This blog post is written by Jon Cohen, Head of People & Culture, BrioHR. 

This one simple choice is the difference between getting an interview and getting ghosted!

How much time did you spend writing your CV and making it look amazing?

You should have spent hours keyword-optimizing it, getting people to proof-read it…doing everything you can to make it incredible!

Would you be upset to know that when you apply for a job via a hiring platform or job portal, your CV has a higher chance of being automatically rejected by a machine than it does of being seen by a Hiring Manager or Recruiter?

This is down to an important but often overlooked element of creating a great CV:

What format should you save it in?

When you send a CV there are generally two outcomes:

  • You DON’T get an interview.
  • You DO get an interview.

If you want to get more interviews you need to save your CV in the right file format. But what is the right format?

The choices can be a minefield of variables and pros / cons so BrioHR has done their best to make it as simple as possible.

What are the standard choices?

  • PDF
  • Doc
  • DocX
  • txt
  • HTML
  • PNG
  • JPG

Let’s do this in the wrong order. We can start with the conclusion before we get into the discussion.

To give yourself the highest chance of success, save your CV in PDF format AND Doc format.

If you are emailing your CV directly to a person, use your PDF CV.

If you are applying online via a hiring platform or job portal, use your doc CV.

Saving your CV in two different formats and using each format at the right time doesn’t take any extra time or effort, and it can make a world of a difference!

To be honest, that’s all you need to know, but if you are curious about the reasons, carry on reading. 

*scroll to the end for a BONUS TIP!

Eliminating the poor choices:


I sometimes get a CV in PNG / JPG or another digital image format. 

There are lots of reasons NOT to use this format 

There are barely any reasons TO use them. 

In the past I have received CVs that have been printed out, scanned, saved as an image and attached in an email, I’ve even received a CV that was actually a photo of a printed out CV. Both of these are ‘job application suicide’.

It’s not possible to rip text from this file type so it’s time consuming for a recruiter to use them as they have to manually re-type details that they want to share/use. It’s also impossible for hiring software to extract text.

Companies with high hiring volumes now use applicant tracking systems or ATS. They are essential for recruitment tracking and candidate tracking. 

They are essentially recruitment software solutions. In the modern world of e-recruitment, online recruitment software is being used more and more widely.

A good ATS is able to recognise keywords in a candidate’s CV and rank all CVs in order of suitability for a role.

Yes, a lot of recruitment jobs are now done by recruitment softwares.

By using formats like PNG / JPG you will annoy recruiters, and be filtered out by their hiring software.


Txt and HTML do have a use, but those uses are only in very specific situations. 

txt files can be sent directly in the body of an email rather than as an attachment. Occasionally a recruiter might ask you for this. It’s simple and easy to view on a phone. But only send your CV in this file if requested.

Only the top 10 ATS Software have effective mobile apps; recruiters are often on the go and need CVs at their fingertips. Having a txt format CV that does not require any software or specific programs/apps in order to view it can be handy. 

HTML gives you a lot of options if you have the expertise, but it is also not supported by some browsers and in emails it is sometimes filtered out as spam. So why take the risk? It’s better to use a safer option.


Word is standardised across most businesses and regions and is compatible with most HR recruitment software – everyone is familiar with it. 

DOCX is a more efficient and stable version of DOC, but can only be used by post-2007 versions of Word (some companies haven’t updated their software in a long time).

You do run into compatibility issues with DOC versus DOCX especially between Mac and PC. It can cause the formatting in your CV to be altered slightly, especially if you use uncommon fonts, tables and complicated formatting, so best to keep it fairly simple.

The majority of applicant tracking systems can easily parse and extract keywords from DOC / DOCX files, improving your chances of being automatically ranked highly for jobs you are suitable for.

The key drawback is the virus risks associated with DOC / DOCX files. Some companies automatically block emails with DOC / DOCX attachments or they can be redirected to spam.

You put in so much hard work and the person you emailed is not even aware that you emailed them!


PDFs have some great advantages, the formatting is fixed and will not change when opened in different programs / apps / platforms, and the virus risk that comes with DOC / DOCX is not associated with PDF so the risk of having your email filtered out is much lower! Yay!

However, using a PDF version of your CV is not without negatives: DOC / DOCX is still preferred by most ATS. Many recruitment platforms cannot parse from PDF or rip text directly from the file.

Only the top 10 recruitment platforms, such as Greenhouse, Jobvite, and BrioHR, have the ability to be effective with multiple file formats.

So, what format should you use?

Looking at all the variables and pros and cons, the solution is simple:

  1. Save your CV in PDF AND Doc.
  2. If you are emailing your CV directly to a person, use your PDF CV. 

If you are applying online via a hiring platform or job portal use your doc CV. 


Don’t give your CV a generic file name like resume.doc or CV2020_v2.PDF. Use your actual name as the name of the file.

Follow Jon Cohen on LinkedIn for more tips!