186

FOREWORD

I prefer to create documents in formats such as LaTeX, Markdown or RMarkdown. They're platform and version (of the particular editor) independent. You can export them to good looking PDF that is (I think) de facto standard for the CV.

Unfortunately some recruiters force to "provide them an editable CV" which almost each time means a Word file. Obviously I could send them .tex file, but many of them are not familiar with such formats.

QUESTIONS

  1. How to deal with such requests? I'm not very comfortable with that they're going to edit information contained in my CV. Wouldn't it be not more correct to offer them amended version of the CV myself (for example address removed)?
  2. Regardless of my preferred formats / open standards, creating good looking CV in .docx, requires a license of MS Word. Obviously there're other tools (LibreOffice, Google Docs) that provides capabilities to export the result to MS Word. Even LaTeX could be converted to such format. Unfortunately, in many cases the output does not look good. According to this, could recruiter demand obtaining MS Word license?
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 8 '18 at 13:26

16 Answers 16

205

I'm in the same situation - my CV is in LaTeX and I produce a PDF file for my CV.

When recruiters ask for a Word file, I tell them that I cannot do that, because I don't own a copy of Word, or a computer which will run Word.

Assuming by "recruiters" you mean recruitment agencies:

The companies that you are applying to don't care that your CV is PDF instead of Word, it's only the recruitment companies in the middle, and unless you're fresh out of education with no experience, they'll try and accommodate you because that's their job; there will be other recruitment agencies trying to fill the same positions that they are competing with.

What I do instead, is offer an alternative PDF version that has my contact details removed from it - it's easy to build this from the same LaTeX source. Sometimes this is good enough for them, other times they copy and paste the contents of my CV into a Word document themselves.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 8 '18 at 14:43
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    Moderator note: Off-topic comments deleted. Please use comments only to ask for more information or to suggest improvements. Further off-topic comments will also be deleted without notice. – Masked Man Jun 12 '18 at 4:25
  • other times they copy and paste the contents of my CV into a Word document You know a current Word version can actually just open a PDF (and save to another format) – Daniel Jun 21 '18 at 8:57
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    @Daniel in that case, recruiters demanding a Word format file is even more ridiculous – SpoonMeiser Jun 21 '18 at 9:19
266

How to deal with them?

You either give them what they have asked for, or you don't work with them.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 8 '18 at 13:52
249
+100

Welcome to the real world. Sometimes you have to work with other people - while you may prefer to keep your CV in LaTeX or whatever else, that's not how the industry works. They want Word and the vast majority of candidates are happy to do that.

Therefore you have a choice: give them a copy of your CV in Word, or don't work with that recruiter. Ask yourself a question: is this really a battle worth fighting? If you're a strong proponent of Free Software, it might be, then it's a valid choice. But for most people, it's probably not.

To be honest, the fact that you are reluctant to fulfill their request may give a bad impression, as it may read as "high maintenance, unwilling to make reasonable compromises" - have a serious think about whether that's the attitude you want to project when looking for a job.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 8 '18 at 14:45
129

Recruiters often demand this because they'll need to edit it to remove your direct contact information so the company can't go around them and get out of paying their fee. That is a pretty crucial component of the recruiter's business. You can't really expect them to forego that.

In addition to this, bigger recruiting firms often times have a process where they copy edit and layout their candidate's resumes in a specific way with generally equal formatting, a company logo for the recruiter and some other information they collect on the applicant added. This is part of the service these recruiters provide.

In theory, they could do that if you gave them the LaTeX source code, too, but in practice .docx is standard for this and having extra processes for other formats is often not worth it for them.

You could probably offer them a .odt file if you're so averse to just converting it into a word file, but you probably won't get away without at least giving them something editable.

In the end the only leverage you have here is not working with them, though.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 14 '18 at 14:00
71

I had this scenario a couple of months ago, the ultimatum is exactly as other answers say: Either comply with their requests or don't work with them and risk losing invaluable opportunities.

