The 7 rules for submitting your résumé to your prospective employer

email_envelopeHow do you get your résumé to prospective employers or recruiters? Should you mail them, fax them, E-mail them, or upload them to a job search board? When distributing your documents online, which file format do you use? There are two versions of Microsoft Word files (.doc and .docx), Adobe Acrobat files (.pdf), and ASCII or plain text (.txt) files. Which file format is best to send?

Not surprisingly, there are a variety of opinions on these topics and even the experts disagree. I’ve formed my own opinions over the past 10+ years of assisting clients with the job search process. Not every recruiter, HR manager, or résumé expert will agree with every one of my suggestions, but I hope you will take them seriously.

  1. If the employer or recruiter states a preference for receiving files in a certain format (mailed, faxed, or e-mailed), always provide the document in that format. Make them happy.
  2. It is NOT necessary to send out paper resumes these days in most job markets for most companies. However, for very important prospects, it is worth considering distributing the résumé in both hard copy and electronic formats. Aren’t you more impressed when someone takes the time to write out a letter instead of sending you an email? Your future employer might be similarly impressed. Our work culture is on the edge of making printed résumés obsolete, but there are still some employers who prefer them and many others who accept them. Print the documents ONLY on plain bright white bond paper. Southworth is one good brand of résumé paper. After all, e-mail delivery and the postal service are not 100% reliable, and you don’t want to risk getting your application lost in a spam folder or gobbled by gremlins. Use a high quality laser printer rather than an inkjet or dot matrix, even if it takes a trip to Kinko’s. If you are sending a photocopy of a laser-printed résumé, then be sure that the copy is neither smudged nor blemished by marks from the copier. Do not staple your résumé and cover letter.

Note: If you are reluctant to send out hard copies of your résumés out of “green” concerns, you do have other options. E-mail your resume first, and if you receive a response e-mail informing you that the résumé has been properly received, then do not mail. However, if you don’t receive confirmation of receipt, consider following up with a phone call to ensure that the document was received. Even then, be warned that you may be missing opportunities if you don’t deliver hard copies to your top prospects. Use 100% recycled paper.

  1. When distributing hard copies, it’s important to try to make the document stand out in the pile. Put the résumé unfolded in a large envelope addressed to the hiring manager (not the Human Resources staff). If the prospect is local, then personally deliver the envelope. Ask for the hiring manager at the front desk and attempt to deliver it personally. If that is not possible, then leave it with the receptionist or H.R. staff. Just the fact that it is unstamped will make the package stand out and call to the hiring manager’s attention your strong interest in the position. If it is not practical to personally deliver the documents, then send the hard copies by Express/Overnight Mail (if it’s within your budget) or First Class Mail.
  2. If you are uncertain of the format that the employer or recruiter desires, always submit your file electronically, whether or not you choose to deliver a hard copy. When sending an employer or recruiter an electronic version of your résumé, and they ONLY accept one file (usually this is because their Web site only allows you to upload one file), then upload a Microsoft Word (.docx) file. The .docx format has its disadvantages (the formatting is impossible to control perfectly because the appearance of the document is dependent on the display and printer settings of the employer’s computer); however, it is the most universally accepted format. Only a few years ago I advised clients to go with the DOC format over DOCX because many employers had not yet upgraded to Word 2007, but by now virtually everyone knows about the DOCX format.

Note for Apple Fans: Never send documents in Apple-only format. Use DOC, DOCX, or PDF.

Note for Open Source Fans: If you are in the software development field and feel it’s  important to your personal brand to avoid the use of proprietary document formats such as Microsoft Word, then by all means substitute a RTF or PDF file for a DOC. No other substitution is recommended. Don’t risk it.

  1. If you are uncertain of the format that the employer or recruiter desires, and they allow you to send them any number of files, then send your résumé in two different formats: Microsoft Word (either .doc or .docx) and Adobe PDF. Some experts advise that you submit several different formats, but I feel that two is enough (any more is overkill and could be perceived as annoying to the recipient). You can create PDF files from Microsoft Word by downloading any number of free utilities (you can go to to find CutePDF or doPDF and install it on your computer) or by visiting Adobe’s Web site and using their PDF creation service. Adobe may allow you to create a limited number of PDF files for free before paying for the service. Not all free utilities are as accurate as Adobe Acrobat, so if you use a freeware PDF converter, be sure to proof the file carefully for formatting glitches. It’s not enough to proof the PDF file on the screen; you need to print it.

