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Submitting Job Applications in PDF format

Hi everybody,

What do you think about PDFs as a job application format?

When a job posting simply says, "please send your cover letter and resume to info@company.com" without any further format guidelines, is it acceptable to submit a PDF encapsulating the cover letter & CV?

Fred Ngo
Friday, January 30, 2004

no. PDFs seem like a good idea, but in reality they are annoying. they launch a separate browsing window, and are difficult to search. just send ascii or word.


Friday, January 30, 2004

Any HR folks care to chip in?

Fred Ngo
Friday, January 30, 2004

no. PDFs seem like a good idea, but in reality they are annoying. they launch a separate browsing window, and are difficult to search. just send ascii or word.

HR Person.
Friday, January 30, 2004

A lot of users have MSWord. Can't say the same for Acrobat Reader.

Even I, being a 'power user', find PDFs more cumbersome to open and read that .docs.

I would apply the SHIFT+DEL policy to your job application.

But I am not a HR person.

YMMV

.NET Developer
Friday, January 30, 2004

From personal experience, there is a good chance the HR person screening the applications won't be able to open a PDF.  They won't know what a PDF is or how to get and install software to view them.


Friday, January 30, 2004

A lot of users have Acrobat Reader. Can't say the same for MSWord.

Seriously. I have never seen a post-Win 3.1 or post-System 7 computer without Acrobat Reader installed. Never.

But I have seen many computers without MS Word.

Tony Chang
Friday, January 30, 2004

"They won't know what a PDF is or how to get and install software to view them. "

Making this a PERFECT way for competent developers to prescreen companies for absolute stupidity.

You do NOT want to work for a company that does not know how to open a pdf file. Trust me on this one.

Tony Chang
Friday, January 30, 2004

The point isn't that companies are too stupid to figure out how to view PDFs, it is that there is no good workflow for viewing PDFs. I agree that you probably don't want to work for someplace that REQUIRES the resume submitted in word, but it seriously is annoying to view PDF files if you receive 100 resumes per day. (which we did, at a completely rinky-dink 12 person web development shop I used to work for)

HR Person.
Friday, January 30, 2004

At my company we spend our days on unix workstations. That means No MS Word, Yes Acrobat.

Every single Tech Note or Data Sheet that I come across is in PDF. The market penetration can't be that bad.

Also, MS Word costs money, Acrobat is Free.

Then again, I wouldn't expect the HR department to run on unix workstations.

Anonymous
Friday, January 30, 2004

what 'workflow' does Word have which PDF does not? the internal routing and email features of word? something else? does it work if the users uses rtf?

mb
Friday, January 30, 2004

there are a bunch of resume processing systems that run on top of office.


Friday, January 30, 2004

"Making this a PERFECT way for competent developers to prescreen companies for absolute stupidity."

No, you're prescreening companies based on the stupidity of their HR dept. In a larger company, your only interaction with this dept may be the application process.

BTW, one big differentiator - are we talking about a MS shop or a Linux shop? Maybe that's the source of the difference of opinion.

In applying to MS shops, I've never had an issue with Word, but my attempts to send pdf's lasted about five days (before I got tired of resending in Word)

Philo

Philo
Friday, January 30, 2004

This is just too crazy.  I'm reading this with interest as I prepare my resume.

Guy#1: I want to use PDF, is that ok?

Guy#2: No, most people won't be able to use PDF to insert your resume into their resume database.  Also, PDF is annoying.  Thus, yours gets deleted.  Use .DOC

Guy#3: We run Unix, so we can't even open .DOC files.  Use PDF

Guy#4: .DOC gives HR the superfluid ability to slide your resume right in, for some "resume processor" addons to Office.  Use DOC

Everyone(unspoken): ASCII-text looks unprofessional, so don't use it unless specifically asked to.  Don't use plaintext if possible


The crazy thing is, Guy#2 thinks that using .PDF will get your resume deleted, and Guy#3 states that using .DOC will get your resume deleted.