I asked why they wanted it in Word format and two separate recruiters got back to me saying round about in the same way:

  • They like to be able to extract text or reword sentences to put into their own templates which their company uses to pass onto clients.
  • This can be so client received standardized formats of each candidate which increases fairness of each candidate and make sure each resume has an equal chance.
  • A standardized format may or may not exclude personal information such as contact information, so the client is reliant on the recruitment company to contact the candidate. This is because there were instances of clients receiving resumes and then bypassing the recruitment company to make recruitment themselves, losing the recruitment company revenue.

If you are unable to obtain a Word license, have you tried using OpenOffice or LibreOffice? They are Free Open-Source Software (FOSS), which includes the principle of free to use and can save documents of a Word format such as .doc, .docx. You don't have to put as much effort into the formatting of the text, as long as it has some basic neatness.

A quick refactor and migration of information from your current LaTeX resume over to a Word compatible one can open up so many more opportunities. Your aim is to expand your horizons, not box yourself.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 8 '18 at 14:46
47

I also have a ModernCV based CV, and to the few recruiters who ask for a word based CV I just use latex2rtf, a tool available in most distributions and through homebrew as well.

While .rtf is not .doc, it is a format that can be opened by all major word processors, and can be easily edited and converted to .doc as well. While it doesn't keep all of the subtle niceties of ModernCV, it does a fairly good job in keeping the generic structure of the document, which is what recruiters need anyway. Yes, it will look like a website without CSS applied, but it will retain the main structure (job title headers, bullet points, additional details provided, etc.), which most CVs need anyway. If the recruiter wants to edit it then can add their own design to this easily.

Note although some recruiters accept PDFs, they will try to import it to word and edit it, which sometimes result in horrendous results. I once saw the CV the recruiter sent over to the company I was applying and it became a huge mess (paragraphs were overlayed on each other, text was cropped at the side of the page, half blank pages, etc. - just so they could add their logo to every page), so I sometimes also ask the recruiters if they usually modify CVs and then send over the .rtf version as well. They never complained that it's not .doc. (Also because of this as an interviewer I try not to give too much attention to the design of the CVs, especially if it comes through recruiters)

  • Yes, I know this tool. However, once I tried it...the result was very bad, there was no formatting. Probably, I'm missing some packages (?) or I have an old one. – matandked Jun 8 '18 at 11:00
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    @matandked: note that for most jobs you don't really need the full formatting (colours, design, etc) - just the structure itself (titles, bullet points, text, etc.), which the tool retains. Yes it will look like a homepage without CSS applied, but a lot of CVs are actually just that anyway - and a lot of recruiters will convert your nice CV into a simple structure of bullet points anyway – SztupY Jun 8 '18 at 11:11
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    Using Pandoc to convert from LaTeX to Word might work as well, at least for the initial conversion. – kristjan Jun 12 '18 at 22:32
29

There are multiple levels of desperation that determine how far you should play according to their rules and how much they should play to your rules or be ignored.

Option 1, Desperation level low: If you are not desperate for a job, just don't work with them. Preferably let them know that creating a Word file is too much of a hassle for you. This gives them the opportunity to back off from their demand and accept your PDF or at the least it is some feedback for them to think about changing the way they work.

Option 2, Medium Desperation level: If you somewhat need the job, get LibreOffice (or another free Office tool) and produce a Word (docx) document with it. Tell them you used that software instead of original Word because you don't privately own a license and that therefore it might look garbled up when they look at it with their MS Word. This means they get something that may directly work for them or need some low to medium effort to fix the formatting. But it's a compromise with a good chance for them to be satisfied or ask any missing information lost in the transformation directly. They might also decide to go with your PDF option and, again, it provides feedback to them that their way isn't the fully accepted standard.

Option 3, High Desperation level: If you really need the job, get an MS Word license and copy your CV. There are some tools that provide an auto-generated skeleton from a Latex source, I think, but last time I checked, they still required some manual work.

