Word, PDF, and Plain Text Resumes

Which format is best?

by: Natalie Winzer, iHire
February 01, 2014

Pixelated view of a file icon

With so much of the application process taking place online these days, job seekers are finding themselves needing more than just a Word version of their resume. While some employers prefer a Word document, others may request a PDF or plain text file, attached or copied/pasted into an email or uploaded to their database. A good way to save time and frustration is to have each of these formats ready to go so you can apply regardless of an employer's technical requirements. Below is a guide to the three most commonly requested formats and how to create them.


Word Documents (.doc or .docx)


What it is: A file created in Microsoft Word (.doc), with the latest version being Word 2010 (.docx). If you are using Word 2010, make sure to save both a .doc (compatible with Word 97–2009) and .docx to cater to a variety of end users. The .docx version also translates well for Mac software.

When to use it: Uploading to job boards, making updates/edits, and emailing as an attachment as requested by employers (note that PDFs are best for emailing).

Pros: Widely accepted/requested and editable if you need to make revisions.

Cons: The format can be distorted when uploaded to job boards or opened in a program other than Microsoft Word.


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Portable Document Format (.pdf)


What it is: A fixed-layout file that accurately represents a document regardless of the software or operating system being used to view it. A PDF document cannot be edited without specific Adobe software. To create a PDF out of your Word document, open your resume in Word and go to File – Save As – Save As Type – PDF.

When to use it: Emailing your resume directly to employers as an attachment or sharing your resume with those who use a different word processing program. For example, if you create your resume in Word and your recipient only has iWork Pages, email them a PDF to ensure your formatting and content will not be distorted.

Pros: The format stays true regardless of the end user's operating system.

Cons: PDFs are large files and while most job boards will accept a PDF, your resume will be stripped of its formatting upon upload.


Plain Text (.txt)


What it is: Simple text document that does not use formatting specific to any particular application, and is therefore universally compatible. To create a plain text resume, open your resume in Word and go to File – Save As – Save As Type – Plain Text. Open your plain text resume in Note Pad and make the necessary spacing adjustments: left justify all content, replace bullets and symbols with asterisks (*) or hyphens (-), and use hard returns to add space in between sections.

When to use it: Uploading to job boards with limited ability to translate Word formatting or copying/pasting your resume into a website's text box. Some employers may request this format specifically or ask you to send it in the body of an email to avoid issues with attachments.

Pros: Uploads correctly to job boards and pastes easily into website forms and emails.

Cons: Extremely basic format and visually unappealing.

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