Which CV format do employers prefer?

Best Resume The Ultimate Guide to PDF vs. Word

Preparing your resume can be confusing. There are many options and a lot of conflicting advice. What is the best format for your resume? Many job seekers are surprised.

Whether you are purchasing resume services or using a template to create your own resume, it is important to keep up with resume trends. Using the best resume format can mean the difference between your resume and the attention that leads to an interview or a resume that is ignored. It is important to use the correct resume format to get results.

In this article, we provide the ultimate guide to PDF vs. Word life formats. We compare the advantages and disadvantages of the two formats. We also discuss other frequently asked questions about organizing your CV. For example, let's look at which resume structure to use or whether to use a template. We'll also go into the tools commonly used to create resumes.

PDF versus Word: which is the best resume format?

Are you ready? Let's begin.

What recruiters look for on a resume

To understand what recruiters are looking for on a resume, it is important to first examine what usually happens to your resume after you submit it. While you might imagine a dedicated recruiter carefully reviewing your resume and application the moment you submit them, the reality is often very different.

In most medium and large businesses, the applicant's software (ATS) usually does the initial review of your resume. ATS software searches your resume for keywords and experiences that the company is looking for. CVs that do not meet the defined criteria will be rejected and will not go further in the application process. Resumes that match the criteria are sorted by match. The higher the rank, the more likely it is that your resume will be sent to recruitment professionals.

So your resume needs to do two things. It must:

  • Go through ATS software
  • makes a good impression on human readers

As you can see, ATS software plays an important role in the recruiting process. Can you bypass a company's ATS software and have your resume checked by a human professional? The answer is ... maybe.

When you apply for a job online or through the company's website, chances are your resume will go through the ATS software. However, if you know someone in the company through networks, you may be able to bypass the ATS software. Often times, if your contact is willing to vouch for you and send your resume straight to the hiring manager, you can get your resume in front of someone without going through the ATS process.

To learn more about how to make your resume appealing to a recruiter, check out this tutorial:

However, in most cases, the ATS software will play an important role in whether your resume will be considered for a position. It is important to use the best resume format to go through an ATS software screening.

PDF Resume Format vs. Word Resume Format

You may be wondering which resume format to use when applying for a job online. The most important rule is to read the Tasklist carefully and follow all instructions in the list.

If you want to attach a resume in DOCX format to the list, use a Word resume format. If the applicant asks for a PDF to be attached, use a PDF resume format. When the Tasklist asks you to cut and paste the text of the recovery into the body of an email (I've seen lists calling for it), do it. Follow the instructions.

But what if you have a choice? What if the online application form accepts CVs in different formats? Is one format better than the other?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of the PDF resume format compared to the Word resume format. Here is a handy table to help you compare the benefits of the two formats:

Word Resume Format - Benefits
PDF Resume Format - Advantages
One of the most widely used word processing tools. Many organizations use it.
Regardless of the platform, the file can be easily opened with a free reader.
Other word processing tools can also import this format.
Doesn't matter which system it is currently on.
Preferred by headhunting agencies because they allow the resume to be enhanced or featured.
Prevents the resume from being changed accidentally or on purpose.
ATS scanning software can easily find keywords and criteria.
Newer ATS software can accept most PDF files (but not PDF image files).
Many HR departments prefer DOCX files.
Resume PDF files typically do not have software viruses.

Let's also look at the cons:

Word Resume Format - ConsPDF resume format - cons
Information can be misleadingly changed or accidentally deleted.
Older ATS software cannot find keywords in PDF files.
May contain a software virus.
Some ATS systems may miss portions of resumes formatted in PDF.
The look may change if opened in a different tool or platform than the one it was created on.
While it is widely used, not everyone has a PDF reader or wants to download one.

As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both Word and PDF formats. It is a good idea to keep an up-to-date version of your resume in any format so that you can provide everything that is required to open a job.

Other formats

You may be wondering about other resume formats. Here are some resume formats that are sometimes used:

  • HTML - Some job seekers design an HTML résumé to show that they are web savvy. You can even post it on your own website. An advantage of this format is that employers can access it at any time and the link can be shared while the network is running.
  • RTF - To avoid compatibility issues, some applicants prepare their résumés in Rich Text Format (RTF). While RTF is compatible with most platforms and ATS systems, it can come with limited formatting options.
  • Graphic image - Another tactic to get attention on your resume is to create a graphic picture. It can be an infographic or some other graphic design. This is especially common for creative professionals. However, ATS systems may have difficulty recognizing the text in an image.

A nontraditional resume works best when presented directly to someone who can review it. If you want to submit a non-traditional resume format, it is a good idea to add a more traditional format as well.

