So just what is the best resume file format and style to resonate most with employers and recruiters? With so many options to choose from, it’s hard for career professionals and job seekers to know the right one to select when sending applications.
To ensure your clients are making it past the initial scan and appealing to the reader, the CDI Education Committee reached out to a handful of recruiters from different industries to find out:
Best resume file format and style: Do you prefer PDF, ATS-compliant, presentation version with graphics, or other? Please specify why you prefer it.
Here’s what they had to say:
Ron Beck | Director of Healthcare Leadership & IT Recruitment at Carecor Health Services Ltd.
As a recruiter, I expect resumes to arrive in .PDF, .DOC, .DOCX, or .RTF file formats. Most software will display your resume properly if they are in one of these formats. Additionally, job seekers would be wise to save the final version of the resume in the .PDF format. This ensures delivery of the most accurate representation of how you want your resume to look. Whereas Word has many different versions and software updates, and if the author and the reader have different versions it may display the resume differently.
For example, the mixture of natural page breaks and the page breaks that you specifically insert can be interpreted differently by various versions of software, and then not appear for the reader as you intended.
When you save your document, the worst file name you can pick is simply ‘Resume’. I also suggest you avoid sharing your resume with file names like ‘Resume for ABC Company on March 15, 2021’. This is a great file name for your working copy on your personal computer, but it implies that you may have just created a resume for a specific vacancy at ABC Company, and so the reader will often wonder how much of it was made up just for their company, resulting in a potential loss of credibility. Instead, use very specific names on your own computer, but just prior to uploading or e-mailing it, change the file name to match your name. For example, it’s best to send files with names like ‘Chris Watson, resume’ and ‘Chris Watson, cover letter’.
From senior-level job seekers, I often appreciate getting two resumes, such as ‘Chris Watson, summary version’ and ‘Chris Watson, fulsome version’.
Finally, always get a family member or trusted associate to proofread your resume. Fresh eyes will often spot typos or ambiguous wording much more quickly than the author, who will usually remember their intention when drafting it, but fail to see other interpretations.
Marc Belaiche | President at TorontoJobs.ca
I prefer resumes in Word format. It helps when I’m searching for keywords in our database for a particular role (as PDF sometimes won’t allow searches by keywords).
Word versions also allow me to make a change to the resume before sending to a client (for example, fixing a typo or grammatical error).
Keep it simple!
Heather Bellingham | Recruiter at Amazon Web Services
I prefer well organized and concise resumes in PDF. When I worked at recruiting agencies early in my career, we preferred Word format in case we wanted to make changes before presenting the resume to a client. However, as an internal recruiter PDF presents well, and you can rely on the formatting to be consistent.
Candidates get way too married to the idea that they need all these keywords and just simply list them. However, your resume should be focused on the results you’ve driven and your achievements. You can incorporate keywords into the bullet points on your resume, describing the results you’ve obtained. Keywords should not be a laundry list taking up prime real estate on your resume.
The best resumes are well-formatted, lead with impact, and only include what is relevant to the job you’re applying to.
Remember bullet points and brevity are your friend. Less is truly more. Also, don’t forget to answer any questions associated with the application with just as much attention as you give your resume. If you’re applying for a sales job, get creative and find the recruiter or hiring manager and email or message them a personalized video – that’s the kind of hunter mentality most people are after and sure to get you noticed!
Christian Kaijser | Managing Director at Career Evolutions
I prefer to receive the resume in a Word format since it is the easiest and most compatible format.
PDF’s work fine as well since they can be converted to Word whenever necessary.
Graphics are both fantastic and a headache, since many application tracking systems struggle to capture the information in an accurate manner. I recommend using graphics in resumes whenever the reader is a person as it’s oftentimes a nice touch and well received.
Arnold Davis, MS, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | Vice President of Talent Management at AmCap Mortgage, LTD
If an applicant is simply emailing a resume, then I prefer PDF. This way it will hold its format and, for the most part, prevent inadvertent changes from being made.
However, I do know some applicant tracking software do not support PDF and require DOC format. So, if the job seeker is applying through a job board that’s being scanned by an ATS then I will add “.doc required” in the instructions.
As for the graphics, I’m just getting familiar with these. Not sure how the systems respond to them, but I do like the way they look. They add style!
Jennifer Stephens | Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Operations at YMCA of Greater Houston
I prefer to receive resumes in a PDF format.
I often receive over 150 resumes for a position, so I prefer resumes that are clean and uncluttered, and that are intuitive to read through.
I like resumes that have something to break up the text, like graphics or charts.
Reading resumes can be tedious, so breaking up information into sections or using formatting to call out important information helps the reader see what’s most important.
Lisa Criss | Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist – Azure at Microsoft
I would say I prefer a PDF, mainly because I find it looks the most professional.
As far as graphics, it depends on the position in which I am recruiting. This rule also applies to pictures and graphics, it depends on the role.
What This Means for Your Client
As we have heard from the recruiters, different application methods call for different resume file formats. There is no one best resume file format and style when applying for jobs. Through coaching, we can help our clients understand the most appropriate formatting style and file type to use, depending on the unique situation.
For instance, there is consensus among the recruiters that presentation versions of resumes including graphics can be visually appealing and easier to read, but that they should only be used when sent directly to the reader. (We’d add that since many recruiters like graphic elements, that you simply need to ensure that critical ATS data isn’t in graphics or that graphics have been made ATS-friendly). Applying through online job boards on the other hand, will often rely on applicant tracking software (ATS) to conduct an initial scan of the resume, and therefore an ATS-compliant document should be uploaded.
As we’ve heard from the recruiters, it’s important that resumes be easily searchable in databases, so there is also an opportunity to teach our clients about file names and tags that can enhance their resume’s ability to be searched for and retrieved. When your client is working with an agency recruiter, it’s best that they send a Word version of their resume, which allows the recruiter to easily modify content.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that as some of the recruiters mention, a successful resume is not just stuffed with keywords or graphic elements; instead it is thoughtfully written and designed to display story examples and proof that showcase how the key required skills were put to use. Remember, that you never know where your client’s resume will end up so it’s important that it resonates with the need of all audiences.
Of course, it’s always important to remind clients to fully read application instructions or follow special advice provided by the recruiter they are working with.
Graphic Resume Design and ATS with Marie Plett (Q&A Video Lesson)
How to Design ATS-Friendly Graphic Resumes with Marie Plett (Video Master Class)