Tip: If applying for a job at Microsoft, then submit the file only in .docx (Microsoft Word 2007 and later). Using the older .doc file format could subliminally send the signal that your technical acumen is behind the times. By the same token, if you’re applying to Adobe, then submit the file only in PDF format. Why not show that you are familiar with the prospective employer’s technology? Don’t send files created using open source products. You might offend the reader if they are politically opposed to the open source technology movement.

  1. If your employer or recruiter requires that you submit your résumé in ASCII (.txt) format, do so. You can easily convert your Microsoft Word document to ASCII format. In Word, use the “Save As” command and select “Plain Text (*.txt)” in the “Save as type” box. When prompted by the dialog box for a specific version of ASCII, use only “Windows (Default)”. Note that when Word files are saved as plain text, the formatting is eliminated and some of the symbols used in the résumé will be replaced with garbage characters (often the “?” symbol). It is therefore necessary to open the .txt file in a text editor such as Notepad and perform a global search on any garbage characters that you see to replace them with a known character (the “*” symbol is good to use for this purpose). If you are uncomfortable with any aspect of this process, ask a tech savvy friend or your Professional Résumé Writer for assistance.
  2. Optimize the text file so that it is easy on the eyes. Another side effect of the text conversion is that the spacing in the document becomes difficult to read and any tables or columns used in the document will be messed up. Therefore, it is a good idea to manually reformat the document using printable characters and manual line spaces to break up the text in a manner that is visually appealing. The most powerful documents use a very simply designed header for the file so that your name and contact information is easy to read and stands out visually. Although computers may be reading the plain text data, eventually it gets read by a human reviewer who will tend to be more favorably disposed to résumés that are easy to read. When saving the file in Notepad, be sure that “Word Wrap” is turned ON or the final file could wind up a visual mess (Windows could insert line breaks in unexpected places depending on the size of the Notepad window at the time the file was saved.)

Is it a good idea to put your résumé on a Web site?


Recently I’ve had inquiries from professionals who have both a resume as well as their own Web site, Visual CV, or other online version of the resume. They want to know if it’s essential to have a Web site for conducting a job search in a competitive market.

The truth is that having a resume on a Web site isn’t for everyone, and if your job search budget is limited then your resources are probably better off invested in other areas. The biggest bangs for your buck, I think, are usually the traditional resume, LinkedIn Profile, job search coaching, and career counseling.

That said, if price isn’t an issue or if you plan to do the work of creating an online resume yourself, then having your own Web site is worth considering in some situations. But very often it will make no difference and it could possibly backfire.

In my opinion, the most important key to success in your job search is to have a high degree of self-awareness which is translated into a rock-solid career plan and employer value proposition that reflects your authentic self. The ability to communicate that sort of career self-awareness is the heart of your “personal brand.”

All your career marketing documents need to reflect your personal brand, and for most professionals that’s the resume and LinkedIn Profile. (LinkedIn with its 90 million users is the “must-do” online identity outpost), but you don’t need to go overboard. You may not need to put yourself out there in a million different places online.

Video CVs can be helpful for hipsters, musicians, and performers. Online portfolios are useful for graphic designers and certain other creative professionals. But for most professionals these tools are overkill.

It can also be excessive to have a resume-like Web site at It’s not a bad idea if you’re willing to spend a significant amount of energy to always keep the information up-to-date, and it can be positively stellar if you’re going to have your own blog to show off your expertise. But if the information is poorly put together, out of date, or out of sync with your other career documents it could be worse than nothing.

To get the most out of an online resume, make sure it’s every bit as good as your resume and LinkedIn profile and also offers additional information that an employer can’t get elsewhere.

If you’re not sure you need your own Web site, you probably don’t. Instead, reserve your own domain name based on your personal brand (usually that’s a variation on your full name), and redirect the URL to your LinkedIn profile or a CV in a PDF format.

Did you lie on your resume? You have options.


Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of clients on resumes and noticed plenty of confusion about how far they can go to cover, hide, or bend the truth to avoid drawing attention to weaknesses in their work history. And sometimes I’ve seen out-and-out untruths on the resumes that we’ve been handed.

