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What employers see in your resume file name (that you don’t)

The details matter. When you’re competing with other candidates for a job, employers are going to notice which potential hire put the most care and attention into getting it right. In a few recent articles, we’ve pointed out that employers can read more into your contact information than you realized you were communicating, as well as what leaving half a blank page could be telling them.

One of the most overlooked details on candidate resumes is what they call their file. Not the resume title at the top of the page, but the actual file name as it is saved – and more importantly – shared.

When employers receive your resume as an email attachment, the first thing they read – before they’ve even opened it – is the name of the file. So that is their real first impression of the document.

The example I use to illustrate this is from one time when I was hiring a content editor for a website I was publishing. This was a couple of years ago, so let’s say it was in 2016. One candidate emailed me his resume to apply for the job. The attachment to his cover letter email was called Irwin_Jones_Editor_Jobs_Resume_Updated_2014.doc

Based just on his file name, before I’ve even looked at the resume, here’s what I assume about Irwin Jones. He applies for different kinds of jobs, and this is the resume that he uses for positions as an editor. He also may or may not have updated it two years previously.

Small details, sure, but those are negative first impressions that they are creating.

Many applicants simply title their resume files: ‘Resume’ or ‘CV.’ This isn’t the best either. Employers often have to read through ten, twenty, or even more resumes when filling a position. They’ll save their top picks to a file for more follow-up. If they liked your resume, and yours is picked for further scrutiny, how are they going to find you again if your resume is in a folder full of documents all titled “Resume.doc”, “Resume2017.doc” and, “MyCV”?

Even Resume2017.doc just looks like this is the file you’re using to apply for jobs last year.

Now imagine an HR team sharing resumes for many different jobs in various departments around the company, and all of these documents are called Resume.doc. Chaos and confusion.

We also often see names like Peters-Resume-Updated.doc. It’s great to know which file is your most updated resume. You can call your document whatever helps you organize your files on your own computer. Just don’t call it that when you submit it for a job.

The best way to name your resume file when you’re attaching it to a job application is to use the job title and your own name. If the job add includes a reference number for the position, then include that too.

This will indicate to the employer that you’ve created a resume just for their position, and it will help them organize and find your application.

So, using this formula, in the example of the job I was hiring for that I mentioned above, Irwin Jones would have been better off renaming his resume file: Irwin-Jones_Content-Editor.doc. I know who it is and what he is applying for. It creates a better first impression, and it looks more professional in a file folder full of Resume.doc and MyCV.doc.

See also:

What employers see in the length of your resume (that you don’t)
What employers see in your contact information (that you don’t)

Five essential career skills you gain from customer service training

Employers need to stop ghosting candidates after the interview