This question is partially answered here: Protecting resume against recruiters, double-presentations, and MS Word?

But I'm looking for a more specific answer about why recruiters do this.

Some ads by recruiters request 'Please submit resumes in MS Word format only'. Why do they do this?

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    On a side note, one work-around I've used for this is submitting in RTF format, which MS-Word will claim as its own when it's installed. Most recruiters appear not to be able to tell the difference.
    – Móż
    May 20, 2014 at 1:56
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    I ignore these requests and send them a PDF. If they think they can place you, they will deal with it. May 20, 2014 at 3:12
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    An unexpurgated Word .doc file can contain all sorts of stuff. I've found some very interesting things by opening them with a programming editor. May 20, 2014 at 14:44
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    Nowadays I only send a PDF. I've had too many bad experiences with recruiters 'editing' my resume. My 'editable' resume is a latex document, I don't even own a copy of MS Word.
    – James Adam
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:49
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    I have a buddy who screenshots his resume including the surrounding PDF viewer and pastes it as an image inside of a Word document. Makes everyone happy ;)
    – dinkelk
    Jan 19, 2017 at 18:27

6 Answers 6


I have personally done a few weeks of convenience work / summer jobs at a recruitment agency and the main reason we asked for the Word format was simply so that we could cut out the contact details and name, and anything else necessary to keep the candidate confidential until they actually met the interviewer.

Also, we would add our own notes and bullet points above the resume, change any details we considered unnecessary, write a nice summary etc. i.e. we never sent out the resume to potential employers without heavily reviewing it.

PDFs are not easy to edit in the original style (or at all, with most traditional Office studios)

  • 31
    Oooh yeah, that's exactly what I want: for a recruiter to change stuff around in my resume so that, when I go to the interview, I'm beeing questioned about things that make no sense to me/the job/the interviewer/etc. May 20, 2014 at 6:22
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    @Radu: This actually happened to me early in my career. I learned from that to bring my own copy of my resume with me to all interviews. You'd be surprised how mangled and sometimes "improved" the interviewer's copy of your resume can be. May 20, 2014 at 15:58
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    A colleague of mine interviewed for a job that was arranged by a recruiter. When he got there, he found everybody's copy of his resume was different. He asked to see a copy and found that the recruiter had mis-spelled HTML on his resume. It was a web developer position. Fortunately, he got the job, but learned a valuable lesson that day, as did I. If I provide a Word or otherwise editable copy of my resume to a recruiting agency, I insist on being able to review their changes before they share it. It's my brand. I want to protect it.
    – Brandon
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:50
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    @Brandon It's my brand. This is a beautiful way of putting it. Also, have you had any pushback from recruiters when insisting you review their revision first?
    – user17163
    Oct 15, 2014 at 15:32
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    @Thebluefish: "pushback" from a recruiter is a deal-breaker for me. We are their commodity (talent). If they don't respect that, then we will find someone who does. Oct 15, 2014 at 16:46

The simple answer is that it makes their life easier.

Imagine you're a recruiter. One half of your job is to grind through hundreds of resumes every week and organise them somehow. It's easier to do that if you can use the same program to view every resume, and most businesses{1} use Word. Back in the day this was a defence again people using specific versions of specific programs ("can only be opened using AbiWord 2.1 or earlier"), but these days it's as likely to be a defence against cryptography (signing or encrypting).

Remember that in more graphic-oriented industries people will submit everything from "video resumes" to flash files. It's not uncommon for architects, for example, to be asked for a "resume" that's A3 or larger as well as a portfolio. Submitting that digitally as well helps everyone a great deal (although it does raise the question of whether people even know what the word "resume" originally meant. Viz, a summary document)

Inevitably there will be a database somewhere (at worst, the MS-Outlook email "database"), but more likely some kind of recruiter tool. Many of those can only import a limited range or file formats, and a lot cannot cope even with password-protected Word files, let alone the various encrypted and signed formats offered by PDF and other, more capable file formats.

{1} for some value of "most" that varies with location and industry.

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    I would disagree with this. Although it makes sense, I would say the primary reason would be to remove contact details and make the resume/CV anonymous.
    – Joe
    May 20, 2014 at 14:56
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    @JoeStrazzere You're right, and I can see why this is appealing, but I mostly disagree with the last paragraph, as using word (over pdf for example) enables editing with ease. That, to me, is the primary and most logical reason for this.
    – Joe
    May 20, 2014 at 16:39

At least for one particular manager I knew, she insisted on Word resumes so that she could look into them and see how well you knew how to use Word and uderstood setting up styles and the like. If you used a few global styles: good. If you used the default style and applied local modifications to each paragraph: bad. This would be inappropriate for a lot of positions, but she was hiring mostly tech writers, so I can sortof see a point to this.

