Microsoft Word?  Google Docs? Apple Pages?  PDF?  What is the best for my resume?


Like employers and recruiters, we receive resumes in multiple formats. In some cases we receive documents in obscure or unorthodox formats, which we can’t view. I will reply and ask for an alternate format or text that I can view. Don’t expect a hiring employer to do the same. It is important to save your resume as a file type that your target audience prefers. That will vary based on the manner in which you present your resume.

Creating Your Resume

MS Word is the standard application to create and save resumes. If you don’t own a Microsoft Word license, you may want to purchase it so you can conveniently use it in your home. If not, you may use MS Word at a community library, business service center (such as FedEx), or at a state-sponsored unemployment office.

Perhaps you own an Apple laptop or computer and prefer to create your resume in that environment. You have options. You may purchase Microsoft Word for Mac. If that is not convenient, you can use Apple Pages as save your resume as a Word document.

Avoid using Google Docs as it will create an inferior resume and is not considered an acceptable format for presenting your resume. Although your recipient has the option to visit Google to view your Google Doc, don’t expect the recipient to do so. Also, consider the stylistic limitations of Google Docs to create an attractive resume.

Compatibility Issues

The issue with Word for Mac or saving a Pages document as a Word document is that it is not 100% compatible with Word for PC. Keep in mind that some fonts are not universal, so be sure to select a universal font for your document. Also, there are some formatting differences, including margin limitations. Before sending your document, test it by sending to a friend using Word for PC so you can identify any issues. Please note that using a PDF is not a wise workaround in this scenario. A suitable workaround (if saving as Word from an older version of Pages is not working) is to save the resume in a Rich Text Format, which can be viewed by most users of MS Word.

Submission Guidelines

When presenting your resume as an email attachment:

Resume in MS Word

When uploading your resume on an employer or recruiter’s site:

Resume in MS Word

When asked to copy and paste your resume into an online text box or field.

Text Only Resume saved in Notepad or WordPad, which is a plain text, unformatted document only used for copying and pasting the content into an online text box or field on a job or company career site. This document looks like a long string of words, and it is just that. It is literally text only, only suitable for pasting into text boxes.

What You Need to Know about PDF Resumes

There is a myth that’s been floating around since the dawn of the Internet. That myth is that it is better to send a PDF resume so the recipient can’t alter your resume. What? Why would the recipient alter your resume? And, if they want to do so, what stops them from creating a false document with your PDF data. The risk of a recruiter or employer doctoring your doc is infinitesimal. If you send your resume as a properly-formatted MS Word document, the risk of “jumbling” through transmission is also virtually eliminated. The real risk is sending a PDF to a recipient that is unable to accept that file type.

Only attach, upload, or send a PDF resume if the employer or recruiter specifies they prefer or can accept this format. Many employers use applicant tracking software (resume screening software) and not all of those software applications can read PDFs well. Don’t take a chance of an unsuccessful submission or a poorly screened resume. Don’t expect an employer to take the time (or even have a protocol in place) to inform you if you resume was not compatible.

In Summary

The best advice regarding resume file types is to follow the submission instructions of the employer and recruiter. In the absence of instructions assume that the recipient prefers Microsoft Word. Only send a PDF if the recruiter or hiring employer states that they accept PDF resumes. When copying and pasting, plain text is the appropriate document. If you have questions about resume file types, email me. I would be happy to answer your questions.

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