It’s never a good idea to lie on the resume, and it’s never necessary. Honesty is not only the right thing, it’s also the most practical. If you’re caught in a serious misrepresentation, you may not only lose a job, but you could suffer legal consequences and permanently tarnish your professional reputation.

But if you’ve gotten away with it in the past, you may be tempted to continue if you think it’s helped you so far. Instead, here are some steps to take right away.

  1. Remove any versions of your resume that contain the false information that may be posted online, and destroy any hard copies that you may have.
  2. Create a new version of your resume with correct information. It isn’t necessary to advertise weaknesses or “red flags,” but you cannot change dates or misrepresent the facts regarding your background. If you in doubt about a statement’s honesty, re-write it so that it is something you feel comfortable explaining if asked. You may be able to use a cover letter or supplemental sheet to address your weaknesses.
  3. If you receive a phone call from a potential employer or recruiter based on the false information, you don’t need to disclose that you lied. Instead, decline the interview or explain that you have an updated resume that you would like them to review prior to the interview. If you are asked about the changes, you can explain that you found errors in the resume and have corrected them.
  4. After all that, take some time for reflection on the shortcomings in your work history that have tempted you to take shortcuts. There are always steps that you can take to overcome these weaknesses or minimize their impact, so consider consulting a professional resume writer or career coach to learn ethical and accepted practices for improving your success in winning interviews without cutting ethical corners.

As Dawn Rosenberg McKay reminds us, lies have a way of snowballing. It’s best to avoid the first one. You may lose some interviews in the short run, but you’ve protected your professional reputation forever.

Don’t forget to list your security clearances on the résumé


Have you gained any security clearances by government intelligence or law enforcement agencies? Don’t forget to list the clearances on the resume, even if they’re out of date. If they’ve lapsed, be sure to include the year that the clearance lapsed.

Why? The obvious reason is that some government employers require the clearances and lacking them can be a legitimate reason to not offer you an interview, if there are equally qualified job candidates who have already earned the clearances. Moreover, private employers may have government contracts or want to compete on government bids (whether you know about it or not), so they may favor job candidates whose resumes include the information.

Job seekers may not appreciate that Top Secret clearances may cost potential employers tens of thousands of dollars. If you have passed clearances for the first half of your life, then this could save the employer substantial money if you’re hired. And if you’re hired, having the clearance could be a reason for getting a promotion.

By the way, there are many security designations beyond Top Secret. If you have some of those, it usually isn’t necessary to list them unless the job application requires it. (If you’re not asked, don’t tell).

Career Doctor: How CVs Differ from Resumes

CVIn the post If Resume Spills Only Slightly onto Second Page, Best to Condense to One“, The Career Doctor says:

I believe it’s almost always best to go to a two-page resume than to reduce font size and margins (and readability) just to get your resume to fit on one page. Remember the rule that if you go to a second page, that the second page should have enough content to fill at least half a page.

Or do you plan to go into academia? If so, then what you really need is a curriculum vitae, which shares some attributes with a resume, but which tends to be longer because there is more information is included in a CV. An academic CV would include information beyond your education and experience, including scholarly contributions, professional development, teaching, and service.

There are a few other situations as well where a CV is called for: certain artistic, scientific, and government professions.

At the same time, if a private company asks for a CV, be cautious. Make sure you know exactly what they’re looking for, because the term is sometimes used synonymously with resume and doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for a different format. On the other hand, European employers may ask for a CV that is different than CVs prepared for US employers.

Why the résumé is an endangered species

joe-perez-300I have posted a new article called “Why the Resume is an Endangered Species” on BizNik. Here’s the money quote:

Isn’t having an e-résumé and Web site enough? Five or ten years ago, uploading your résumé as a Word file, PDF, or HTML page to the World Wide Web was considered state-of-the-art. However, today, it’s expected… not exceptional.

Résumés are not likely to go away forever, but in the future fewer and fewer hiring decisions will be won or lost based on them. In the contemporary job search process, online self-marketing in the form of LinkedIn profiles, blogs, social résumés, and even Twitter feeds are the new standard. If you’re serious about your career, you can benefit by staying abreast of the evolving recruiting scene with its Web 2.0 technologies (that is, social networking sites).

The rest of the article explains why the resume needs to be viewed as only one part of a career marketing portfolio. Your career marketing portfolio is the most important element in your career marketing plan, your guide to reaching your ultimate job goals.