While people who use a .pdf resume think they benefit from doing so, they often actually shoot themselves in the foot.
.pdf stands for portable document format.
It allows resumes to be opened on different systems without formatting glitches and it prevents anyone from making unauthorized changes to the document.
In other words, .pdf gives users total control of their resumes. And don’t we often dream about having total control?
The Problems with a .pdf Resume
The problem is, total control, in any aspect of life, tends to choke the vitality out of whatever a person attempts to control. That’s certainly the case with resumes. While a .doc resume is a living, breathing, interactive document, a .pdf resume isn’t.
The “pro-control, pro—pdf” argument often contains an implicit or explicit assumption that other people, whoever they are, might change a resume in some sort of nefarious, damaging manner.
Consider this — maybe there are people who want to help your career by improving your resume. As a search consultant, I might:
- Ask you about a piece of missing information and then add it to your resume (clearly highlighted as my addition) because I know my client wants to see it.
- Notice a question your resume raises but doesn’t answer. I ask you about it and note the answer (again, clearly highlighted as my addition) on your resume.
- Add a comment about something I particularly like.
If you have sent me an interactive .doc resume, I can annotate it to improve my client’s understanding of your background.
If you have sent me a locked up .pdf file, you’ve tied my hands and prevented me from helping you.
Now I have to ask you for a Microsoft Word resume (again) and then come back to my mission of helping you after I receive it. Later. After my attention has shifted.
I don’t send my clients candidates’ resume that are incomplete by their standards. It’s my job to anticipate and answer their questions.
They need to be able to look at your resume once and make an interview/no interview decision. Done. Final. Move on to the next step in the process.
When the Recruiter Gets a .pdf Resume after Asking for a Word Resume
One more thing, when recruiters specifically ask for .doc resumes and they get .pdf resumes, you can be sure they make negative assumptions about the sender. They wonder about topics such as:
- Attention to detail.
- Willingness to respect processes.
Please think about what I’ve written the next time you’re deciding which type of resume format to use.
Oh, and that “total control” thing? Just an illusion. Check out the comments below.
Note: This post has upset some readers. I welcome your comments. Kindly keep them constructive and within the bleeding edge of civil discourse.
I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Get hired. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Updated June 2017
© 2013 – 2017, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.