Do Resume Distribution Formats Matter?

In the past before the internet and email, sending a resume for a job opening was quite standard. You would make a copy of your printed resume and place it in a stamped addressed envelope along with a cover letter and drop it in a mailbox, this was simple and direct but time-consuming and had its pros and cons. Since it was time-consuming it kept the non-qualified applicants from flooding company mailboxes with their resumes giving qualified applicants better odds for their resume to be viewed. On the flip-side sending a resume via email or internet is time efficient, applicants send resumes to more job openings, increasing the range of jobs openings they are applying. There is a bit of a push & pull with both eras, but we live in current times, so please take the time to review this section to have a clear understanding of how to increase your odds of your resume being viewed.

One thing many people are not aware of today, with internet and email, if you don’t send out or post your resume in the correct distribution format it can greatly decrease your odds of your resume getting reviewed by the companies you are applying.

Whenever we would post a job online we would always request for the resume to be emailed to us as an attachment in PDF format, we can’t tell you how many times we would receive it in Mac, Word Perfect, MS Works, Claris Works or some other format. You need to understand that many systems don’t have the ability of opening attachments in all formats. In our experience, there were about 10% of resumes received that the company’s systems could not open without taking the time to convert the attachments. To be honest hiring managers don’t take the time to convert any of these resumes and just delete them, especially in our current job market where hiring managers are flooded with resumes from those who followed initial instructions.


Always supply the resume in the format and method of how the company is requesting. With many larger companies, your resumes are reviewed by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) before any human eyes view them. In these cases when you don’t follow the instructions of how to send your resume it’s highly likely your resume won’t even be seen by a human. Even if a recipient can open your resume and it was not sent in the exact word processing software version as the recipient is using, formatting may be compromised. Margins, bullet points, indents, etc. might be changed giving your resume bad formatting, which can give the impression you’re not detailed in your document presentation. For example, opening a resume in a different version of MS Word can change some format aspects.

Note: If you chose Career Thinker to write your resume we would deliver your resume in all needed formats – MS Word (Traditional), PDF and ASCII (Plain Text)
It is recommended that you save a copy of your resume in each of these formats for each version.

Types of Distribution Formats

The Presentation/Formatted Resume or Traditional

This is normally the method you write the resume in, most commonly Microsoft Word and this format is normally the one you see in printed form. This is the format where you would create your resume with the most eye-appeal for the human reader to draw the reader’s attention to key areas of your resume. Microsoft Word is considered the standard in business but this has started to change as more companies use Apple platform or tablets. If you send your resume as an attachment in Word or any other word processing format that wasn’t requested by the job posting you are leaving yourself open to possible issues of the resume not being read. The recipient of your email attachment needs to have the same word processing software (also same version) to be able to view it in the format you used. Many companies have security concerns and might not accept attachments outside their company’s formats, like Microsoft Word or Word Perfect since these formats are vulnerable to viruses. If a company asks you to send your resume as an attachment and they don’t specify in which format, we recommend sending it in PDF.

The PDF Format

Portable Document Format (PDF) is an open standard for document exchange, a format created by Adobe Systems in 1993. PDF is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. This means recipients of your emails don’t need to have your particular version of word processing software. PDF is accessible on PCs, Macs, Tablets and most smartphones, and they are virtually virus proof. There is one negative with sending your resume in PDF; it can’t be sent directly from the email into a keyword-scannable database unless it is physically scanned into the database. Most companies who are using a scannable database will have you paste your resume on their website or in the body of an email which should be in ASCII or Plain Text Format which we discuss in the next paragraph. They may also request that you send your resume as an attachment in ASCII or Plain Text Format. If you are given a choice to send your resume in MS Word or PDF always opt for PDF.