Modern resume design is complex. New HR technologies, shifting resume expectations and a move to integrate online portfolios and social media into resume materials has changed the way we create and use resumes.

Today, most people find it useful to have multiple types of resume files to support their job search that they can draw on under differing circumstances.

These include a master version resume, a tailored resume aligned to the position they are applying for, a PDF presentation version, and an Applicant Tracking System suitable version.

Why Do We Need Different Files?

Once, when we used our resumes, they were simply given to the hirer to read.

Now, a resume may have multiple readers including a recruiter, HR, the ultimate hirer and even an automated system that ‘parses’ the resume and ranks each candidate’s resume according to their suitability for the role.

Unfortunately each of these ‘readers’ are different, and have their own preferences for the type of information they seek and how it should be presented.

Different Readers. Different Needs.

Each reader is considering your application from their own perspective, with different agendas.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are technologies used to help with the shortlisting process. They may be the first ‘reader’ of your resume and performing poorly within an ATS can lead to poor application success results.

These systems are only interested in the content in your resume and in identifying your suitability to the role. Design elements in the resume such as tables, graphics, text boxes, headers and footers, shading and certain colours and fonts, can all make your information unreadable by these systems.

Importantly, the system is seeking specific information and keywords in your resume to assess your fit for the role against the programmed criteria.

Recruiters & HR are entrusted by organisations to source and shortlist suitable applicants. Recruiters & HR professionals will have been briefed by the decision maker in the organisation on the needs of the role and what the ultimate decision maker is seeking in an applicant.

Recruiters and HR are experts in identifying talent but they may not have direct expertise in the technical elements of the role. It’s important that information in your resume is created in a way that allows people outside the role, like recruiters and HR, to understand and appreciate.

This includes ensuring your fit for the role is clear, any industry terminology is explained, and your key achievements and actions are articulated well.

The hiring decision maker has a detailed understanding of the role and will be looking for more depth of information than HR and recruiters. They need enough detail to ensure you have the capability to deliver on the needs of the role.

They will be seeking evidence of your skills, past experience and achievements, and looking for reasons to hire you over other candidates with similar backgrounds or skills.

Creating an Effective Resume for all Readers

With so many different readers, all looking for different types of information and formats, it’s important to have your resume designed carefully, and to then create a range of file versions of this resume to suit the circumstances of the role.

More importantly, it’s essential you become skilled in knowing what type of resume file will be best suited to what circumstances.

The types of files that may be helpful to have include a master resume with all your career background detailed, a revised Word version of your resume tailored to the role, a presentation PDF version of your tailored resume and an applicant tracking system version of the tailored resume.

Your master resume is the file you use as a base for your applications that contains a detailed overview of your career. Typically a master resume is created in Word, and then later tailored for each role. Your master resume will be aligned to the general type of roles you will be applying for but will need to be edited each time to ensure the specific needs of the position are addressed.

The tailored version (Word file) is carefully written to reflect the needs of the specific position you are applying for on the day. This will ensure that your fit for the specific role is reflected in alignment with the specific selection criteria of the role. Without doing this, you will be disadvantaged in the shortlisting phase by both the technology and by the human readers.

This version will be created to incorporate and evidence the skills and experience (using similar keyword language) outlined in the advertisement or application materials.

A presentation resume (PDF) is a resume designed to only be used when ATS systems are not being used. This type of file is designed to have impact with the reader through additional graphical elements or design aspects to reinforce key areas of content.

As graphical elements can shift from computer system to computer system this type of resume is usually sent in a PDF format that ensures the document received appears the same from computer to computer.

An applicant tracking system version is a plain version of the tailored word document. This is usually designed in a simple unformatted, plain word file or as a plain text file. This version incorporates the content and no graphical elements. It is created to be easily parsed by technology applications so that text is extracted cleanly.

Content should be straight forward and easy to find with standard type headings such as education and work history and only symbols that may be found on the keyboard.

ATS systems prefer chronological resumes as functional resumes may create difficultly for the system to find the required information.

How do you know when to use each file?

The best way to know what file type to use is to ask. Making contact with the recruiter or hirer helps ensure you are providing the best file type and may also provide valuable clues on the role and the type of person they are seeking.

If you can not contact the hirer there are other ways to assess the best file type. If you are taken into an online portal or uploading on a job board there is a very strong likelihood you will be going initially through an applicant tracking system so an ATS suitable word file is important.

If you are sending directly to the email of a contact or recruiter then I recommend sending both a PDF and ATS file, with a brief note explaining you have provided both options for their convenience.

Resume design can be challenging but with a little effort, you can create a suite of documents which ensure you can respond confidently in any forum.

Contact our Resume Writing team for more information on our resume services or a quote.