PDF vs. Word: What’s the Best Way to Submit Your Resume?

Quick Navigation:

When you are ready to submit a digital version of your resume, you have two options—you can attach your resume as a Word document, or you can attach it as a PDF. Although either is acceptable, it’s important to understand the difference so that you can choose the best file format for your situation. In this article, you can explore the advantages and disadvantages of using a PDF or a Word document when uploading your resume online or attaching via email.

Should you use a PDF or a Word document to submit your resume?

Most employers will accept either a Word document or PDF file, leaving the decision up to you. Although both file types have their own pros and cons, PDF is usually the better choice. Sending your resume as a PDF file will preserve the formatting and ensure that the document looks exactly the way you intended.

Before submitting your resume, be sure to check the employer’s instructions. Some employers will specify the type of file you should submit, and in that case, you should adhere to their requirements. Sending a PDF when they asked for a Word file may leave them with a negative impression of your ability to follow directions.

When to use a PDF

In most situations, you should submit your resume as a PDF. The only exception to this rule is if the employer specifically asks for a different file type, such as a Word document. Often, the job posting will specify which format you should use when submitting your resume. If you are filling out an online application that asks you to upload your resume, you should see instructions that explain which file types are acceptable. If you cannot find any language that suggests the employer has a preference, sending a PDF is the safer choice. However, if possible, you should note that you are willing and able to send a Word document if that is easier for them.

Examples of the advantages of using a PDF file:

  • A wide range of programs can be used to open and view PDF files.
  • Your document will look the same no matter what computer or program is used to open it.
  • Margins, fonts, images and other formatting choices will be preserved.
  • A PDF file prevents the recipient from making inadvertent changes to your document.

Examples of the disadvantages of using a PDF file:

  • PDF files generally take up more storage space.
  • Some employers use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan for keywords and sift through resumes, and their ATS may not support PDF files or may have trouble scanning them.

When to use a Word document

Only send your resume as a Word document if that is what the employer asks for. Some companies do still prefer Word documents, and they have good reasons for that. They may be using an applicant tracking system (ATS) that works best with Word documents. In that case, sending a PDF may hurt your chances because the ATS software may not be able to pick up the keywords in your resume. Large companies are especially likely to use an ATS, and it’s worth checking to see if they do before you send your resume.

You should also use Word if you want the recipient to be able to edit your resume. For instance, if you are applying through a recruitment company or employment agency, sending your resume as a Word document gives them the opportunity to correct any errors they spot or optimize it for ATS scanning.

Examples of the advantages of using a Word document:

  • Some ATS programs do a better job scanning Word documents than PDF files.
  • Word files tend to be smaller than PDF files.
  • Word documents can be easily edited.

Examples of the disadvantages of using a Word document:

  • The recipient could make changes by accident.
  • Not all businesses use Microsoft Word.
  • The formatting choices might not show up correctly if the file is opened through a program other than Microsoft Word.

Frequently asked questions

How can I find out which file type an employer prefers?

If you found the position online, the job posting will often specify which type of file you should submit. You may also find instructions within the application itself or in other job postings from the same company. Keep in mind that the instructions may say that either file type is acceptable, which means the choice is up to you.

In some cases, you might not be able to find the information anywhere. For instance, a job posting may simply say, ‘To apply, email your resume to parkerwilliams@email.org.’ In that case, you could ask which file type they would prefer, or you could attach two copies of your resume—one in PDF format and one in Word format. Reaching out to the hiring manager to clarify will demonstrate initiative, show that you care about the job and help you stand out.

How can I tell if my resume is formatted as a PDF or Word document?

To tell whether a document is formatted as a PDF or Word file, look at the end of the file name. You should see a period followed by a few letters. If the file name ends with .pdf, the document is a PDF. If the file name ends with .doc or .docx, it is a Word document.

How do I change the file format?

Any document you create in Microsoft Word can be easily converted to PDF format within the Word program. Simply navigate to the ‘File’ menu and click on ‘Export’ or ‘Save As.’ These options will allow you to change the file to PDF format before you save, download or share the document. You can also find online applications that will allow you to convert a file from one format to another. Adobe Acrobat also has this capability.

Can a PDF be edited?

One common reason for submitting your resume as a PDF instead of as a Word document is to preserve the formatting and content. However, if you have the right software, you can edit a PDF. Making changes to a PDF document is more difficult than making changes to a Word document, but it is not impossible. With that being said, PDF is a safer choice because it prevents accidental changes. Editing a PDF requires a very deliberate process, whereas making changes to a Word document can be done inadvertently.