It's a good idea to have two files of your resume. Actually it's really wise to have 3 files.
When you apply for a position you are likely to need either a Word document or a Plain Text document. These two, the beauty and the beast, are essential job searching documents. A third file enhanced specifically for handing out to people is valuable for interviewing and networking, but not good for applying for a job.
The vast majority of companies today use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to screen the resumes of job candidates and only sends those that score highest to a human for further review. It is most likely ATS will review your resume almost instantly when you apply, before a human ever sees it. It will establish a score for your candidacy and pass only the highest scored resumes on to HR for further action.
All ATS can read Word or Plain Text resumes. After creating and saving your Word document, it should also be saved as a plain text file so that all formatting is removed. This butt-ugly document is the safest to use for ATS scrutiny and is actually preferred by ATS. The Word file is also quite acceptable as long as issues that can cause problems for ATS are removed.
If application instructions ask specifically for a plain text file, don't assume a Rich Text Format file will work. It is simply not the same. Alternatively, instructions may say it's ok to apply with a PDF file. Then a PDF file is safe to apply with, otherwise don't assume it is.
It's important to realize ATS may cause you to be rejected even if you are well qualified. Ridiculous as that may seem there are over 40 reasons why it may happen.
One key reason is graphics. We can see graphics; ATS can only read the binary code that represents what we see in a resume. Since it cannot perceive beauty there is no reason to get fancy. ATS may become confused by graphics and completely ignore associated text information.
Since PDF files are nothing more than graphical representations of a document, is it any wonder some ATS software cannot handle PDF files properly? Is it also any wonder that sometimes ATS cannot handle the typical templates offered for writing resumes? Templates provide graphic boxes to enter information into.
Word processing tools are another problem for ATS. We all use word processing software to create documents. The tools make document creation easy by providing simple ways to create the features we want. Boxes are used that become invisible to the human eye, and make information located inside them potentially lost to ATS.
If these issues were not enough, some ATS parsing software is also particular about other matters that seem trivial to us, such as what section titles information is located in, the order of information it is looking for, nesting of sequential jobs under one company, and more.
The takeaway is this: The safest way to avoid rejection or non-response to a job application is to assure the resume is compatible with all ATS software.
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