Head hunters want Word so they can edit your resume before presenting it to their clients. At best, they only edit out your name and contact info since they don't want the client cutting them out of the loop. However, the sleazy ones will try to "enhance" your resume. I didn't realize this early in my career, and had some awkward moments in a interview until we finally discovered that the interviewer was asking about things I never wrote. I then made it a rule to always bring my own copy of my resume with me if I got introduced thru a external recruiter.

In general, try to avoid third party recruiters. At best they are a last resort. This does not apply to recruiters specifically hired by a company to fill a particular position, but those have no reason to obscure your identity.

Nowadays I keep my resume on-line in HTML format. I also keep a PDF copy on-line, but that is just the HTML printed to PDF by the browser. So far one of the two has always been acceptable to any real hiring company.

  • +1 for However, the sleazy ones will try to "enhance" your resume. This happened to a colleague of mine. I make a point to: 1) Never use that recruiter 2) If I send a recruiter an editable resume, stipulate that I review it before sharing with clients.
    – Brandon
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:59

Some ads by recruiters request 'Please submit resumes in MS Word format only'. Why do they do this?

Because as open-minded and creative as the real tech world is, the world of recruiters, offices & that kind of bureaucracy is based in using the whole Microsoft Office suite on Microsoft servers using tools that either can only open Microsoft Word or can only parse Microsoft Word.

That said, if you are sending directly to an employer that will not even accept a PDF as an alternative, that should be a red flag. I can understand recruiters, head-hunters and the like being mired in the Microsoft world, but most employers directly accepting resumes for now should at least be capable of handling PDFs.

The level of “red flag” is up to your larger career goal, but it’s 2014 and there are alternative ways to present documents. Any place that doesn’t accept at least a PDF has issues.

  • @JeffO - Considering that Microsoft's formats are closed, formating is quite likely to mangled if one uses other tools (such as Google Docs or LibreOffice).
    – user12716
    May 21, 2014 at 3:14
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    first paragraph was helpful, second is just rude. Since when does using the most popular word processing software on the planet constitute not only being "mired" but being a place nobody should work at any kind of job at all? I could as easily claim a place was mired in Adobe land if they demanded a PDF. Oct 15, 2014 at 16:43
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    @KateGregory Adobe does not dominate the market on PDFs. In fact all of the PDFs I create are generated via Mac OS X which is using open source components. Or they are created directly via other open source tools. Microsoft Word is popular due to maker dominance. PDFs are popular due to true ubiquity. Additionally most every OS in the world can read a PDF without any additional software. Anyone who cannot read a basic PDF in 2014 has some larger issues a potential hire might not want to deal with. Oct 15, 2014 at 18:12

I was a recruitment consultant, the reason they want your CV's in word format is that the office in general is not very technical. They want to just change header using word and remove any other bits and send the cv forward. They dont have the tech to convert or modify a pdf.

At the agency i currently work for, no matter what format a cv comes in. They are all converted to .txt files using python programs, and then added to a template that has like summary, main body and technical skills..everything in the same font.

The boss says it makes our brand consistent and enables clients to know where they are with our cvs, and makes them feel at ease rather than jumping around all over the place....the client gets used to our consistent format.

that said...the format we send to the client is always word...apparently that is the most widely accepted.


From a recruiter perspective, your resumes are horrible, particularly the formatting.

Unless it is an application to a graphic design company, nobody wants to see your "unique" formatting. They want information on your resume, about who you are and what you can do. If they have to hunt to find the info, they will pass you over so quickly.

So yes, recruiters do some edits to horribly formatted resumes. I never change wording, and occasionally will add a summary of your skills. Most of the time if there are edits or skills to be added, I'll ask you to do it, in your own words.

This is what a recruiter does. They find the right people for the job, and they sell those people, when otherwise you'd have to sell yourself and if you were good at it, you wouldn't be looking for a job.

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    If you were good at finding and selling the right people you wouldn't have to obliterate their resumes.
    – user14154
    May 9, 2016 at 13:34
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    Why not ask for a document without formatting, like .txt? That way you can do whatever you like with the text.
    – dinkelk
    Jan 19, 2017 at 18:43
  • Why shortlist those resumes in the first place if they are that bad? Aug 27, 2020 at 9:31

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