If I use .RTF, I run the risk of having the HR person misinterpret my attachment.  Otherwise, I'd say it's the safest bet.


Pete
(will be distributing his resume as a .DOC unless otherwise specified)

pds
Friday, January 30, 2004

HTML or RTF. Basic ASCII is just too crude, formating-wise.

FredF
Friday, January 30, 2004

I propose a new .res format for resumes here and now.

The content & presentation will be seperated within the file for easy processing, printing, and over-all brain-dead HR guy reading.

.res readers (should open in the next version of MS Office) should be able to hook in to a corporate database, hotjobs, monster, etc. making finding someone who fits a certain critera as easy as typing in a few keywords.

This way we can end this discussion once and for all... That is, until we discuss whether or not the .res format has helped or hurt the job search business.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, January 30, 2004

In previous job applications, I've sent both .pdf & .doc, and specifically written in the e-mail that both were provided.

I've also submitted in .doc, and said that my resume is available in another format if they want.

I've never had trouble with either approach.  The dual format sounds wasteful, but in most HR departments I've seen, they are staffed with the same people who will include multiple uncompressed full-screen screen prints in an HTML e-mail.  So I would venture that they aren't too picky about the size of their messages. :)

Dignified
Friday, January 30, 2004

Personally, I like PDF allot, but I'd still use plain text over it. I don't get why people use doc format anyway.

I know allot of places which will delete your mail based on your format, I know allot of people in the unix world who will delete an job mails if it's not in text, I know HR people who demand everything is in word format.

Plain text is nice, and I usually rename my .txt files to .doc and then they grumble about no fancy formatting. Keeping things in plain text is the best idea, then convert to pdf, html, or whatever when you are sending it out.

fw
Friday, January 30, 2004

Here's another interesting question. Why is it that many job postings don't specify what format to send your application in?

If for whatever reason a specific format is needed, why not say "please submit your application to info@company.com in DOC format"?

My feeling is that if the format isn't specified, then the company is prepared to be "liberal in what input they accept".

Anyway, have things changed or what. The last time I applied for a job, sending my application on paper was still the preferred method. :)

Fred Ngo
Friday, January 30, 2004

Yeah Fred - Joel grumbled that he shreds resumes he gets on paper (though his job site *does* specify email)

Philo

Philo
Friday, January 30, 2004

My source resume is in xhtml with embedded css stylesheet.  Very easy to convert to word or pdf. 


Friday, January 30, 2004

They don't specify the format they want, because they are looking for an easy way to screen out applicants.  You send something other than what they had in mind, and your resume conveniently gets deleted (or goes into an archive, if the local laws require retaining resumes).  Less work for HR, since they won't even have to read it.

NoName
Friday, January 30, 2004

post it online and provide a link in the email.

genius
Friday, January 30, 2004

Let me then re-state how I will do it:

1.  Attach my resume in .DOC format, AND

2.  Provide link to web site with resume in all formats, including .DOC, .RTF, .PDF, and the awful plaintext.  Oh, and HTML.  Something like "The resume is available in a variety of document formats on my website, "gopher://www.l33t333t33tn355.tk/users/1337/Professional_Resume/".  Excellent.

That should give even the crankiest Unix admin little excuse to pass me absolutely.

pds
Friday, January 30, 2004

I send them in Latex

with zeal
Friday, January 30, 2004

You could always just call the company (assuming you know where you're sending your resume) and ask them what their preferred format is.

Wade Winningham
Friday, January 30, 2004

"My feeling is that if the format isn't specified, then the company is prepared to be "liberal in what input they accept"."

What I've seen is that if they don't specify a format. It is almost sure that they *don't* even know that a document can be created in anything else than Word.

So, in doubt, just send .doc. Everyone that knows PDF also knows what a .doc is. The opposite is not true.

