Guide to Plain Text Resumes

Three common resume file types you will see employers request are Word, PDF, and plain text or ASCII. We discuss the basics of each of these in a previous post, however the plain text file requires a few extra steps beyond a simple “Save As.”

Pros and Cons of Plain Text Resumes

When you transform your Word or PDF resume into a plain text file, it loses all of the formatting/design elements and is stripped down to one font style and size. You can add a little design with extra spacing, all caps, and/or the symbols found on your keyboard, otherwise it’s clear why this type of resume is called plain text. While this isn’t a very visually attractive file, there are many reasons why employers request it: small file size, compatibility with various word processors and applicant tracking systems, and it’s easy to copy/paste or attach to an email.

How to create a plain text (.txt) resume file

Open your resume in Word or other program you may have. If using Word, go to File – Save As and select Plain Text from the drop down menu. You will then have a .txt file of your resume, which will open in Notepad.

Plain Text Resume 1.1

Another way to create your .txt file is to open the resume and use Ctrl+A to select all content and Ctrl+C to copy all content. Next, open Notepad and use Ctrl+V to paste your content in as plain text.

Here is the Word version of a resume:

Plain Text Resume 2

And here is the same resume copied/pasted into Notepad and saved as a .txt file. Be sure “Word Wrap” is selected (found under Format) to ensure your content fits within the Notepad window.

Plain Text Resume 3

As you can see, a little more work needs to be done to clean up the file and make the presentation as clear as possible. Add spacing between sections and replace special characters with common characters (remember, only use what is available on your keyboard):

Plain Text Resume 4

It’s far from pretty, but having a plain text version of your resume on hand and ready to go will save you a lot of time in your job search. Don’t create a plain text version until you have finalized your Word or PDF version. Plain text files are difficult to proofread and edit, so make this transformation your last step.


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