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

December 14, 2016

Edited: March 15th, 2019.

Share your resume in PDF format, unless the job post 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 change in appearance from one computer to another.

Should I send my resume as PDF or Doc?

PDF vs DOC vs DOCX

Some companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which are programs used to automatically scan for specific words within resumes. When this method is used, 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, so the general wisdom was to submit a .doc file instead. However, this is no longer the case.

First, consider that only very large companies use these systems. Most small and medium-sized businesses do not automate the first stage of vetting of your resume, making such precautions unnecessary. In case a company does use a system that can’t process PDF files, they will probably 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 or used to work at the company you are applying 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 you’re still in doubt. LinkedIn Premium gives you the ability to send a set number of emails to people outside of your network, lets you see who posted available jobs, 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’s 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 may still be using older versions of Word or other software that will not read this relatively newer format.

WORD to PDF and PDF to WORD

Always write and design your PDF in Word, or a similar program. Even if you are in a creative field, such as web or graphic design, you’ll want your resume to be legible by ATS. If you design your resume in Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or another graphic design program, you 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 creative skills to build your portfolio. Your portfolio won’t be machine scanned, but still convert all JPG to PDFs if you’re going to share your portfolio as an attachment or as downloadable files, as PDF files are more accessible. You can merge PDF documents and also compress PDF files (even compress multiple PDF files at the same time) to create one PDF presentation.

Once you have your resume ready in Word, you can easily convert it to PDF format using the FoxyUtils Word to PDF tool. Maybe you’re not starting from scratch and 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 format again. Make sure to check the PDF file after the final conversion. There may be a few things that appear slightly different that you’ll want to go back and tweak in the original .doc file before converting it again.

In some cases, a recruiter might ask you to submit a Word document so they can edit it for you. While recruiters can be very helpful and they are probably just going the extra mile to help you get the job of your dreams, ask her to share the final edited copy with you before she submits it. In the end, you are the one responsible for the way your job history is communicated in your resume.

UPLOADING YOUR RESUME vs. EMAIL ATTACHMENTS

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!

I often 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 isn’t even a box provided to write a cover letter! Regardless of 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 provides a space to write the cover letter in plain text, copy and paste your cover letter and include hyperlinks in parentheses. Also, always also upload a hyperlinked PDF version of your cover letter. Some web portals will prompt you to upload a cover letter and provide a separate prompt/box to upload your resume.In that case, prepare two PDF files (a one-page cover letter and 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.

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 awaiting your application, I recommend copying and pasting the cover letter in the body of the email so your cover letter essentially 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 the attachment sends successfully.

If you are responding to a job post by email, 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 make sure your resume transfers correctly. Also attach a two-page PDF file that includes your cover letter and resume. Include a line in the email that mentions that you have attached the PDF files. 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 isn’t too large, especially when sending it by email. If you find yourself needing to send two smaller separate files, use Split PDF instead. 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, it’s always a good idea to upload all of 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.

NAMING YOUR FILES

One last note: the way you name your files matters! A good format is: 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. 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!