Personal Opinion: Recruiters provide a service to companies and to workers. They can only flourish if they keep both happy. Their profession is to smooth out the initial contact so the ones that fit each other find together without the hassle of establishing first contact. They should be good in communicating to both and they should know that there are these oddball engineers who don't use the typical marketing business toolchain, as they have their own preferred and established tool chain. Therefore, in my opinion, any recruiter that insists on such technical details is a bad recruiter (or he is in a very comfortable situation where he as too many good candidates already). He may ask for his preferred format, but he should always be able to accommodate (reasonable) choices of both a company or a candidate. It's exactly his job to translate between both! I'd simply move on, letting him know why.

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    Option 3 is a good idea for high desperation level. :) The cheapest Office365 license is about 7€ per month (and subscription can be cancelled after getting the work done), so if someone gets a dream job offer, cost of Word license is not a big deal. On Linux machines, editing in Word in browser generally works too, no need to install anything. – miroxlav Jun 8 '18 at 15:13
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    You could also use the computers at your local library -- they most likely have MS office installed already. – Paul Belanger Jun 8 '18 at 20:26
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    Desperation #3 is technically unnecessary, LibreOffice supports almost the entirety of the docx format, last time I checked. They asked for "Word format", not necessarily with certification that you authored the file in question with the original implementer of that format. Good answer anyways. – Kroltan Jun 10 '18 at 1:11
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    @Kroltan I did go the option 2 route with the HR department of my new company a week ago: I opened a Word-document with Libre or OpenOffice (would need to look up) filled in stuff, saved it as docx and sent it back. in Word the format was broken and one line of content was apparently not readable, as they specifically asked for it. So, in theory you may be right, in practice I have to disagree ;) (even if this was OpenOffice, I typically use LibreOffice and some minor distortions tend to come up from time to time). – Frank Hopkins Jun 10 '18 at 1:15
  • @Darkwing I have seen so many instances where it isn't just the formatting that is broken, but vital information is missing. DOCX is not an interchange format. – user60393 Jun 11 '18 at 21:49
28

You did not include what level position you are aiming for.

For a standard position, Masked Man has the correct answer. They have their standard procedure and won't bend it for you, end of discussion.

For senior positions, where the recruiter doesn't have 20 candidates lined up but is happy for each one he can find, you absolutely make the rules and if you don't have it in Word, he will bend for you. Simply answer with the facts, because he probably assumes that you have a Word file and don't want to give it otherwise. Send him the LaTeX file and a note explaining that you write the CV in this format and there is no Word file, otherwise you would have supplied it.

My CV is in Apple Pages and exported to PDF and I've yet to have a recruiter walk out on me because of that. Some ask for a Word file, some don't, but so far everyone accepted it that a Word file simply doesn't exist and that's it.

  • I'm applying to mid and senior positions. Such request are not very common, but I receive them from time to time. According to discussion here, I've tried to rewrite my question to make it more clear. – matandked Jun 8 '18 at 10:57
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    @matandked It's likely that the recruiters insisting on this are looking for quantity rather than quality. They may even be the sort who imply to candidates that they represent companies and imply to companies that they represent candidates, when in fact they have an established agreement with neither. Perhaps they are not the ones you want to work with. – Chris Stratton Jun 8 '18 at 17:24
19

Your reasons are good and exactly why I prepare my CV in .pdf format if it is going to a recruiter. Bad recruiters will happily mess up your carefully prepared CV and even alter the information given. Your CV is your representation to potential employers, it is both sensible and reasonable to insist that it remains completely under your control. Good recruiters will usually have no problem with you editing the CV to satisfy their needs (which is usually just removing contact details) and I have done this in the past.

I would tell the recruiter that you can make any changes they need made, and if they're not happy with that simply decline their services. In my opinion, a recruiter who demands Word is probably a bad recruiter and you're not missing much, but unfortunately even bad recruiters can be gatekeepers to good jobs.

