Daily Archives: September 30, 2011

Heavyweight Debate: PDF vs. Word Résumés

Pdfvsword_Sept_2011_web You’ve decided what style of résumé you need, you’ve got it written, and you’ve taken it through a résumé boot camp. You’re ready to start applying. With more companies requesting digital copies of your résumé, you may be wrestling with what format to choose.

The great format debate has been raging for more than six years, and job seekers and HR professionals are still split down the middle. In this corner, applicants are sold on the stability and security of having an Adobe PDF résumé. And, in this corner, Employers and HR professionals are standing firm on the ease and efficiency of the Microsoft Word résumé.

Word Documents: The Current Heavyweight Champion

Most HR professionals who go through résumés prefer receiving them in a Word document. The vast majority of businesses have Word on their computers and employees are accustomed to the program. They like being able to easily copy and paste the information and send résumés, with the personal information excluded, to their employers. The drawback is that what your résumé looks like on your screen, may not be what it looks like on another computer. There are several versions of Word, and some older versions may not be able to read files saved in newer formats. Sending Word files with the .doc file extension instead of the newer .docx are less safe and have been known to pass viruses.

The People’s Champion: PDF

Having a résumé as a PDF will keep the formatting of your résumé the same on anyone’s computer, whether it’s a Mac, Linux, or PC. PDFs are also more secure than Word files, which means they can’t easily be doctored or changed. Unlike Word documents, it’s very hard to put a virus or dangerous software on a PDF file. Adobe, the company that created the PDF format, has free software that enables computers to read them, and most computers already have the software installed. Microsoft Word has the option to save files in PDF format as well. For these reasons, many prefer to have their résumés in PDF format.

The Lightning Round

Opinion on the debate seems like an even tie, but there is one factor you should consider before deciding which format to choose. Economic times still aren’t the best, and companies are still seeing a huge influx of résumés every day. More companies are using software called applicant tracking systems that systematize and choose résumés based on key words the company dictates. According to a Bersin and Associates Talent Acquisition Systems report, about 61% of North American companies have some sort of applicant tracking software.

There are about 55 different applicant tracking systems being used. Even to this day, very few can read PDF files. While these systems are getting better, it’s still a long shot before the majority of systems start reading PDFs. Your résumés may be safe, secure, and structured, but it won’t matter if your content can’t be read.

And The Winner is…

If you’ve networked with someone and they would like to see your résumé, you may want to go ahead and send the PDF. A professional who has taken interest in hiring you will appreciate the sleek format and structure of your résumé that you spent so long perfecting. If you are applying to a big company with an automated online application site, try using the Word file to ensure the automated system reads your accomplishments. You may want to paste your résumé into Notepad or WordPad and save it as a .txt file. That way, you are guaranteed the programs will pick up on your keywords.

Where do you stand on the debate? Do you agree with this strategy? What would you do to improve the situation? Sound off in our comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.


By Jared Cole