Is PDF the Right Format for a Resume?

There was a time when job seekers would go into a place of business and drop off their resume. Aside from the contents, the only thing that made one stand out from the others was the type of paper it was printed on. Dropping off a resume in person, however, gave some job hunters another advantage: the ability to make a first impression before interviews were scheduled.

These days, resumes are emailed or uploaded to a site for human resources to review. So your electronic document not only serves as a way to highlight previous work history, but it’s often the first impression. That’s where using PDF software to create your resume comes in handy.

PDF Software as a resume builder

When creating a resume, most people immediately turn to their word processing software to make use of the many templates that they offer. Templates can be a good thing because they help ensure that you include all of the necessary information on your resume. However, they’re limiting because they give you a resume that looks just like everyone else’s.

Using PDF software, you have the ability to do so much more with your work history and how you present it to a prospective employer. These advantages include:

  • Advanced page layout tools that allow you to insert objects and images while manipulating text boxes to fit within the allotted space
  • The ability to insert hyperlinks that point to publications, personal web sites or other important information regarding your qualifications
  • Embedded fonts ensuring that whoever is viewing your resume will see it as you designed it
  • Portability of a PDF document ensuring that the recipient can open it, no matter what type of computer they have or software they use
  • Ability to build a portfolio to include relevant work samples, references, cover letters or any other supporting documents along with your resume

What about Applicant Tracking Software?

Using applicant tracking software, or ATS, is a common practice with companies nowadays. This software collects resumes and searches them for keywords related to open positions. Using the software’s algorithms, the best candidates are identified by how well their resume matches the keywords associated with the position.

The ATS scans the document that you upload using optical character recognition to convert its content into a basic text format. Sometimes, with a resume created with PDF software or a word processor, the ATS system fails to convert all of the words correctly so you will have to go over everything to make sure there are no errors. Formatting also presents a problem as the ATS cannot distinguish headers, layouts and even has trouble with bullet points. That means that the resume you built with your PDF software is going to lose all of the formatting and style that you put into it.

Odds are that when you are applying for a job, you’ll run into companies that rely on ATS solutions and others that want you to submit a resume directly. It helps to have your PDF resume ready along with a plain text version to appease the companies that rely on ATS.

Luckily, enterprise grade PDF software like Foxit PhantomPDF gives you the ability to export your PDF documents into various formats, including .rtf. Once in this basic format, you can strip out anything left over from your PDF that the ATS won’t recognize.

So as you can see, PDF can be a very valuable way to create your resume and even offers alternatives that can appease the ATS systems that many large companies use. It’s then up to you to choose the content that puts your best foot forward.

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