How Your PDF Marketing Resume Could Be Holding Back Your Career

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The PDF-exclusive resume is a rapidly-growing trend among professionals of all kinds and marketers in particular. But though there are obvious advantages to this file format for displaying your professional credentials, using it could have some unintended consequences to your career growth.

As marketing professional recruiters, we’ve seen too many great candidates get passed over due to this small but critical detail. Don’t let the .doc or .pdf at the end of your file name be the difference between landing the marketing job of your dreams and getting overlooked for the opportunity; plan your resume strategy accordingly!

Why Some Professionals Prefer PDF for Their Resumes

It’s easy to understand why a marketer might prefer to send their resume in a PDF or similar fixed-layout format rather than a Word document. When we receive an application for our marketing executive searches with a PDF, there are usually a few primary reasons for it:

  • Information security: It’s not uncommon for marketers to put information that could be considered sensitive on their resume, like personal contact info or data from a former employer. PDFs can offer a little more security for this information than Word documents typically provide.
  • Creative formatting: Microsoft’s Word is a passable word processor but can be a clumsy tool for heavily customizing a unique layout or sophisticated design. For many marketers, the resume is an important opportunity to show off their creativity and design fundamentals—things that can’t be easily expressed in the unreliable and temperamental Word software. On the other hand copy placed in a PDF will preserve its location, format, font type and more.
  • Preventing tampering: Word documents are, by default, very easy to change and modify. Resumes can get passed around by quite a few people during a marketing recruitment or hiring process. A professional might want to ensure the content of their resume is maintained without risk of it being altered by anyone who gets their hands on it.

Those reasons are totally legitimate, but they’re not good enough to entirely excuse only having a PDF version of your resume. The disadvantages to only having a PDF edition ultimately outweigh any benefit you’re likely to get.

The Importance of Having a Resume in Word Ready for Marketing Professional Recruiters

Like it or hate it, most corporate business still relies heavily on the Microsoft Office suite. It’s the language they use, and you need to be able to speak it if you want the job. Having a Word doc available has several advantages for your career:

  • Playing nice with ATSs: Most employers and recruiters manage candidates for their jobs through an Applicant Tracking System; software that helps organize, communicate with and evaluate applicants. Most ATSs require a text document that they can parse out for easy review, comparison and searching, and can not make use of a fixed-image PDF or image. A well-organized Word version of your resume can easily be translated by the ATS so you can be moved along the hiring process. And it will also improve the possibility of being contacted with future opportunities, since the ATS user will be able to search for people with your qualifications when a need arises.
  • Presenting yourself according to your vision: Ironically, your attempt to preserve your resume in a very specific format could end up backfiring. In some hiring processes, a Word-friendly resume is absolutely required… and if you’re not willing to make it, someone else will. For instance, if a marketing professional recruiter needs to forward a resume to a client whose ATS only accepts text, then they may manually reformat your resume or use unreliable software to do it automatically. Either way, control of what’s on your resume and what it looks like gets taken out of your hand. Offering a Word document from the beginning means that you control its contents.
  • Guaranteeing viewability: You could be completely overlooked for a position simply because the “gatekeeper” in the company you’re applying to doesn’t have the right software to read your amazing marketing resume. As hard as it may be to believe, it’s entirely possible that the people who receive your resume are unable to open PDFs. Don’t assume that the corporate bureaucrat who receives your application will have a PDF reader or possess the tech-savviness or IT permissions to install one–send them documents that are almost universally accepted instead.

Mitigating the Problems with Word

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A resume in Word might not be your ideal professional resume, but it’s a necessary evil. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to minimize or avoid some of the obvious challenges that it provides.

  • Get the best of both worlds. Though it’s important to have an up-to-date Word-friendly resume, there’s no reason you can’t also have a PDF standby –especially if you consider the format and design of your fixed layout important to expressing your qualifications. In most cases it’s entirely appropriate to submit both together, so marketing recruiters and corporate interviewers have the choice to either use the more attractive, nicely-formatted PDF or the more utility-oriented, flexible Word doc. At the very least, you should have a Word version backup to submit immediately if one is requested.
  • Use other creative avenues: If a standard Word document isn’t a satisfactory channel to display your creativity, use other platforms to show it off. Develop a strong LinkedIn profile, create a personal website, develop a digital portfolio, or innovate something else entirely.
  • Protect your Word document from unwanted changes: In Office, it’s possible to arrange your document setting to prevent your Word-readable resume from being altered by others. For more information, read this from the Microsoft Support site.
  • Securing your personal information: If you’re concerned about your personal information in a Word document, there are a few steps you can take to mitigate your risks. First, remove unnecessary sensitive information like your home address–it’s not needed and takes up valuable real estate. Consider using a shell phone number through a service like Google Voice that can easily be changed if you don’t want to provide your direct cell number.
  • Share with care: Be careful with who you give your resume to. Don’t just share it with anyone; only send it to reputable marketing professional recruiters and employers you know will be good stewards of your data.

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