Delivering Your Resume: PDF or Word Document – Making the Right Choice

send your resume in document

Navigating the complexities of the job application process is often daunting. With the preparation of a compelling cover letter and an impressive resume, an additional dilemma often remains: should you send your resume as a PDF or Word document? While it may seem insignificant, this choice can influence how a potential employer perceives your application. Here, we delve into the advantages and considerations for both formats, offering guidance on making the right choice.

The Case for PDF

The PDF, or Portable Document Format, is often considered the safest and most professional format for submitting a resume. Here’s why:

  1. Consistency: PDFs retain the document’s formatting irrespective of the device or operating system used to view them. This means the careful formatting, fonts, and layout you have selected for your resume will appear exactly as you intended, offering a consistent user experience.
  2. Universality: Nearly all devices can open a PDF with ease, making it a universal file format. This ensures the employer won’t have trouble accessing your resume.
  3. Professionalism: Sending your resume as a PDF often projects a higher level of professionalism. It suggests you’ve taken the extra step to ensure the document’s formatting and design are preserved.

The Case for Word

Despite the advantages of PDFs, there are cases where a Word document may be a more appropriate choice:

  1. Editability: Word documents are editable, which can be helpful if the employer or recruiter wants to make notes or highlight parts of your resume.
  2. ATS Compatibility: Some older Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) used by employers to scan and sort resumes struggle with PDFs. They can sometimes read Word documents more accurately, making it crucial for your resume to be in this format if the job application specifically asks for it.

How to Decide?

The choice between PDF and Word often depends on the specific circumstances of your job application. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Follow Instructions: Always adhere to the employer’s instructions. If a job listing specifies a preferred format, use it. Not following directions can signal a lack of attention to detail and potentially cost you the opportunity.
  2. ATS Compatibility: If you’re unsure whether an organization uses an ATS, and it’s not specified in the job application, it might be safer to submit your resume in Word format. However, most modern ATS are capable of parsing both Word and PDF files.
  3. Formatting: If your resume includes complex formatting, graphics, or creative design elements that might not display correctly across all word processing software, it’s safer to use a PDF.
  4. Recruiter Preferences: If you’re working with a recruiter, they might prefer a Word document so they can make tweaks or anonymize the resume before forwarding it to employers.

In general, if there are no specific instructions, a PDF is often the safest choice. It guarantees the hiring manager sees your resume as you intended it, complete with your chosen formatting and design elements. However, the Word format should be used if explicitly requested or if you know it is being run through an ATS that struggles with PDFs.


Choosing the correct file format for your resume is a small but crucial step in the job application process. While PDFs offer formatting consistency and a universal user experience, Word documents provide editability and can sometimes be safer for older ATS. Understanding the merits and considerations of each format will enable you to make the right decision for each job application. In this competitive job market, every detail counts, and the format of your resume can subtly influence an employer’s perception of your professionalism and attention to detail.

Closing Thoughts

Engaging a top-tier resume writer to craft your career story can be a game-changing decision. Not only will they skillfully tailor your resume to highlight your unique skills and experiences, but they also provide valuable insights into the submission process. This includes guidance on choosing the correct file format, strategies for passing ATS filters, and tailoring your resume to different roles. Their expertise can give you a competitive edge, ensuring that your resume not only secures the right interviews but that it is also presented in a manner that is consistent with industry standards and expectations. In an increasingly competitive job market, partnering with a seasoned professional can be the strategic investment that propels you into the right position that aligns with your career goals.



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