In a world where it is equally easy to apply for a job in Asia, Europe, US or most anywhere else, the available software to read documents is likely to vary greatly.

Unless specified, what format(s) does one use to send digital information to someone, for example the HR department, when you have no idea what they can open?

LibreOffice, Microsoft Office, PDF, more than one of them, or something completely different?

  • I think an interesting related question would be "how to efficiently prepare docs in different formats?" – Angelo Jul 25 '12 at 20:13
up vote 24 down vote accepted

I send PDFs (after all the name stands for Portable Document Format).

This has the added benefit that most recruiters (if you are using them) will not edit and change the CV.

A close second is Microsoft Office, this format can be read using Open/Libre Office, so offers most compatibility.


Another option is to have your CV online, on your server (or a trusted server) in HTML and simply point to it.

  • 3
    Also Make sure the PDF contains as little embedded fonts as possible so its size remains reasonable (~50k or so) – user1220 Jul 12 '12 at 18:31
  • 4
    @user1220 - Unless it is in a CJK language and you do need it to be readable globally (even on computers that don't have those specific fonts). – Oded Jul 12 '12 at 18:34
  • hmm I'd say that would be a little localized :-) – user1220 Jul 12 '12 at 18:35
  • 3
    @user1220 - Um. If the point is to have the CV readable anywhere, how would you solve the missing font problem? – Oded Jul 12 '12 at 18:37
  • yes, that is correct. The OP explicitly mentioned Asia so yes, I think the "as little as possible" may create a bigger file. – user1220 Jul 12 '12 at 18:39

My main recommendation is to prepare your resume in multiple formats. I'd also recommend that one of the formats be plain text, and that you should use plain text for electronic submission.

Almost by definition, everybody can read HTML. PDF is a good choice too, as many readers are freely available, and it preserves formatting well. However, once you submit a resume you have no control over how it is processed. It might be printed out or faxed and then scanned and OCR'd. Somebody might decide to scrape the text out of whatever format you provide, or cut and paste just the text. I've received emails with horribly mangled text that was somehow derived from the nicely formatted document the candidate had submitted. For electronic submission, plain text is the least likely to be mangled in transit.

If you prefer something like HTML, MS Word, or PDF, use as little formatting as possible. It's quite likely that the fancy fonts, boldface, and italics you've chosen won't survive by the time the document reaches the eventual reader. Use simple headings and use lots of whitespace to separate headings and paragraphs. Also, avoid multiple columns or inset text. If any text is cut-and-pasted, it might interleave text from the different columns when it's pasted. This will leave the result all but unintelligible. Worse, most people along the chain from you to the eventual reader won't notice and probably don't care that much about the fidelity of what they pass along.

As someone who reads resumes and interviews candidates, I'm aware of all the formatting pitfalls and try to look past these issues. However, I suspect others are much less forgiving, and so malformatting will reflect badly on you. If formatting is bad enough, it'll make your resume too hard to read, and they'll just ignore it.

Bottom line: keep formatting as simple as possible.

I would suggest to have multiple formats to be prepared in the given order below. Also, try to include the web presence elements in your resume.

1) Start with a pdf format. It is very convenient format.

2) Another copy in MS Word format, preferably with .docx extension. Having docx extension will allow to access it through Open Office software, which is Free.

3) Create your resume online. (for ex: LinkedIn will work fine). Other online community/website where you might be involved into the project are also welcomed to be listed. Displaying web presence is a good sign that you are involved and up to date on subject matters concerning your business area.

  • 1
    One of the reasons I'm asking is actually because I'm frequently annoyed by people sending me .docx formatted text, as the standard is incredibly complex and it usually goes wrong when I try to open them. – Letharion Jul 13 '12 at 6:15
  • 1
    @user50849 .docx is extremely easy to open. libreoffice opens them finr, with minimal formatting issues. – acolyte Jul 25 '12 at 20:03
  • 3
    While I don't doubt that the second statement will be true sometimes, the first is not. "Part 1" alone of the relevant specification is literally over 5000 pages long (ecma-international.org/publications/standards/Ecma-376.htm). There is nothing "easy" about it. I think calling it "extremely complex" instead, is an understatement. – Letharion Jul 25 '12 at 20:20
  • @user50849 - If you are opening a .docx file in Office 2007/2010 and it has formatting problems then the author of the document is at fault. A properly formatted .docx file will look exactly the same on any computer with office. – Ramhound Jul 26 '12 at 15:37

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