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Should I Send My Resume’ and Cover Letter as PDF or Word Documents?

December 14, 2016

Share your resume’ in PDF format, unless the job posting or recruiter you are responding to specifically asks for a different format. Resumes in PDF format are preferable because they are compatible with most systems and will not appear differently from one computer to the other.

Should I send my resume as PDF or Doc?


Some companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which is basically a program to automatically scan for specific words within resumes. In this way, only the resumes that make it through this first automated step are reviewed by an actual person, usually the HR representative. In the past, these systems could not process PDF files, and the general wisdom was to submit a .doc file instead. However this is not the case any more.

First, consider that only very large companies use such systems. Most small and medium businesses do not automate the first vetting of your resume’, making such precautions unnecessary. In case a company does use a system that does not process PDF files, they might include a note in the job post – one more reason to read those posts carefully. Nowadays job applicants also share a lot of information on sites such as Glassdoor or Reddit. It’s always a good idea to research a company thoroughly before applying to a position; you might find useful tidbits about resume’ formatting in your search. If a friend or acquaintance works at the company you are applying to, or used to, ask them whether they know what format the HR department prefers for resumes. Lastly, consider paying for LinkedIn Premium and emailing company representatives directly if still in doubt. LinkedIn Premium gives you the ability to send a set number of emails to people outside your network, and also lets you see who posted a specific job as available, how many people are applying, and a wealth of other information.

As mentioned above, PDF should be your format of choice. If you find that it is not accepted at a specific company, then use the .doc format, but avoid .docx. Although .docx has been the default format for Word documents since 2007, some people might use older versions of Word or other software that will not read this relatively newer format.


Always write and design your PDF in Word, or similar program. Even if you are in a creative field, such as web or graphic design, you want your resume’ to be legible by ATS. If you design your resume’ in Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or another graphic design, your will end up with an image file that can be converted into a PDF file, but will not pass a machine scan for specific words. Use Word to write your resume’, and use your higher creative skills to build your portfolio. It won’t be machine scanned, but still convert all JPG to PDF if you are going to share your portfolio as an attachment or downloadable files, as PDF files are more accessible. You can merge and compress multiple PDF files to create just one PDF presentation.

Once you have a great resume’ ready in Word, you can easily convert it to PDF using FoxyUtils Word to PDF tool. If you are not starting from scratch, and for example have an older resume’ you’d like to update, but it’s only in PDF form, simply convert it from PDF to Word, edit it, and then covert it to PDF again. Make sure to check the PDF file once the conversion is done. A few things might appear slightly different and you’ll want to go back and tweak the original .doc file before converting it again.

In some cases, a recruiter might ask you to submit a Word doc so she can edit it for you. While recruiters are awesome and she is probably just working super hard to get you the job of your dreams, ask her to share with you the final edited copy before she submits it. In the end, you are the one responsible for the way your job history is communicated in your resume’.


There are two main ways to submit your resume’ when applying for a job: through an online portal, or by email. Either way, never skip the cover letter!

Often I find that there is no good place to write a cover letter when applying to a job through an online portal: words cannot be hyperlinked in the box provided, the formatting of each paragraph is weird, or there is simply no box to even write a cover letter! No matter whether a cover letter is required or optional, you should always submit one. Repeat after me: I will always submit a cover letter! When applying through a web portal, if the site has a place to write the cover letter in plain text, copy and paste your cover letter and include hyperlinks in parentheses. And always also upload a hyperlinked PDF version of your cover letter. Some web portals will prompt you to upload a cover letter and then will have a separate prompt/box to upload your resume’. In that case, prepare two PDF files (a one-page cover letter + a one-page resume’) and submit both separately within the same application.

If the web portal doesn’t have a separate upload box for your cover letter, merge the two PDF files, your cover letter and your resume’, to create a two-page PDF document. Then upload that document to the resume’ field. I always like to put the cover letter first, so they see it, but you can put it on the second page as well.  The important thing is to send it.

If you are applying for a job by email, the same rule applies: always submit a cover letter with your resume’. If you are responding to an email, or emailing an employer or recruiter waiting for your application, I recommend copying and pasting the cover letter in the body of the email – basically your cover letter becomes the email itself, with a few tweaks. Include all hyperlinks. Then attach your one-page resume’ to the email in PDF format. Include a line at the beginning of your email that says you attached your resume’. And make sure to actually send the attachment 😉

If you are responding by email to a job post, and no one is expecting an email from you, copy and paste both cover letter and resume’ in the body of the email. You’ll have to work on your resume’s look and feel. I recommend sending a test email to a few friends who use different computers and programs to check it, to make sure your resume’ still looks good. Then also attach a two-page PDF file that includes your cover letter and resume’. Include a line in the email that your have attached such a PDF. If you cannot make your resume’ look “good” by copying and pasting it in the email, I suggest using the same approach as in the previous scenario: use your cover letter as the body of your email and attach your one-page resume’ in PDF format.

If you have two PDF files, you can use Merge PDF to merge them into one document. Remember to compress the PDF as well, so it is not too large an attachment, especially when sending it by email. If you find yourself needing to send two separate smaller files, use Split PDF instead. And don’t forget that if you are a FoxyPremium subscriber , or on your free trial, you can take advantage of Workflows to seamlessly merge and compress your files. As a back up, I also always recommend uploading all your resume’ files to Dropbox or Google Drive, that way you can always access and upload them to FoxyUtils, no matter what computer you happen to be using.


One last note: the way you name your files matters! I recommend using Name_LastName_CoverLetter_Resume or a variation of this, e.g. FirstNameInitial_LastName_Resume_Company. Make it very easy for your potential employer or recruiter to find your files, and to know what they are. And make it easy for yourself as well! You should tailor each resume’ and cover letter to the specific company and position you are applying to…but that’s another topic for another post. Happy job hunting!