.NET Developer
Friday, January 30, 2004

I have always used plaintext, and made sure it looks
decent when viewed in Notepad or a console editor like
emacs/vi.  Lots of people hate any sort of cooked text;
even Word docs may not work due to different versions,
etc - there's still plenty of places that use Word 97.

A reasonably good approach is to create a Word
version, save as text, and use Notepad to sure it looks
decent as text.  If Word is specified, send it, otherwise
send text.

x
Friday, January 30, 2004

If the HR people don't specify, they want it in MS Word, period. 

How you feel about "M$" or whether you think PDF is a better format is irrelevant.

Mister Fancypants
Saturday, January 31, 2004

That's absurd and ignorant. If they DON'T SPECIFY ANYTHING AT ALL, then you better be submitting it on 70# linen with a single, clean, readible typeface.

One Who Knows
Saturday, January 31, 2004

We have hundreds of machines at work without Acrobat Reader.

Submit the resume in .rtf format. Every company computer will have a Word Processor of some type.

Don't submit in HTML unless you have a special print version. It's quite likely that at some stage in the hiring process, your application will end up as a resume in a cardboard file. You want control over how it prints.

Don't link to something online. It's highly inconsiderate and time-wasting, and there is a good chance the person looking doesn't even have internet access.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Isn't it worth noting that a Google search for the words "click" and "here" give Acrobat Reader as #1 and "download" gives it as #2?

intern
Saturday, January 31, 2004

If you have already included one format in your email, why is it any worse to include additional formats in a link to a web site?  Seems better than rolling the dice by sending one format without any other options.

T. Norman
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Find me a computer that can't open an .rtf file.

Another thing to be very careful of in resumes is A4/Letter resizing. Make sure your resuem looks OK even when printed on the wrong size paper.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, January 31, 2004

How many systems can open PDF versus how many systems can open HTML versus how many can open Format X is irrelevant. 

If they work in HR, they have a recent version of Word installed.  Use Word .doc.  Any other format and you're just being an idiot, and likely you're one of those assholes who is whining about how there are no good jobs giving you call-backs these days. 

Uh, wonder why?

Mister Fancypants
Saturday, January 31, 2004

I agree with Wade:

When in doubt, what's so doggone difficult about contacting the HR person and asking them which format they prefer?

Comes off as a considerate gesture and evidence that you have the ability to communicate with humans...a skill that most techies I've ever met REALLY need to work on.

It's amazing how so many smart people make simple tasks monumentally complicated!

Tim Lara
Saturday, January 31, 2004

And another angle:

When you send your resume in a format that the HR person doesn't know how to handle, guess what they usually do?  (assuming it's not their call to delete it like Joel can)

They go and bother a programmer or IT person about how to open it.  And then, the annoyed techie will scoff and make some comment about how the person who sent the resume (you) must be incompetant because EVERYONE uses [format X] for resumes!!  If the HR person has any involvement or pull in the interviewing process (and respects the techie's opinon), then you've already gotten off on the wrong foot.

(Trust me, this happens.  I have overheard such conversations many times.  You'd be surprised how many people who have worked at the same company for a long time begin to think in their own paradigm as if they way their company does things is the only way.)

Tim Lara
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Very often you don't have an HR contact who you can ask which format they want.  You just upload your resume to some web site, and that's your only point of contact with the company.

But it is true, if they don't specify a format then it almost certainly is MS Word.  Because the type of people who don't know how to handle non-Word documents are the only type of people who think everybody else uses the same format as they do.

T. Norman
Saturday, January 31, 2004

I once had a pdf of a document returned asking for a .doc instead - the reason SECURITY !
Their email system scans .doc for macro viruses - but not pdfs.

Martin Beckett
Saturday, January 31, 2004

T. Norman:

To be fair, I admit that I have really never run into situations where I did not have some sort of HR contact available, as I tend to avoid companies that seem particularly bloated and impersonal.  IMHO, such jobs just smell like future layoffs waiting to happen.  I'd just rather know people by name.

