by Regina Borsellino
When you’re first creating a document—even an important one like your resume or cover letter—you might give it a placeholder file name while you’re working on it. So if you’re job searching, you probably have at least one document named something like “Resume2021” or “FrontEndEng coverletter.” But you probably shouldn’t submit a cover letter or resume with a file name like this.
“It is important to have a clear and professional file name so your resume doesn’t get lost,” says Muse career coach Jennifer Smith, a former recruiter and founder of Flourish Careers. Recruiters and other hiring professionals are often working quickly and have multiple positions they’re hiring for at any given time, so an easy-to-scan file name “makes it simple for the recruiter to keep track of your info.” You’ll also “come across as an ideal professional,” Smith says, both of which are things that can help you to make a good impression on the recruiter—and anyone else considering hiring you.
How to Name Your Resume or Cover Letter
Here are a few rules to follow as you name your resume and cover letter files—whether you’re attaching them to an email or uploading the files to an online system.
- Follow any instructions in the job description. Sometimes job postings will ask you to include the position title or identification number in your file name or to follow a certain format. You should always pay attention to any directions in a job posting. Otherwise, your application might be ignored or you may end up looking like you can’t follow instructions—which isn’t exactly the most desirable trait in an employee.
- Make sure your file name is descriptive and unique to you. You should always include your first and last name as well as what the file is, Smith says—for example, “Joseph_Washington_Resume.”
- Format your file name so it’s easy to read. Use capital letters to begin words—especially your first and last name. And separate each word. You can use regular spaces or you might want to use underscores (“_”), hyphens (“-”), or similar. Just avoid slashes (“/”) and backslashes (“\”) which can mess with different computer systems and programs—if you’re able to save a file with these characters at all.
- Include the position you’re applying to (optional). If you’d like to, you can always include the title of the job you’re applying for and even the name of the organization, which can help you keep track of your documents and also gives a subtle nod to the fact that you’ve tailored your materials. So something along the lines of “Cover-Letter-Leah-Kim-Staff-Accountant” or “Batya Feldman Resume The Muse SDR” is a safe bets.
Here are a few more examples of resume and cover file names:
- Ana Maria Estevez Product Designer Resume
- Cover Letter - Rohan Ahmed
What Not to Do When Naming a Resume or Cover Letter File
Though the exact file name you give your resume isn’t the most important thing—as long as it follows the guidelines above—there are a few things you should definitely avoid.
- File names that don’t make sense: “I’ve seen files saved with other people’s names, or a bunch of random letters and numbers,” Smith says. Avoid submitting a resume or cover letter with a file name that is difficult to understand or makes it unclear what the document is.
- Version numbers: Though you can—and should—revise your resume and cover letter as you get ready to apply to a job, make sure you delete those version numbers in the file name when you submit it. For example, “Sam-Madison-Resume-v3” won’t look as polished as, “Sam-Madison-Resume.”
- Generic file names: You should never submit a resume file named “Resume” or a cover letter saved as “Cover Letter Admin Assistant.” Your name should always be in the file title. If not, how will a recruiter or hiring manager remember who “Resume” belonged to? And how will they easily find your resume if they want to go back to it? If a recruiter or hiring manager wants to find your resume specifically, the first thing they’re going to do is search or scan the folder where they saved resumes for your name.
What File Type to Use
While naming your resume or cover letter file, you might also be thinking about the file type. So what file format is best for job applications? There are only two right answers: a PDF (.pdf) or a Word document (.docx). You should only use a different file extension if a job description specifies that the employer or recruiter would like to see your documents in a different format, such as .txt or .doc.