How to name your resume files for maximum success: Your-Name-Keyword-Resume.pdf

young woman peeking out from behind a deskWhy are so many people hiding their resume behind an ambiguous file name? Naming your resume file appropriately isn’t complicated, but only 58% of resumes in this survey included the candidate’s complete first and last name in the file name. 9% had no reference to their name at all, and another 10% just initials.

I know it’s tempting to title that Shiny New Resume you’re working on “resume,” but the best file name needs to include your full name.

Remember that in most email software, the attachment name is almost as prominent as the email subject. You do pay attention to the email subject, right? You’ll be easier to find and remember later if your file name also reflects the position you’re qualified for. In the same Palladian survey, only 11% of candidates used keywords, and (not surprisingly) more than half of those people were trained in sales and marketing. That doesn’t mean you should put MBA in the document title if you’re not one, but think about something that might contribute to your communication.

So, there are only a few appropriate resume file names for King Kong, who’s targeting a position as an actor or a huge monster:


There are infinite inappropriate resume file names for King Kong, but here are the most common problems:

anything.doc: Have control over your resume view by using a PDF whenever possible – as in, send a PDF unless they specifically ask for something else. When in doubt (or even if they ask for a .doc) send your resume as a .doc AND .pdf. PDFs were developed for document exchange, and they do it well. Different versions of Word will ruin all of your formatting, fonts and page breaks. Some people even have Word set up for “reading layout,” which sounds helpful, but actually overwrites all of the formatting in your resume document. PDFs are also much safer attachments than Word documents – they can’t transmit bugs or viruses, but .doc files can.

There is one potential downside to the PDF format, and that’s the fact that it’s not easily incorporated into a searchable database. For humans, PDF is perfect, but for computers, not so much. This will surely change in the near future, but unless the document is scanned or a text version is otherwise imported, the corporate resume database software might not play nice with your PDF file.

kingkongresume.pdf: This file name is not decipherable unless you have a name shorter than King Kong’s. Capitalize and use hyphens or underscore, but not spaces or numbers.

resume.doc or resume.pdf: Resume reviewers inevitably end up with thousands of files named “resume.doc,” so these are promptly renamed something worse.

2010resume.doc or 2009resume.pdf: If you haven’t updated your resume this year you’re insulting the reader by sending it. It’s not worth their time if it’s not worth any of yours. The current year isn’t helpful information for the reviewer either, even if it’s a great help to you.

resume4_v8.doc or Kong_2010_08_1712.pdf: No one wants to know the version number in your personal card catalog or look at file names like this. “Final,” “revised,” “copy,” “updated” and “uptodate” are all inappropriate terms to include in your resume file name. “Template” should go without saying, but let’s add that to the list too. Dates and version numbers were some of the most common useless information found in file names in the Palladian study.

universal-studios-resume.pdf: Oh, smart! You customized your resume for the Universal Studios position. Why did you need to point it out? Although, sending this resume file name to ABC Studios would be an even worse mistake.

anything.docx: DocX files are not readable by older versions of Word. Be sure to “save as” .doc if you just have to send a Microsoft Word file.

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  1. Sandra
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Go ahead and try Smart PDF Creator. I use it all the time. It gives me so many options to the PDF, and it’s very easy to use:

  2. Posted August 25, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks Sandra,
    Also the newest versions of Microsoft Word will let you “save as” PDF. If you use a Mac you have a PDF creator built into the print dialog (go to “file,” “print,” and “save as PDF” in the bottom left corner).

    This site does a good job of comparing the free PDF creators available (Bullzip PDF Writer, CutePDF, doPDF, PDFCreator, PrimoPDF, and TinyPDF):

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  1. By How to apply for jobs by email – Shiny New Resume on September 8, 2010 at 10:55 am

    [...] Send your resume as a PDF attachment and be sure to name the file appropriately. [...]

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