A Word 2003 (.doc) or 2007/2010 (.docx) format?
Maybe a classic text (.txt) file?
Possibly a Portable Document File (.pdf)?
Or a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file?
Considering an Open format (.odt) file?
In many of my prior postings, I’ve discussed the form and format of the text of the resume, but not the resume file format itself. And while most people generally do use a classic Word 2003 “.doc” formatted file or the more recent “.docx” format, I have found myself on the receiving end of a wide variety of file types.
Most recently, I was sent a resume that was in “.odt” format, which is the format used by Oracle’s OpenOffice and other “Open” document tools. After spending about 20 minutes trying to download the conversion tool to my overloaded and overworked home computer, I gave up on the resume and just moved on to the next one. Luckily I’m just a resume reviewer and not a hiring manager or recruiter, as that would have cost this person a possible interview and/or job. To keep this from happening to you, let’s talk a bit about file formats.
Format #1 – Use Microsoft Word 2003 formatted “.doc” files
I recognize that the 2003 version is a bit old and not everyone is a fan of Microsoft products, but it’s the de facto standard file format for resumes. And while you might prefer to author and maintain your resume in other tools (OpenOffice, etc.), you must realize that most managers, recruiters, and others that want to read/review your resume are probably most proficient with Word 2003. Keeping your “master” resume in Word 2003 format also provides you with the most flexibility for providing resumes to people in any other formats that might be needed. So, I strongly encourage you to stick with Word 2003 file format for your resume…at least for now.
Format #2 – Convert your Word document into Text
There’s not as much need for a “.txt” formatted resume as there used to be. In the early years of online job searches, you used to paste your text resume directly into e-mail messages to apply for online jobs. Today the primary use is to paste portions of your resume into the online resume or job sites, such as Monster, supplying them with your career details properly deposited into their specific online templates. Sure, these sites can usually accept a “.doc” file, but the importing mechanics are still not without problems, so pasting the text in by hand is preferable. Don’t worry about maintaining the Text formatted file…just create one whenever the need arises by saving your most current “.doc” as a Plain Text file.
Format #3 – Convert your Word document into PDF
If you have a moderately complex looking resume or you have the need to include graphics or items that might not print well on every model of printer, then the PDF file format is a good choice. The problem with a PDF file is that when you send it to a recruiter or company they can’t always import it easily into their resume tracking system. The PDF format also limits the ability of the recruiter to easily select text from your resume when proposing you to a potential hiring manager. I know there’s the advantage of “locking” the document from further edits, but in this market you need to balance that feature versus the job opportunities you might miss.
Format #4 – The needs for Rich Text Files are few
The Rich Text Format (“.rtf”) is an old Microsoft format that became quite popular on Apple computers and other systems. Because it was based on a markup language (similar to “TeX”), the “.rtf” is actually a human-readable file. This gives it the advantage of being very resistant to viruses. I have personally stored my resume in “.rtf” format for years and then converted it to a “.doc” as needed. Many sites prefer to only accept “.doc” files, so you might get some resistance when distributing the file in “.rtf”, but you can try.
Format #5 – The need for an Open format file is nil (today)
Much like “.rtf” files, the open file formats might be convenient for you to maintain your resume in, but if you are going to share it with others, you’ll need to convert it to one of the previously mentioned formats before sending it. It’s rather difficult for a person that doesn’t have an Open format reader/converter to access these files, so converting to “.doc” is essential. Also, note that with “.odt” files there are minor differences in a few attributes such as margins, fonts, rulers and other features, so you need to convert the document to a “.doc” to see if the file looks right and prints right for the rest of the world.
Format #6 – That leaves the Word 2007/2010 (“.docx”) format.
The guidance here is similar to the Open format above except that there is a larger audience that can possibly open and read the “.docx” files. The converter is easily available from Microsoft’s website so the “.docx” format is becoming more accepted with recruiters and corporations. Note that many of the government agencies are still using Office 2003, so if you are applying for a State or Federal job, then drop back to Word 2003 format before sending them a resume. For the next few years I suggest all Office 2007 (or Office 2010 or later) users still save and distribute resumes in the 2003 “.doc” format.
Bottom Line – Stick with the Word 2003 “.doc” format for now, as it is still the de facto standard document format for resumes…everyone can read it! If you want to maintain your resume in “.rtf”, “.odt”, or “.docx” format you can, but always convert it to a “.doc” before distributing it. No need to maintain a “.txt” format any more (just save your Word file as a Text File when necessary) and avoid distributing a resume in a format (such as PDF) where the recruiter can’t easily access and extract your information.
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