In today’s technologically advanced society and workplace, a vast array of resume scanning/processing software exists which creates huge issues for job seekers who are submitting their applications online. These issues occur when the file types submitted are not compatible with the specific data parsing system that is being used by HR departments. This usually happens because certain characters get distorted or formats become scrambled due to encoding used by some word processing programs that are not attuned to the employer’s database, making the documents virtually unreadable in many cases.
What are the different file types? File types are a way to encode information for storage in a computer file. Different operating systems support different sets of file types, though most agree on a large common set and allow arbitrary new types to be defined. Most modern operating systems use the filename extension to determine the file type such as .doc or .docx (Microsoft Word Document), .pdf (Adobe Portable Document Format), .txt (Plain Text or ASCII), and many more. The three file types just mentioned are the only ones that should be utilized for an effective job search campaign for various reasons. Any other file type should be converted before submitting your resume to a potential employer.
When should I use each file type?
Microsoft Office® provides a suite of software programs with one of those being MS Word. This file type is a word processor that was originally designed in 1983 and allows users to create documents using different font styles and formatting options. Since this program uses specific encoding for text that is recognized by most applicant/resume parsing systems, this is the best file type to use when uploading a resume to an online job board or company website. Some of these systems cannot correctly parse certain special fonts or styles with Microsoft Word, so try to avoid submitting an over-zealous document that contains fancy formats or characters that are not commonly used.
Adobe® PDF files provide electronic images of text and/or graphics that look like printed documents and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted without losing their original state. Originally developed by Adobe Systems, PDF files can preserve most special formatting attributes such as color, graphics, tables, and more. They can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader which is free and nearly every single computer on the face of the earth has it preinstalled before being sold to consumers. PDF files are also able to be viewed in most web browsers with the proper plug-in installed. This makes PDF the ideal file type to submit via email so that the recipient on the other end can view the document without losing the original layout of your resume. Some companies also possess more advanced systems that use OCR (optical character recognition), which is the mechanical or electronic conversion of scanned images of text into machine-encoded text. This means that sometimes a PDF document can be scanned into certain systems, but it is wise to check with the person in charge of the database before attempting to do this.
ASCII file types are nothing more than plain text versions of a document that lack any formatting, special characters, coloring, or designs. This file type should only be utilized to copy and paste your resume’s information into website portals that only allow copy/pasting as an option. This method is regularly used on government jobsites such as USAJobs.com and several others. Most medium to large sized companies allow uploads, but smaller businesses that lack the necessary technology to parse information from other file types usually only allow the option of copy and paste to gather information on an applicant’s career background. We have also seen more of this with small municipality/county government websites and other low-level federal application systems.
In summary, it’s best to check with whoever is in charge of handling the resume parsing database or applicant tracking system before assuming the file types you have will be compatible.