How to Name Your Resume and Cover Letter
Tips for Naming and Saving Your Job Application Documents
When you are applying for jobs, it's important to give your resume a title that makes it clear that the resume is yours, not just that of any random candidate.
It is particularly important when you send employers your resume and cover letter as attachments (either via email or through an online job application system). When the employer opens your document, he or she will see what you have named your document.
You, therefore, want the title to be professional, and to state who you are clearly.
Read below for more advice on what to name your resume file and other job application documents, as well as what not to name them. Also read below for advice on how to save your documents.
Tips for Naming Your Resume
Avoid generic titles. Don't email or upload your resume with the name resume.doc, unless you want a harried human resources associate to save over your file with someone else’s. With a generic file name, there will be no way to distinguish it from all the other resumes with the same name.
Use your name. Choose a file name that includes your name. This way, hiring managers will know whose resume it is, and it will be easier for them to track and manage it. It’s also less likely that they’ll lose it, or get your materials confused with someone else’s.
If you name your resume janedoeresume.doc, Jane Doe Resume.doc, or Jane-Doe-Resume.pdf, the employer will know whose resume it is at a glance and be able to associate it with the rest of your materials and application.
If you can fit it; use both your first name and last name (or just your last name). That way your resume won't get confused with someone with the same first name.
Go beyond just your name (maybe). You might choose to provide a bit more detail in the title than simply your name. You can also include the title of the position in your document name for your resume and cover letter.
You can use spaces or dashes between words; capitalizing words may help make the document name easier to read.
Be professional. Remember that hiring managers and other people who will interview you are quite likely to see your cover letter and resume file names, so make sure those titles are professional and appropriate. Now is not the time to pull out your AIM screen names from middle school. Save the joke names for your private social media accounts and keep these file names professional and simple.
Be consistent. Consistency is important when naming your resume, cover letter, and other application documents, so use the same format for each. For example, if you simply use your last name and a description of the document for one title (“Smith Resume”), use the same format for all your other materials (“Smith Cover Letter”). Make sure any capitalization, spacing, use of dashes, and other style choices are consistent between documents.
Avoid version numbers. If you are applying for jobs frequently, it's possible that you have several versions of your resume saved on your computer. Avoid including version numbers (e.g., John-Smith-Resume-10.doc) in your file name and other cryptic codes.
Get rid of those numbers and codes when you submit your resume. An employer might get the impression that the job is halfway down a long list of potential opportunities. A hiring manager who sees “resume-10” as part of your file name will wonder what resumes 1 through 9 looked like and whether you’re just applying for every job in town.
Develop a filing system on your computer to keep track of the different versions of your resume, rather than using the file name for that purpose, and make sure that proofed, ready-to-go resumes are stored in a separate area from drafts.
Edit, edit, edit. Before submitting your resume or cover letter, proofread the document title. It sounds silly, but a typo in the title might make an employer think that you do not focus on details and that you are unprofessional.
Options for Saving Your Resume
It's important to send or upload your resume as a PDF or a Word document. This way the receiver will get a copy of your resume and cover letter in the original format.
To convert your Word documents to PDFs, depending on your word processing software, you may be able to do so by clicking “File,” then “Print,” then “Save as PDF” (from the list of menu options in the bottom left-hand corner). If not, there are free programs you can use to convert a file to a PDF. Saving your resume and cover letter as a PDF will ensure that the formatting stays the same, even if the employer uses a different word processing program or operating system.
However, if the job listing requires you to submit your documents in a different format, be sure to do so. Not following instructions could cost you an interview.
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Star Wars or Star Trek? Quick, pick.
If you’re not a hardcore Warsie or Trekkie you’re probably thinking, what’s the difference?
It’s space people doing space things in space with glowy swords. Right?
Wrong. There are obviously no glowy swords in Star Trek.
Now, quick - PDF resume or Word resume? Pick.
Again, I’m sure you don’t see much difference. Hint: Word doesn’t have glowy swords either.
It might not seem like it, but there are big differences between the two formats and choosing the right one is critical.
So, which file format do you choose? Should you pick an MS Word doc or the PDF resume format?
This article will tell you how to decide which file format to use when saving a resume so that you can be sure that a hiring manager will read it.
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Resume Formatting - Word or PDF?
Why is a simple thing like choosing between a PDF resume or a Word resume so important?
Some companies can receive up to 250 resumes on average in response to a single job opening.
And they use software to help them sort through that mountain of resumes. Because let’s face it, recruiters are only human.
The software is called Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, and it sorts resumes by relevancy, checking them for keywords from the job description.
If you put all the right things on your resume, ATS will rank it higher: especially, of you've put your best skills on your resume.
So, if you’ve taken the time to carefully tailor your resume to the job description by adding keywords to your resume, you’re already one step ahead of everyone else.
Hiring managers then read those resumes at the top of the ranking to choose who they are going to interview.
That means that hundreds of resumes will never reach a human person.
But what does all of this have to do with the file format you’ve chosen for your resume?
ATS software is not able to read special formatting. Therefore it is critical for you to email your resume right.
For example, some older versions of ATS software can have problems reading PDFs.
While the software continues to improve, you need to make sure you have an ATS-friendly version of your resume.
