QUESTION: I do not have Microsoft Word on my computer. Do I have to have it for my job search? Can I just send everything in PDF? If not, why?
With most businesses using MS Word and not all Applicant Tracking Systems (APS) being PDF-friendly, using MS Word in your job search will make your life much easier. In addition, a PDF file is not searchable for specific terms/keywords if the potential employer does not have the full Adobe program, so your resume might not be selected, and you would not be a potential candidate.
We recommend having Microsoft Word for job searches. Most people don’t have the software to edit PDF files so you need your resume to be created in MS Word in order to update it. Also, the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), a fancy way to say the HR department’s resume database, can easily scan a Word file. Depending on how the PDF file is created, some ATS may not be able to read all the content.
While recommended, it’s not absolutely essential. You can open MS Word files in Google docs, and you can download Google Docs as in .docx (MS Word) format. The .doc and .docx file type is still interpreted better than PDFs by screening software, so when applying for roles, always make sure you submit all of your documents in the .docx format, no matter what software you used to create it.
Many online applicant tracking software (ATS) systems still parse Word documents best, and Word should be the default application you use unless a PDF is expressly preferred. Moreover, your job search will be much easier if you have Word available to edit and target your resume and cover letter. The good news is that MS Office 365 is available as cloud (online) service for a few dollars a month.
An alternative to MS Word is Google Docs, a cloud-based tool that enables you to write and download your resume with an employer-preferred file extension (e.g., .pdf, .txt, and .docx). Google Docs isn’t as feature-rich as Word, however, it’s free.
Word is best, as most application tracking software (ATS) is optimized for it. Some say PDFs might not work, but I’ve never encountered that. In fact, some tests indicate PDFs work better than some Word-based internet templates that use text boxes. ATS cannot read text boxes. PDF converts text boxes to text. Best practice is to submit the file type requested by the application program.
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