Should I Use .doc or .docx Word File Format for My Resume and Cover Letter?

For a long time I recommended sending your resume or cover letter formatted as a .doc file, with the .doc extension; for example, susan-ireland-resume-technical-support.doc. Well, times have changed, and I now recommend sending your resume or cover letter formatted as a .docx file, with the .docx extension; for example, susan-ireland-resume-technical-support.docx.

Also see: Should I Send My Resume as a PDF or Word File Format?

Why is .docx now the preferred file format for resumes and cover letters you send to employers? Two reasons:

  • The .docx file extension works smoothly for the majority of employers who are processing job applicants.
  • Using the .docx file extension makes the job seeker look up-to-date with today's technology.

Let's look at each of these reasons.

.docx Works for the Majority of Users

When a new file format is developed, it takes time for all of us to get on board with using it, especially if the new format isn't compatible with old computer systems. That's what happened in 2007, when Microsoft Word came out with its current format with the .docx extension. For several years, the .docx format couldn't be opened by users (such as employers and recruiters) who had the older (pre-2007) MS Word application on their computers. The same was true for Mac users. So, if a job seeker sent a resume formatted as a .docx file to an employer who wasn't using the latest MS Word app or was using a Mac, the employer couldn't open the resume. When that happened, the loser was usually the job seeker, since the employer most likely tossed the .docx resume.

The solution in those early days was to send a resume in the old .doc format since both new and old Word apps could open it, as could Mac systems. That sometimes meant taking extra steps to save your document in a pre-2007 version of Word.

Finally, many years later, we're all on the same page (or at least most of us are): We have updated our MS Word applications and can now open .docx-formatted documents. That’s why I now advise folks to send their resumes and cover letters in .docx format. It still works to send the old .doc format, but using a .docx format gives you one clear advantage.

.docx Shows You're Up with the Times

When an employer receives a resume sent to him in the old .doc format, he assumes the job seeker is using an old version of Word, which sends a subtle message that the job seeker is behind the times. The employer can open the .doc file, but in the back of his mind he could be thinking that the resume is from someone who is not as technically savvy as most applicants. It could even trigger a bit of age discrimination if the employer thinks it indicates the job seeker is older than his ideal hire.

Long Story Short on File Format for Your Resume and Cover Letter

It's better to use a post-2007 version of Word with the .docx extension than to use a pre-2007 version that has the .doc extension.


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Susan Ireland Resume Author Susan Ireland is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume and creator of Susan Ireland's Ready-Made Resume Builder.