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    I once interviewed a candidate who had a few bits of weird experience listed on their CV. There was one particular line that combined a load of buzzwords, but in such a way that they cancelled each other out and were nonsense. I asked the candidate about it, and they had no good explanation for the line, and they didn't get the job. A couple of weeks later, we got another candidate through from the same recruiter, with the same nonsense experience. That candidate got the job, at least in part because it was now clear why that line was there. But the recruiter sold the first candidate short. – James_pic Jun 13 '18 at 10:34
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Let's not forget that most CVs are first parsed by a machine, and only the better ones are passed on to humans. The Word requirement may well be about making your resume readable by the Applicant Tracking System. Write for the ATS Machine, it is unimpressed by fancy formatting !

How to Get Your Resume Past the ATS Robots - The Muse

[...] Many large organizations rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help pre-filter resumes. The systems work by scanning resumes for contextual keywords and key phrases, mathematically scoring them for relevance, and sending only the most qualified ones through for human review.[...]

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    Well, to be honest, I think that this might be not the case, because I was contacted by the head hunter. So, I'm already talking with real human. But, of course it's interesting point! – matandked Jun 8 '18 at 10:59
15

If you can get your hands on (borrow) a licensed copy of Word, it does a surprisingly good job of importing a LaTeX-produced PDF. I was in the same position: a funding body wanted my CV on file in word format, while I keep it in LaTeX (worth doing in academia, as you can automatically import and format a publications list). Word manages to handle ligatures (ff to ff for example - try selecting). I used the ModernCV template in LaTeX.

Of course the resulting Word file needs some fine-tuning, but as you should be going through your CV for each application (or for the field the recruiter is trying to match you to) this isn't too onerous. A few dingbats were broken (bullets became {s, and the icons for email and phone number became letters -- a font substitution issue); and the output of \latex was offensive in its ugliness (a nice demonstration?). What doesn't work is reflowing the text, including hyphenation over line breaks.

Libreoffice is much less successful and I don't recommend it.

Instead of maintaining a Word copy, regard it as a snapshot, and update it only on major changes. If I had to do this on a semi-regular basis I'd write a Word macro for post-processing, but I have considerable experience of Office macros in previous jobs.


Some examples follow, to illustrate the discussion in the comments (only lightly censored to remove personal info).

Original LaTeX PDF:

enter image description here

Imported directly into Word:

enter image description here

Imported into LibreOffice Draw, then copied to Writer,saved as docx and opened in Word (it looked better in LibreOffice):

enter image description here

(Pandoc from the original .tex loses all the content, just keeping the headings and cover letter)

  • Except that Word of course does not run under Linux... - What does run perfectly well for the text content under Linux though, is copying the contents of a LaTeX-generated pdf from Okular (Plasma Desktop) into LibreOffice. But formatting will be lost. – DetlevCM Jun 8 '18 at 9:13
  • @DetlevCM good point. I have to use some Windows software in work (though when we have to go to 10 I think it will be in a VM) so can convert there, but of course working on your CV on a work machine isn't always appropriate. By my first sentence I meant to imply borrowing. Unfortunately it doesn't look like Office365 (online) will import PDFs into Word. There might be a way but the UI doesn't make it obvious. – Chris H Jun 8 '18 at 9:47
  • I have had much better experience with imports of PDF in LibreOffice (4 and 5) than in Word. (Note that there's also LibreOffice Draw, not just Writer.) – Nemo Jun 8 '18 at 21:12
  • A simpler version of this is to simply tell the recruiter to open the PDF in Microsoft Word. – pipe Jun 8 '18 at 21:35
  • @pipe - However, as this answer suggests, opening a PDF in Word can result in poor formatting. – Greenonline Jun 9 '18 at 0:34
11

Once many years ago, before it was common for word processing software to include "export to PDF" as an option, I asked someone with a job posting in the newspaper classifieds why they asked for PDF resumes only. Their answer:

I expect to get over a hundred resumes for this position. After I throw away the ones who couldn't be bothered to meet my requirement of a PDF resume, I've only got 40 to read and most of them will be reasonable candidates.

So it is quite possible that if your resume is not in the requested Word format it will just be thrown away.

It's not difficult to find free software that can output Word format; that's where my Word resumes come from. If you really think PDF or LaTex is a better choice feel free to include it alongside the Word document.

