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I am a graduate student and am planning to apply for an internship for Summer 2015. After looking at the websites of various companies offering internships, the most common file-formats acceptable for resumes seem to be .doc, .pdf and .txt files.

Now I am most used to typesetting all my documents in Latex. However, when I was about to create a resume in Latex, a friend told me to write my resume in .doc format, and then have it exported to .pdf, .txt etc depending on what the companies list as their preffered file format.

He said that since companies are usually deluged by resumes, software programs parse the resumes for keywords a company is interested in. say GPU computing or machine learning. Only then does a human go through all the resumes which have filtered through. Hence, my resume should preferably be submitted in a .doc or .txt format whose text can be easily parsed by a computer, unlike PDF.

Is this statement true? What are the pros and cons of submitting my resume in these two formats?

marked as duplicate by Jan Doggen, gnat, Chris E, keshlam, Garrison Neely Dec 18 '14 at 15:55

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  • 1
    Related: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/13267/325 – Monica Cellio Dec 17 '14 at 21:09
  • Unless it was a scan you can extract text from a PDF. Even if it was a scan you can OCR the PDF. It is not a searchable PDF? – paparazzo Dec 17 '14 at 21:17
  • Frankly, the right answer is usually to submit PLAINTEXT, unless you are applying for a position that specifically focuses on typography/presentation skills... and even then you should probably include the plaintext along with anything else you send. It's the simplest way to ensure they will have a readable copy, and the best way to ensure that it will be readable even if the manager you're trying to impress is using a screen reader or other assistive technology. The KISS principle definitely applies. – keshlam Dec 17 '14 at 22:51
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Your friend is correct that most companies use software to scan resumes to populate a database and look for keywords. However, most of these systems can process PDFs as well as Word documents, and creating a program that reads PDF is likely easier & more accurate than one that can read MS Word documents because it has been an open, well-documented standard for at least 18 years.

I suggest submitting PDF unless the recipient requests otherwise. It preserves all of your desired formatting (Word can reformat on other peoples' computers, especially if they don't have the font(s) you used) and it significantly raises the barrier to someone attempting to alter the document (it's not change-proof, but it's not as simple as doing it in Word).

  • Thank you! While typesetting my resume in pdf with latex is there any specific font that I must stick to in order to make it easier one the software's "eyes" to scan the resume? – smilingbuddha Dec 17 '14 at 21:38
  • For font recommendations you might want to head over to graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/typography – alroc Dec 17 '14 at 21:58
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    Software won't care about what font you use when parsing the document. It won't scan it and use OCR, it will just pull the text straight out of the file. I say this as a programmer though not one who has ever had to write this software. It is possible that it might care about font size to try to identify headers or more important text but I wouldn't like to say for sure. – Chris Jul 20 '15 at 14:05
  • I have had problems using open offices PDF and dependant on how latex created the PDF it might cause problems for the recipient - not all pdf's are identical – Neuromancer Nov 15 '17 at 21:14

The best advice is to submit in the format which they explicitly ask for. Just get used to editing and transforming your resume over and over again to fit the circumstances. I find it best to manually maintain a word version, a plain text version, and my linkedIn profile. (*).

There are some gotachas-- relating to how your document renders:

  • With PDF, you have to make sure that you're using "PDF base fonts" or "web-safe fonts". If you use a different font, you have to embed it. Otherwise, there is a chance that your pdf will be rendered in a way that looks awful.

  • With Word docs, you should test the rendering of your document on a couple different versions of Word.

Aside from this, I would say that you'll get better results if you reach out to specific, targeted contacts (who won't even care if the resume is in word, pdf, or txt) rather than just uploading your resume into system which is not even processed by a human.

(*) There is a tool called "pandoc" that can transform from markdown to many other formats, but I haven't used it for resume writing.

Yes PDF is generally acceptable, but it depends on the company. I have also found that having a txt file version allows you to copy the text quickly into the entry boxes on the website without requiring a lot of tweaking.

The software the company is using will scan the documents for key words.

In the past applicants wanted to submit via PDF because it made it more difficult for the companies that were more interested in collecting resumes to modify the resume.

You want to be able to generate a good looking document in several formats based on the requirements of the company. You can use whatever software you want to maintain the resume, you just need to be willing to export it in multiple formats.

It is always a good idea to bring nice looking copies of the resume to the interview to make sure the interviewers have a good copy. I experienced trying to conduct an interview when the only copy of the resume was the one that was cobbled together from the input text boxes on the website. Not very pretty.

  • Why would the companies want to collect resumes to modify it? Has this happened in the past? – smilingbuddha Dec 17 '14 at 22:46
  • Yes, 3rd party recruiters especially have been known to edit or reformat resumes. Sometimes to put their logo on it (since they're presenting the candidate to their client), sometimes to remove names and identifying information to protect anonymity early in the process (remove biases based on name, for example). I have even heard of less than reputable recruiters changing the contents for various shady reasons. – alroc Dec 17 '14 at 23:29

I have never heard of it being preferable to send anything but a PDF. The reader's computer won't screw up the formatting on a PDF, any operating system can (usually) read a PDF created on any other operating system, and if you made a typo and missed it it won't be underlined in red on a PDF.

In addition, if the company you are applying for uses software that looks for keywords in a resume, and they use it despite it being faulty on PDFs, you probably shouldn't be too interested in that company.

NO use ms word its the defecto industry standard and you want to create as little reason for HR to drop your CV as possible.

A second reason unless you have access to acrobat/tools to properly create the pdf you run the risk of having a poor looking pdf

  • smilingbuddah is creating his(?) PDFs with LaTeX, which is a typesetting language/system that has been in use for decades and has been used to prepare tens of thousands of publications. Adobe's tools are not the only way to get PDFs - far from it, in fact. The output LaTeX produces (when used properly) is far better than what any word processor will give you. – alroc Dec 17 '14 at 22:00
  • @alroc yep if your doing it professionally you can get good results but a the op isn't a publisher ad probably has better things to do with their time. – Pepone Dec 17 '14 at 23:07
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    The OP is a graduate student who has been preparing academic papers for probably several years. I'm sure he's capable of doing the job. – alroc Dec 17 '14 at 23:25

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