Format for Success:
For Resumes, the Word is Word

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
So, you've decided it's time to conduct a job search, either because you need to find a job or you want something better than what you have. You've done your research, you've built a job search plan, and you've written your resume. And yet, you're not getting many responses to the resume you've sent out.

The problem might be the document you're sending.

I don't mean the content of the resume, although that's obviously a big consideration. No, what I'm talking about today is making sure the type of document file you're sending out is readable by the people receiving it.

In today's electronic age, there are more and more choices for document files. You have MS Word, MS Works (yes, they are different!), Wordpad, Word Perfect, plain text, rich text, Mac's Apple Word, Google docs, PDF, and others. It used to be that all computers came with MS Office, including Word. But now resellers and retail companies give buyers the choice, and many of those buyers opt for cheaper word processing systems. And Mac computers have grown in popularity, as well.

That's where the problems begin.

More than 99% of Human Resource offices and employment agencies/recruiters use Microsoft Word for Windows. What does this mean for you, the resume sender? If you don't send your resume in MS Word format, the HR office isn't going to be able to open the file. In other words,

HR offices can't have all the different software programs necessary to open different types of documents, and contrary to what software manufacturers might say, the different applications are not cross-compatible. For instance, if you're using Word on a Macintosh, the file you send will not look the same on a Windows-based PC, even if they're also using Word. Word Perfect? It will open as a junk file, a file that is filled with strange symbols and jumbled words.

People who use Google Docs are in even worse shape, because unless the recipient has a Google Docs Account, that file can't be opened at all.

The worst offender is PDF. Lots of business users use Acrobat to create PDF copies of their documents, because then those documents can't be altered. But this drives HR offices crazy. It means they now have to open a different application just to open your resume, and it also means they can't store the resume in their regular database. That doesn't make the HR rep. happy. In most cases, PDF documents will simply be deleted.

The point here is that if you want HR offices or recruiters to read your resume, make it easy for them to open it and save it. Always use MS Word to save your resume (it should say .doc at the end). If you don't have Word on your computer, then the next best option is to save the file as a Rich Text File (.rtf). This is a file type that most word processing applications can open without losing the format.

Remember, the first step in getting someone to read your resume is to make sure they read it.

Tips for making an easy-to-read resume

  • Always use .doc or .rtf files. Those are the two most common document file types for HR offices.
  • Never use italics or underlined words in your resume. They just make content hard to read.
  • Limit your use of bold to headlines, job titles, and company names.
  • Pick fonts that are "universal" to all computers: Arial, Times Roman, Century, Calibri.
  • Don't make the font size too small. The best options are 10 point or 11 point.