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CV/Resume File Type – Is it Important?


You have spent so much time working on your CV, getting it just right. You found the perfect job, and are anxious to apply. Maybe something you have never given any thought to, but what is the correct file format for your CV: DOC, PDF, TXT…?

We have received CVs in all of the above formats, including variations, such as DOCX. Are they all the same?

Even if you are not a computer expert, it is important to understand the basics:

- .DOC – Most versions of Microsoft Word use this type of file
- .DOCX – Microsoft Word 2007 uses this type of file
- .RTF – Microsoft and Apple applications, and as well as open source systems, can work (including edit) with these files
- .PDF – This is the format that Abode Acrobat works with. It is multi-platform, but most people can only open and print such documents, and are not able to edit them.
- .TXT – A text file, notepad and other programs can be used to create these text only files, without formatting options.

Of course, there are plenty of others, but these are the most common today.

MS Word is used more frequently as the document creation tool of choice, so most CVs are in the DOC format. Since it is almost universal that the person receiving your CV will be able to work with this type of file, it is in fact a safe choice for sending your CV. The potential disadvantage is that each person can have different settings on their PC Word application, so format of the document on your PC may not be exactly the same as the way that they see it.

For those using Word 2007, DOCX files are the default format, and we get CVs in this style as well. There is a problem though, as older versions of Word can not open this type of file unless they add a special problem to their computer to do a conversion. Therefore, we do not believe that you want to take this chance; users of Word 2007 should use the “Save As…” option, and save the file as a “Word 97 – 2003” document format, which will produce a standard DOC file.

RTF Files are used usually by people that want their files to be accessible on a variety of systems (Microsoft, Apple, LINUX/UNIX…). In the case of CVs, since it can be safely assumed that everyone can open a DOC file, there is probably not much of an advantage to the RTF format.

PDF Files look exactly the same on each PC, so they overcome the potential disadvantage of Word DOC files in this regard. The disadvantage is that they are not editable or searchable, something we will expand upon below when applying to job advertised by H/R companies/headhunters.

There are many free programs available to convert the various Word format files to PDF.

TXT files are simple files, and can be opened by anyone. However, because of the lack of formatting (for instance, bold text or different size characters) and the universally acceptable DOC/PDF, there is no real reason to send your CV in a “boring” text format.

So, what is the best choice for your CV? When sending an application directly to most employers, we think that sending in a DOC, RTF, or PDF are equally acceptable. However, when you are sending an application to a H/R company / headhunter, or to a very large employer, then a DOC format might be the best choice, and sometimes in the job notice itself a Word format is specified. Why? There are two main reasons:

Oftentimes H/R companies will send your CV to the actual employer, but remove your contact details (so that the employer must come to them to move forward in the recruitment process). Since a PDF file can not be easily edited, your application may simply be too complicated for them to deal with if they have other candidates, and you won’t be forwarded on.

For H/R companies as well as very large employers, there is usually a CV file bank that they use, and each new CV they receive is added to this library. When a new job position becomes available, the company will quickly do an automated search through all of the CV in the file bank, and those that meet the criteria will be selected for further consideration. In many cases these file banks can only handle Word documents, so it is to your advantage to submit your CV in this format. In addition, since this search is usually based upon keywords, you want to make sure that for this version of your CV, you have included all of the keywords that you could reasonably imagine would be part of a potential employers search criteria.

While certainly the contents of your CV are much are important than the file type that you ultimately use to submit it, it is important to understand the implications of your decision, so that you present yourself as attractively as possible.

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