resume into the online application. If you haven’t come across this situation yet, you will, and you will wish you had a word document version of your resume.

Another reason why you will want to have a word document version of your resume is to make last-minute changes to your resume if you don’t have access to the original file. It can take a lot of time to redo an entire resume just to change your mailing address because you only have PDF copies of your resume.

Final Thoughts

Writing a resume can be tricky, and making sure it stays in perfect condition from your computer to your recruiters can be stressful. Knowing the types of formats you can save your resume is important, so you can be sure your resume is utilized in the best way possible by your recruiter.

If you are ever wondering which format is better and there are no instructions on the application, just remember: when in doubt, send as a PDF. No matter what you choose, be sure that there are no errors in your resume and if you want to send it as a text document, try viewing it on a different computer than the one you made it on.

With these tips, you will be well on your way to making a great impression with your recruiter and be confident that your resume will stand as a professional and reflect your capabilities as a potential employee.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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