For the bots, I guess.
Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

Last week, I got a free resume review. I didn’t really want one (more on that in a future post), but I was submitting my resume to some portal and the only way I could continue was by checking a box that said, “Yes, I’d like a free resume review!”

The next day or so (it was surprisingly quick, considering the amount of job-seekers out there right now), I got an email with my review. It was clear that a real person assessed my document, but I was put off by a lot of the suggestions…and not just because taking criticism is hard.

The one that really got me, and what sparked a LinkedIn post and conversation with my network, was that the reviewer noted that I uploaded my resume as a PDF, and she suggested I switch to a Word doc.

I’ve always been told that uploading a Word doc is a big DON’T because the formatting can get wonky. With a PDF, you maintain the integrity of your formatting. What’s more, there was a portion of the resume review dedicated to format! It just didn’t add up.

I know that many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sift through submitted resumes and pick out keywords. What I didn’t know, until the LinkedIn conversation, was that Word documents are more ATS-friendly than PDFs. (h/t to Leah Davidson.)

So what’s a job-seeker to do?

My advice (based on this experience and not any expertise really)? Do these three things:

  1. Optimize your resume with exact keywords (find them in the job posting)
  2. Submit your resume as a Word doc to the faceless portal
  3. Find the hiring manager for the role (or at least some other “in” at the company) and send them your PDF resume

That way, you get through to the bots in the format they prefer, and you make contact with a real person (who gets to see your resume in the format you intended).

And I bet that in a lot of cases, you won’t even have to do step #2. Having an internal contact champion your application is way better than impressing a bot.

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