These days most CVs are sent via email when applying for a job, and tend to be transmitted in either PDF or MS Word format. Both of these formats are fine, but have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. On this page, we will give you the positive and negatives of either option and then our conclusion (at the bottom of the page).


First things first
Remember that your aim as an applicant is to make it easier for your audience to read your CV. One way to do this is to put yourself in their shoes and by ask yourself which format they would like to receive your application in. Its therefore wise to read a job advert carefully to see which if any they prefer, for instance, some employers specifically ask for your CV as a MS Word document.


Benefits of sending your CV as a MS Word file
MS Word is a very commonly used and powerful word processing tool used to create professional documents. It has certain advantages over a PDF, here are a few;

  • Many recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to accept, process and search a candidates CV. A ATS system finds it much easier to read a MS Word document than a PDF one.
  • After receiving a CV some Hiring Managers like to add notes / remarks to it, they can do this to a MS Word document but not to a PDF one.
  • Word can be integrated with other office programs.
  • Has useful tools like spell checker etc.
  • Some recruiters may specifically ask you to send it in MS Word format.
  • Availability – comes as standard on many PCs.
  • Can edit large areas of text, change the flow between pages, and change font sizes and styles.


What is a PDF
A PDF (or Portable Document Format) at its simplest is an image of a transferable document that can be shared across multiple computer platforms. It maintains its fixed formatting and can be used for invoices, resume, CVs, newsletters, catalogues, manuals and technical papers. It was first launched by Adobe Systems in 1993 and since then has become one of the most widely-used document formats in the world.


Benefits of sending your CV as a PDF
A PDF can create a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) file which the recipient will see it as it was intended to be. Here are some other advantages it has;

  • Easy and quick to create – takes almost no time at all.
  • Widely used across the world.
  • Free – the software to make and view PDF files is completely free and easy to download.
  • Small file size – when compressed the file can be very compact, making large files ideal for storage without losing any quality.
  • Security – they can be protected with passwords / watermarks etc making them ideal for securing documents, determining who sees them and stopping others from modifying them.
  • Visually pleasing CV layouts – these can be maintained.
  • Links and other interactive functions like bookmarks and search ability – these can be kept making it ideal for Business and Legal Documents.
  • Established – the format is here for the long term.
  • Printing – PDF files are accepted by all professional printers.
  • Fonts – you do not have to worry that these may not be installed on a user’s computer to display properly.
  • Self contained – they can exist independently from the hardware, software and operating system used to create them
  • Mobile access – can be viewed on smart phones.
  • Prevents formatting errors from cropping up due to word-processor incompatibilities,
  • Ideal for including eye-catching fancy graphics, or unique designs that will make you stand out.


Disadvantages of sending a PDF

  • Once created they cannot be easily edited, changed, revised or manipulated.
  • ATS (applicant tracking system) incompatible – some older Applicant Tracking Systems might not be able to properly upload / read a PDF. In this case a recruiter is not going to spend time trying to convert it unless you exactly the person they want.


How to convert a word document to a PDF

  • Open the word document.
  • Click the file tab and select ‘Save As’.
  • From the drop down file types list select PDF (or alternatively instead of clicking ‘Save As’ click Export and select ‘Create PDF/XPS’.
  • Enter a file name.
  • Click ‘Save’.


If your CV is a simple one with only text in it then go for MS Word.

If your CV has graphics, photos, images, lots of links or a unique design then go for a PDF.

If you are still not sure, then another option is to send your CV in both formats.


Build your own CV
CV Builder