The "automated" web application processes that I HAVE seen (many government jobs, for ex.) actually just have online forms that you fill in that are the same for everybody, making resume format a non-issue.  I don't think I've ever seen a case where you just send your resume into some void with no feedback - that doesn't sound very promising.

Tim Lara
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Security would be better served by NOT accepting .doc files, rather than accepting them because your antivirus software can scan them.  Is there such a thing as a PDF macro virus?

T. Norman
Saturday, January 31, 2004

> Is there such a thing as a PDF macro virus?

No, but it's only a matter of time. As PDF tries to become more and more the be-all-and-end-all of documents they put more and more bizarre scripting things into it.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, January 31, 2004

You can place anything in a PDF, including executables. Maybe the PDF reader won't execute them though.

Christopher Wells
Saturday, January 31, 2004

"Find me a computer that can't open an .rtf file."

I've got three computers in this office and only one of them, the newest, can open a rtf file.

Really, pdf is a much broader standard than rtf.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, January 31, 2004

I should also mention just as a info point that I have never submitted a resume electronically. Gotten jobs on the internet, sure, but I've never emailed a resume, never uploaded a resume to a jobs site, none of that. Not saying there's anything wrong with it but I have to wonder about this supposed majority of companies that refuse to accept anything except FORMAT A with COLOR B and FONT FACE C blah blah blah and everything else gets deleted, or prinetd out and then immediately shredded and spat upon. Seems like a pretty stupid way to run an HR department.

Then again, I have never been hired by an HR department. 20 some years of working as a developer and contractor and not once has a "HR" department hired me. I'm actually surprised to hear that any companies looking to hire something as specialized and high skilled as development would entrust the task to an HR department. HR works to fill out the insurance and tax paperwork and process medical forms, not to do hiring. Having HR make hiring decisions for anything other than janitorial work is *incredibly* stupid.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, January 31, 2004

HR doesn't usually make the hiring decisions per se; they make the NO-HIRE decisions by filtering out resumes before interviewing is in the picture.

T. Norman
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Well, HR has no business whatsoever evaluating engineering resumes unless the people in HR have engineering degrees.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Mine's in XML, with XSLT to ssss-style it to HTML.

If they dont like HTML, I don't want the job that much.

Things wont change from MS Lock-in until people start to force the issue. If you don't you're just another MS Gimp...

Lyndon
Sunday, February 01, 2004

Just as with Acrobat, Word viewers are free (http://office.microsoft.com/officeupdate/category.aspx?CategoryID=CD010225841033&CTT=4&Origin=CD010224971033).

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, February 02, 2004

This is from a real agency recruiter who's looked at literally thousands of resumes.  Use MS Word or a RTF format unless you're applying to a startup company which is totally committed to Linux-based systems.  Most HR resume-processing software is based on being able to automatically load resumes into their database and Microsoft Office is the gold standard for all of them. 

As a third party recruiter, even if the resume you send me in response to a job post is not a fit for the position and if you've got decent credentials in the technical areas I specialize in, I will retain your resume.  I won't necessarily remember your individual resume but I will find you again by using the keyword search facility of my database which handles ASCII, MS Word, RTF and HTML resumes just fine but does not "like" PDF files.

The automated systems work best with straightforward RTF or Word documents.  Fancy templates in MS Word tend to get screwed up and may make the resume unreadable (not everyone has the same display settings in Word).  Unless the HR group has a fairly IT-sophisticated person doing the resume processing or a really sharp IT department supporting them, PDF resumes tend to get left out.  Understand that it's nothing personal, just a result of the volume of responses.  If you do want to use a PDF format, then also include your resume in the body of your email in plain text format.

FYI:  Paper resumes don't work at all for most technical positions.  That makes it very difficult for me to forward your information to the hiring manager who may not be in the same state as I am much less the same building.  Do bring a nice resume or two on paper with you to an in-person interview. 

vbtzi
Monday, February 02, 2004

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