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    Good point, but this is sort of the reverse of the OP's question. In the case that you describe, creating a PDF was a bit of a task (for the non-techy types), and therefore reduced the number of capable applicants. However, due to M$ Word's ubiquitousness, the recruiter isn't trying to weed anyone out. Quite the opposite in fact. It is almost a catch-all policy, which allows applications to be submitted from people who know, and probably think that there is, only one word processor - M$ Word. – Greenonline Jun 8 '18 at 22:43
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    @greenonline that's an important distinction. But it still doesn't change the fact that many recruiters will either toss non-word resumes, or that their automated scanners won't be able to digest them. – arp Jun 9 '18 at 0:22
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    @greenonline most jobs require the ability and willingness to follow simple instructions, including ones that feel like a waste of time to the underling. Maybe filtering out candidates who are going to be hard work is a useful byproduct of their inflexible system. Perhaps I'm being harsh but it gets the message across – Chris H Jun 9 '18 at 17:22
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    @ChrisH: 100% this. Making a big fuss out of this is a big red flag. If you (they) can't even follow a simple instruction like "submit your CV in such-and-such a format" then I'm not going to bother with you (them). Why would I? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 12 '18 at 14:32
  • Good answer, I remember sitting down with >100 CVs of people who had applied for similar openings at my company before; to see if any were worth bringing in for an interview for a similar role. Your filter becomes very harsh, very quickly. – mcottle Jun 13 '18 at 4:33
2

Use pandoc to produce a docx document from LaTeX, Markdown, ...

  • Have you actually tested it on a LaTeX CV? I did and it didn't work – Chris H Jun 15 '18 at 9:01
  • What do you mean by "It did not work"? I do not claim that a conversion is always perfect. – J. Fabian Meier Jun 15 '18 at 9:51
  • See my answer, but nearly all the text disappeared, i.e. it was no longer a CV, and it would be quicker to retype than to fix (this was using a common LaTeX CV template). That's not imperfect, it's utterly useless. No DV though as the OP mentions the possibilty of starting in markdown which converts much better (even though I'd never use it for anythin but the simplest documents) – Chris H Jun 15 '18 at 10:26
1

I also use LaTeX for my resume and have come across this problem. What I do is prepare two versions of my resume: a PDF version and a plaintext version. My resume content is in one file and uses styles and macros to control all of the layout. Build using my "pretty" style and I get a nicely-formatted PDF, or build with my "plain" style and get something simplistic and plain that can be copy/pasted into a .txt file without formatting problems. Using a single "content" file for both means I don't have two separate resume files to manually keep in sync.

The original reason I did that was because I discovered that many automated resume processing systems could not parse data out of the LaTeX-generated PDF files correctly (I guess the formatting was too complex). I also found it useful for those recruiters that insisted on some specific document format - be it .doc, .rtf, or whatever - since plain text files can be trivially converted to practically anything.

0

Recruiters usually want a .doc version of your CV so they can edit it. If you don't want the recruiter to edit your CV, tell them that. It would be reasonable to offer them that you'd make the required edits on your side and provide the updated version to the recruiter.

If you don't mind the recruiter to edit your CV, then this boils down to the extra work required on your side to fulfil the recruiter's request. It's true that automated conversion tools often produce results which are not so good-looking, but nothing prevents you from editing those converted documents into shape. If you don't feel like doing this work yourself and don't care how the end result will look, you can just say something along the lines of "sorry, I only have this PDF and a TEX file" and then the recruiter will either drop you, or fix your CV for you.

0

"How you deal" with recruiters that want things a certain way, is you meet every detail of their submission guidelines, exactly how they want it, with a smile on your face, or else you don't apply for the job at all.

Do you really want the first impression that you give the company be that you're not willing to adhere to company standards with which you disagree?


Incidentally,

Office 365 (including Word) is free for students and developers.

  • False Assumption: He has Windows. Assumption: He is applying for jobs that would be performed on Windows. – Joshua Jun 18 '18 at 2:53

protected by Masked Man Jun 8 '18 at 11:20

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