How do you know if your resume is going to have to pass through ATS?
Many large companies now use some form of the software.
Have you ever filled out an application online and then attached your resume separately? If yes, then ATS software probably scanned your resume.
If you are applying to a large firm with 100+ employees, there is a good chance that the company is processing your information with the help of ATS software.
And if you’re applying to a Fortune 500 company it’s more likely than not.
Smaller enterprises and startups are less likely to use the software, but that trend is changing.
The strategy to getting past the software is the same in almost every case:
- Your resume needs to match the job description.
- You need to use the best keywords for a resume.
- Plus, you have to make sure you know how to format a resume so that the software doesn’t automatically reject it.
Pro Tip: If you’re sending your resume as a PDF, make sure it is not saved as an image.
How do you know your PDF file is okay? Try to highlight, copy, and paste the text. If your computer can read the text then you’re good to go.
Feel like there's just too much to keep in mind when writing your resume? We've got you covered. Get our free checklist and make sure you always submit a resume that'll land you that dream job: 46 Things You Need To Do Before You Send Your Resume
Do you need information on how to format your resume to highlight your skills and achievements? Read our guide: 3 Resume Formats: How to Choose the Best One [Examples]
Here’s How to Choose Between a Resume in PDF or Word
So, what’s the best resume format - Word or PDF?
Well, that depends on how a company wants you to apply for a job. One isn’t necessarily better than the other.
So, the first thing you will want to do is to check if there are any specific guidelines concerning the format of your resume.
If the job description or online application gives you specific instructions, follow them. That’s all you have to do.
If you are sending your resume directly to a human being or there are no specific instructions, consider saving your documents in multiple formats (PDF, .doc, .docx) so that you can pick and choose which to send in different situations.
Here are the pros and cons of PDF resumes:
|Pro For The PDF Resume Format|
Virtually everyone can open a resume in PDF format on their computers.
Saving your document as a PDF ensures that the formatting will not get messed up when a user opens it.
Creating a PDF resume gives you more creative freedom (more on that later).
|Cons For The PDF Resume Format|
Some ATS software may have trouble reading PDF resumes.
If you’ve used a PDF resume format to make your resume more creative, ATS software may skip parts of your resume as it will not read graphics or text hidden in images.
Here are the pros and cons of submitting your resume in Microsoft Word formatting:
|Pros For The Word Resume Format|
Everyone has Word. Everyone. Well, unless they live in a remote part of the world in a cave with no access to computers. And in that case, you might want to send your resume via Owl ala Harry Potter.
ATS software can easily read a Word doc resume.
Many companies simply prefer documents saved as .docx, plain and simple.
|Cons For The Word Resume Format|
Your formatting can get seriously messed up if a hiring manager opens your resume in Word or with another tool other than Word.
Others have the ability to change or delete sections of your resume in a doc file either deliberately or accidentally.
You do not have the creative flexibility that you may feel you need to express yourself.
Let’s assume that your resume needs to pass a round of ATS before it lands in the lap of a human reviewer.
If you know there is a big chance that your resume is going to pass through ATS here are the rules about formatting:
- No charts, graphs, images, text boxes, or special formatting of any kind.
- Do not use special symbols to separate information unless they are standard symbols on a keyboard (- / *).
- Only upload a resume in a Word file (.doc / .docx) not your PDF resume, RTF, or JPG.
At times, you will not have to send a resume at all. The system will require you to cut and paste text from your resume into text boxes online.
In other cases, you will send your resume directly to a human. If that’s the case, you may want to send your resume as a PDF.
Especially if you want your resume to maintain formatting and if are applying for a creative job that requires your resume to reflect a particular skill set such as graphic design.
Why Sending a PDF of Your Resume Is Important
The best advice is to keep a file saved both ways - PDF and .docx - that way you can pull out either one in a given situation.
Here’s the thing. Handing in a resume for a job application as a PDF is a good idea if you want your resume to look exactly the way you’ve made it.
When a recruiter attempts to download a resume in a doc file, it can mess up the formatting enough to result in the accidental removal or rearrangement of content.
That’s why choosing the right format for sending a resume is important. Even if the ATS robots can read it - people need to have a good experience too.
Another thing about PDF resumes is that you can create them using software like Photoshop or InDesign, which gives you much more freedom in how you layout or graphically design your resume.
It’s a good idea for creatives to use PDF if they want to do something fancy with the design of their resume.
You can always copy and paste text from a PDF if you are going to fill in an online application and then send your full resume in PDF file formatting later when a hiring manager has invited you to do so.
Ultimately, it’s up to you, but it’s easy to export a Word resume in doc format into a PDF format and vice versa to have both.
With the birth of Applicant Tracking System software, it is now more crucial than ever to remember that tiny details such as how you save your resume are important.
It may not seem like a big deal, but if you send a resume that is not formatted to pass through ATS software, then there is virtually no chance of your resume reaching a human recruiter.
If you want to keep your resume in the running, make sure you’ve given yourself a fighting chance by creating both a Word resume and a PDF resume.
Still not convinced that one format is better than the other? Let us know in the comments, and we will do what we can to address your concerns. Thanks for reading!