I've been looking at some modern CV templates and have found that presentation, font selection, color etc are more prominent and this style of CV seems to fit more with modern design.

A lot of the templates are Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign files.

Is it accepted practice to send pdf exports of a CV in this style? When I was applying for jobs a few years ago, companies seemed to prefer or only accepted .doc files.

  • 2
    For me, a .pdf CV is pretty standard. I've applied for a fair amount of internship offers recently, and I've either seen platforms that forced you to enter your skills, experience, etc ... in a web form or others that allowed you to upload a file. When they asked for the upload, all companies mentioned both .doc and .pdf were accepted. This may change according to your locale though.
    – Aserre
    Aug 5 '15 at 8:13
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    Recruiting agencies tend to want .doc files in order to smear it with their branding feces, but it's very common to use .pdf files until the other is specifically requested instead. Aug 5 '15 at 16:22

I tend to send CVs in PDF. That way, they can't be mangled by old version of Word or unscrupulous recruiters.

Your best bet is to send as a PDF and, if they then ask for a different format, convert and send.


Well, what was acceptable several years ago (or even a year ago) might have long since changed.

I've been looking around for opportunities recently and set a whole bunch of very different types of resume. If I understand correctly, not only you want to know what file format (i.e. target software) is better but also what type of visual design of the resume is acceptable. There are several things to consider.

Entering a large company, it's likely your resume will be taken by an automated system at the first step

I mean, some software that sifts through resumes of thousands of applicants and filters out irrelevant ones. Thus, your resume should be acceptable and must be parsed by this system successfully, otherwise you lose without a fight.

The software doesn't care about any visual elements at all. It checks keywords.

DOCs aren't perfectly parseable, PDFs are.

Entering a small company, it's likely your resume will be processed by a human

There aren't many affordable solutions for HR and recruiters of small companies, so people tend to process resumes by hand. So, in this situation you have intuitively expected restrictions: your file must open on any operating system with GUI (or sometimes, without) and look as it should.

DOC requires some sort of (heavy) software (MS Word, Pages, etc.) and PDF opens in an eyeblink.

People care about your effort, not about beauty per se

This means, if I see a resume and somehow discover that it has been composed on top of a template (and it's possible as long as I see the second similarly designed resule), I stop feeling anything about the visual part. It means, everything just turns plain text. Why? Because you didn't put effort but rather decided to show off cheaply.

I may exaggerate this point, of course, but you get the idea. Visual template, outside of the context of your person, means nothing at all.

People tend to get tired

Surely, a recruiter may feel a little nervous and stressed at the end of the day after reading through hundreds of CVs. So you don't want to make his work even harder by providing a file that has unconventional structure or visual representation.

At the same time, you likely want to impress the recruiter at the very first sight. Try to add some interesting and surprising details. Those should not attract much attention but rather be a "sesame seeds" on top of your resume's "bread".

There are certain types of people who live outside GUI (although the amount is fairly negligible)

If you apply to a software developer position or one close to this field, consider Markdown. It's both parseable and readable, very concise. And it may certainly impress the recruiter because it's likely you'll stand out from the "DOC crowd".

For this case, there's also a good advice from Steve Yegge who recommends software developers to stick to plain text resume (and also avoid the word "CV").

  • Awesome answer, thanks for that. I think when it comes to design, I should be thinking about clarity above all else, not an elaborate colour scheme or anything like that. Content above all else! I'm from the UK and they are known as CV's here although I know in the US it's referred to as a resume. Aug 5 '15 at 17:37
  • "People care about your effort, not about beauty per se" - so you would hire someone who spent time doing a task 8 hours than someone who found a way to do it in 1 hour? Nov 14 '15 at 14:09

You want your resume to catch the eye of the hiring manager because of your skills.

If you are applying for a design job, it might be useful to show off some design in your resume. However, they might also ask for a portfolio or some other examples, and thus the design on the resume would be unnecessary.

If you are not applying for a design job, you want your resume to showcase your applicable skills, which is NOT design. Trying to make your resume stand out because of color or formatting is not nearly as valuable as having it stand out because of your achievements and applicable skills for the job you're applying for.

In all cases, online applications usually require a pretty standard format in order to parse the resume. Don't buck the system in order to stand out, be excellent in order to stand out.

  • I'll definitely focus on the content. I work in Finance as an Analyst with an emphasis on data visualisation so presentation is important, but it'd be more about having a clear CV above all else. Aug 5 '15 at 17:40
  • The problem is the hiring manager won't get the resume before it goes through an automatic system to highlight keywords - and those systems do not work well with creative layouts, non-standard formats, etc. Aug 7 '15 at 10:12

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