Contractors’ Questions: Must my CV be in Word format, or just PDF?

Contractor’s Question: An agent rung me back annoyed that my CV is not in Word format; just PDF. After me asking ‘why?’ and him not really producing a reason, he finally settled on "Clients can't open PDFs because of security".

Well, I'd rather not work with a client who can't open PDFs in this day and age! I'm aware that some agents alter CVs, and that some legacy ATS systems don't always work well with PDF, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Personally, I think clients and agents should be able to handle PDF CVs in 2019. Am I wrong? Should I convert my CV into Word too?

Expert’s Answer: In terms of general mistakes that contractors such as yourself make when seeking contract work, I’m going to be hosting a webinar on Tuesday April 23rd and would urge you to attend. The blunder you seem to be making is exactly the sort of thing I’ll tackle.

As to the specifics of your question, a little anecdote for you. When I worked in recruitment, we would request a Word document from contractors for two reasons: a) so we could add our branding to it; and b) so we could remove the contractor’s contact details.

I guess we were encouraged to be somewhat distrustful that our clients might go behind our back and contact contractors directly, cutting us out of the loop. In retrospect, it seems daft that we would be so untrusting, but I’ve certainly seen it happen.

I think your point about ATS is also valid. I’m not a techie myself, but I’m led to believe that a PDF is simply a photograph (in rudimentary terms) – the conventional wisdom has always been that ATS cannot read a PDF.

Not that I’m taking sides here, but I would also suggest a slight tweak in thinking. As a contractor, you are ‘a business.’ The recruitment agents are therefore your ‘channel partners,’ and also ‘agents’ or ‘partners’ of the client. The organisation you ultimately supply is of course your ‘client’ or ‘customer.’ In any other business, we would pander to the whims of our partners, agents and clients -- to a degree at least. If the accepted norm in your circles is a Word document, it’s a smart move just to roll with it, otherwise it is only going to harm your chances of securing contract work. While also potentially irritating your partners, or your customer, because it irks their partners / agents.

Fortunately for you, it’s an easy mistake to put right. My webinar on today (Tuesday 23rd) at 7.15pm will discuss other mistakes that contractors make when pitching for work, and how to avoid them. You can register here for this event, which is free for ContractorUK readers.

The expert was Matt Craven, founder of the CV & Interview Advisors.

Tuesday 23rd Apr 2019
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Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible. He is considered to be a thought-leader in Personal Branding and is regularly engaged as a public speaker to deliver advice and guidance to global audiences on all things related to CV authoring, career advancement, LinkedIn, personal branding and thought leadership.
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