Even though the question in the title seems rather trivial, in reality – it is a really good and important one. It also gets asked all the time, for all the right reasons. Both file types, .pdf and .docx, have their strong points and weaknesses, making it somewhat difficult for people to decide which file type to use when uploading a resume to job applications. From a beginner’s perspective, it would seem logical to go with the .pdf, as it remains unchanged regardless of the recipient and its machine.
However, the general opinion is that you should definitely go for the MS Word file type, the .docx. There is a good chance a .pdf will create more problems than it will solve.
The advantages of submitting a resume in PDF to employment applications
Unlike Microsoft Word’s .docx files, which behave differently on different machines, a .pdf file will remain the same, no matter who opens it and on which screen. That is probably every .pdf file’s strongest point, and is often advocated as the main reason why people should use it for their resumes.
A .pdf will keep exactly the same layout and design you initially intended. It won’t change fonts, margins, or anything else which can sometimes happen to a .docx file. Moreover, it comes with an extra layer of security, as this type of files cannot easily be changed. Another argument why you should stick to .pdf is that MS Office files also have the option of macros, which can sometimes be used for malicious purposes.
Reasons you should upload your resume in MS Word versus PDF when applying for jobs
There certainly is a possibility for an MS Word file to be displayed incorrectly on the receiver’s machine, but it most likely won’t matter one bit. Macros are also useless here, as well, as they need to be run to be dangerous, which will never happen. Why?
The reason why you should upload your resume in MS Word when applying for jobs is because there’s a good chance the company you’re applying for uses a software system to scan incoming resumes and build a candidate database, based on keywords and search phrases. It won’t care about split margins or incorrect displays, and most certainly won’t run any macros.
It will, however, care if it cannot read the file type in general, or the font inside the document. This is a very common problem with .pdf files, which is why you will want to go with .docx. That’s why you should never upload your resume in PDF to job applications.
You will want to be a part of the recruiter’s database, and not to be discarded. This software they use for scanning, called ATS (Applicant Tracking System) has an easier time reading MS Word files, or files in plaintext, than it does reading .pdf. Sometimes, these PDFs will even need to be printed, then scanned with optical character recognition just to make it through the ATS, and usually – no one has time for that.
If there’s anything on your resume that will make it harder for the recruiter to process, it will eliminate you. You need to have a simple, universally compatible resume.
Get your resume to pass companies software systems
That is why you should choose a MS Word .docx file when uploading your professional resume. Ultimately, you will want your resume to pass the scan, be added to the database and have all the right keywords to be invited in for an interview. If your resume doesn’t get scanned properly, has invalid fonts or other unreadable content, it will get discarded and the hiring manager will never know you applied in the first place.
It is a minor change, to have a resume in one file type or another, yet in the long run it can make all the difference. A custom built, tailored professional resume in MS Word will keep in mind all the little details that make for a perfect resume: the file type, the fonts and font sizes, the graphics and images, how the content is sorted, as well as links to extra content outside the resume.