To learn more about creative résumés, check out this tutorial:

Additional considerations for the ATS format

When looking for the best resume document format that will work with an ATS, keep in mind that ATS software may not read text in images. While some ATS systems use optical character recognition (OCR) software to extract text from images, it is not reliable. So when submitting a resume on an online system, avoid using logos, photos or other graphic images whenever possible.

You should also be careful when creating a resume in PDF format. Some PDF resumes are created with a document scanner to create an image of a resume on paper. ATS software cannot reliably scan these types of resume documents.

If you choose to have a resume in PDF format, the best way to do it is using Word, InDesign, or any other word processing program that has an export function.

While ATS software just keeps getting better at optical recognition, it is better to use the actual text in your resume document and use easy-to-read, popular fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, or Times New Roman.

Headers and footers in a document can also confuse the ATS. It is best to avoid them if you can.

The format of the resume is important, as is how you organize your resume. This article would not be complete without an overview of the different ways you can organize your resume.

How should you organize your resume?

There are basically four ways you can organize your resume. The four types of resume organization are:

  1. Chronological curriculum vitae- This resume format lists your current and previous jobs in the order you had them. The youngest job is listed first and the oldest job is listed last.
  2. Function summary- Instead of listing your previous jobs in the order you had them, a functional resume lists your job skills.
  3. Continue combination- A composite resume combines some of the characteristics of a chronological and functional resume.
  4. Creative resume - A creative resume is an unconventional resume structure designed to grab an employer's attention. This can be a graphic, a chart, or even a website or video.

Each type of resume organization is detailed in these tutorials:

If you suspect an ATS is scanning your resume, does it matter how it's organized?

It could. Many career professionals believe that using a non-traditional resume structure (such as a functional resume or a composite resume) may make it difficult for the software to find your employment information. If you don't want your resume to be rejected by ATS software, it is best to save these resume structures for interviews and networking.

On the other hand, having a non-traditional resume format and organizational structure can give you an advantage in a small company or startup where resumes are still being reviewed by people.

Here is a list of other mistakes that could cause your resume to be rejected, even after passing ATS screening:

We've talked a lot about the best resume format and how to organize your resume. Let's discuss what tools you can use to build your resume.

What is the best resume creation tool?

Clearly, if you are creating a resume in Word format, Word is a great choice. You may also be able to create your resume in another word processor and export it to a DOCX format. If you choose to do this, carefully review the exported resume to make sure your formatting remains consistent.

Learn how to create a resume in Word:

When creating a resume in PDF format, you have the following options:

  • illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • InDesign

The benefit of using these tools to build your resume is that you have more graphic formatting options and more flexibility. An Illustrator resume, Photoshop resume, or InDesign resume is more likely to impress human reviewers.

Graphic artists and other creative people in particular need to pay particular attention to what their resumes look like. Employers who hire creative people often expect a more eye-catching resume format. Making a visually impactful resume can also set you apart from a wide variety of applicants when one person is reviewing a resume.

Where can I find resume templates?

If you don't have the time to come up with a professional looking resume yourself, a resume template could be the answer. The right template can save you hours of planning. Most of the templates can be customized to suit your needs.

Professional resume templates can be found on Envato Market (GraphicRiver) that allow you to save the resume in a resume format of your choice: Word, PDF, and more.

Here is a selection of some of our best resume templates:

It's great when you email a contact for a new job at a startup, network in person, or want to make a creative impression when applying.

Which is the best resume format for you?

Choosing the best resume format and how to organize your resume can be confusing. There are several options available. It is important to know who you are sending the resume to. With a little preparation, you can choose the right resume format for your needs.

Use this article as a guide to answer your questions about the best resume format for your needs. Here are some key points:

  • Make sure you can continue scanning - When creating your résumé, keep in mind that applications for an online job posting will likely be checked for keywords on a computer running ATS software before it is checked by a staff member. Making sure your resume is in a computer searchable format can prevent rejection.
  • Keep it organized - The way your information is organized on your resume is also important. Organize your information in a way that makes sense to you. Pay attention to the ATS software.
  • Use the right tools - Using the right tool and template to create your resume can also help make your resume look more professional. A template can also save you hours of design time if you don't have extensive design skills.
  • Have several versions of the resume available - Many job seekers create two versions of their professional résumé. Create one résumé for online applications and another one for situations where you know someone is reviewing your résumé.
  • Follow the instructions for use - Always follow the CV format instructions when applying to an online job list. Employers know which format they prefer and failure to follow directions can result in your resume being rejected.

You can now choose the resume format that best suits your need. Whether you choose a resume in PDF format or a Word resume is up to you. Whatever your choice, best wishes for your job search!