In What File Format Should I Send My Resume?


As I discussed strategy for his employment search with one of my executive clients today, he posed a question I frequently hear: Should I send my resume to recruiters and companies as a Word file, text document, or PDF? Coincidentally, this was also the subject of a recent thread in a career professionals forum in which I participate.

From my research on the subject, my colleagues’ opinions, and surveys of hiring professionals, I would say that both text and Word formats win out over PDF files, despite the clear advantage that PDF’s have in terms of WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get). A colleague in Maryland indicates that his survey of HR professionals at a recent SHRM meeting indicated a nearly unanimous opinion: 90% did not accept PDF files.

Several of my colleagues indicated that recruiters seem to prefer Word format for ease of editing and tweaking for the particular job order they are working on, which confirms my experience. A neatly formatted text document is also welcomed by most recruiters, but this does not mean doing a “save as” of your Word document to text and sending it as is! Your format will be a terrible mess and, besides making a bad impression, will be very difficult for the recruiter to manipulate. Typically, I recommend sending your executive resume in both text and Word formats when dispatching an e-mail. The text version can be placed inline (in the body of the e-mail below your message) or attached as a .txt file.

If you are sending your resume in Word format, beware that word processor files are notoriously subject to format damage when brought up on a system other than the originating one, due to differences in word processor settings, fonts, etc. That resume you so carefully and nicely fit into two pages may now carry over an awkward 2 or 3 lines on a third page. Or a comical or difficult-to-read font may be substituted for the attractive, conservative font you used.

So take care to use relatively simple but attractive formatting that will tend to translate smoothly on other systems, avoiding complex tables, columns, etc. Use fonts that are fairly universal on Windows systems (some are Verdana, Tahoma, Garamond, Futura, Palatino, New Century Schoolbook, Times New Roman, Arial). I personally balk at using Times and Arial because they are so “ho-hum,” but sometimes it is necessary in order to have reasonable assurance that your resume is going to look anything like you intended it to when your recipient views it.