Use PDF To Make Sure Any Employer Can Read Your Resume

Use PDF To Make Sure Any Employer Can Read Your Resume

Sending a resume isn’t always the best way to score a job, but if one is required you want to make sure it gets read. Reader Owen reminds us of one of the most obvious but often neglected resume strategies: send it as a PDF so you can be sure your recipient can read it.

Owen explains the importance of this in his own words:

When emailing resumes to potential employers, send them in PDF format. Formats used by word processing software such as MS Office or Open Office are not always readable by the people who receive your job applications. PDF is such a common file format that it’s almost guaranteed that the recipient will have some kind of PDF reader on hand, whatever the operating system.

To make sure your PDF resume gets noticed, check out our top 10 ways to rock your resume. Thanks Owen!


  • I worked in recruitment for a few years and I still have some friends in that space.. we cringed every time we say a resume come in PDF… Word loaded quicker and we were able to scour through it so much easier.

    Just my 2 cents..

    • My own anecdotal experience says that half the recruitment agencies don’t even accept PDFs.

      Using SEEK, etc, if they have specified that you must send in a DOC format resume, the forms wont let you upload a .pdf (or .docx for that matter).

  • If PDF isn’t loading quicker than word then you’re doing something wrong.

    PDF is an OPEN document STANDARD. Word is a proprietary format which isn’t even standard between versions of itself. This should be a no-brainer.

  • I understand sending a PDF if applying directly to a company, however when applying to a recruitment company it is much better to use Word. Agents need to format your CV to fit into a template before sending to a client, and it is much easier and less time consuming if it is in Word format.

    Personally I also find Acrobat Reader to be a little clunky and slow.

    Yes I am a recruiter 🙂

          • That’s insane.. it’s his job to format the resume to comply with their standard which is what their client is probably use to..

            I’m sure his more than capable of using a different program to open up PDF’s but you obviously think everyone has admin access to their machine and can install software in their enterprise network willy nilly?

            Plus Acrobat is the standard PDF reader? I’m sure he has to use acrobat to read other documents? Imagine some of them have compatibility issues with selected documents and don’t display properly?

            So much work to get around what a user could easily fix and that is to send the CV in the format it was originally written in. WORD!!

          • Not necessarily in MS Word. For example; I’m applying for a Unix Sys Admin job – It’s not unreasonable to assume I live in a *nix world, devoid of MS products.

            My best alternative is Open/Libre Office. Sure, I can save out to MS .doc format from these suites, but given the propriety nature of the format, there is bound to be at least one formatting / display error when opened by the recruiter.

            Then what? The recruiter doesn’t know / care that I’m actually using the software that qualifies me for the job. No, instead I’m passed over for the position in favour of someone who lives in an MS world…

            That sounds like a crappy situation to be in, just because the recruiter follows the cookie-cutter rules and has no idea what an alternative PDF reader is.

            Btw; ever heard of portable apps? Plug a USB drive in with a portable version of a PDF reader on it – no need to install any apps. If you can’t run executables from a portable drive – upload it to Google Docs and let it do the formatting work for you (but this may suffer from the same issues as an .doc file does).

            In summary; stop being lazy and using “It’s company policy” as an excuse at the expense of talented people potentially missing out on a job.

  • Yup, pdf is the optimal format. It conforms to web accessibility guidelines, and can be read on a wider variety of machines than office docs.

    You shouldn’t be using wacky fonts in your resume, but if for some reason you do, your Word doc (unless saved as RTF) won’t port them across.

    And with sites like (and those handy print-to plugins, anyone can create a pdf with little or no effort.

  • PDF is designed around giving the content creater having control over the document’s content and presentation. DOC/DOCX gives the content consumer (in this instance – the recruiter) control. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why most people with half a clue are more than happy to send PDFs but hate receiving them.

  • It’s obviously a bad idea, But I had my resume in plain text for a while to make sure it was universally readable. I somehow managed to get a job with it at the time.

    I work at a recruitment agency of sorts, and all resumes are changed to the default (word) template. Other filetypes are generally fine, but there are always some people who just scan in their old resume and say ‘its a pdf, you can use it’.

  • My resume had a few simple formatting tricks employed. Mainly because it looked nice but also because it is for low-level admin roles so it showed that wasn’t just mashing the keys with my fist and hoping to get something.

    Whenever a recruiter touched it, they’d reformat it into some mangled mess.

    Sending it in PDF format might have solved that little dilemma. If any recruiter would actually accept it in PDF instead of DOC.

  • I’m not sure what Alternate Universe Owen is living in…

    But as an IT Contractor, I have worked with recruitment agents for 10+ years and I can tell you that virtually none of them like to receive a resume in pdf format. They will almost always reply asking for it in DOC format.

    After years of trying, I have now given up on sending my resume to them in pdf and send it to them as a Word doc.

    • Furthermore I think it also shows the recruiter you know how to use word… I’ve seen way too many CV’s that looked nice in PDF but were written horribly in word.. ie.. using spacebar to align things and not using the correct tabs to move tables etc.

      • Using tabs to align things is no better than using space. Tab width is an option that can differ from one software to another. If you send a doc to a machine with different tab width configuration, you text will probably get messed up. That’s why pdf is far better to maintain a universal readability across different machines. Personally I use real borderless table, instead of tabs, to align items in the resume and provide both source file(LibreOffice) and pdf. I’m can put my money into better use than getting hold of a copy of MS Office.

  • Well this is an eye opener and complete shock to me. I have been sending my resume as PDF’s for ages now simply because it is so much easier to read than word documents.

    I’ve never had a recruiter email back for a doc file.
    The only time that I have uploaded a doc file was when the application website specifically asked for .doc but most allow for .doc or .pdf

  • Oh… Owen you crafty bastard, i see whats going on, you tell everyone to send their resumes as a PDF file knowing that most will get rejected and you might have a better chance of the employer reading your resume and you getting the job.

  • SEEK and most recruitment agencies want you to use word so that they may delete your contact information from yuor resume before they foward it on to employers.
    They get cheated out of finders fees frequently if they don’t.

  • Having been on Windows computers for years, PDF’s were the bane of my existence and I’d always try to get something in Word format.

    Now on mac, the OSX Preview application opens incredibly fast and handles everything far smoother than starting up MS Word. I find PDF’s easier to handle as well. Much easier to navigate, can make table of contents built into it and I can easily merge PDF’s by pages and save them as one big file which is great for compiling lecture notes.

  • Stupid article that does not know the industry at all. Recruiters want DOC not PDF, that is well know.

    My personal opinion PDF are much better. If I have a say in this, I prefer PDF as I don’t use word to write my documents.

    Now, I cannot change the fact that recruiters have only basic computer (and word) and because of that they can only accept DOC files.

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