Upload CV in .doc format?

I’m back to applying for jobs at the moment. I notice a lot of job websites want it in Word format. But I’ll just say it now – Word formats are a bit of a pain in the arse.

I’ve written before about the problem you get when you open a Word-format .doc file in LibreOffice, OpenOffice or NeoOffice with keeping bullet points and web links consistent between Windows and Mac. It can’t look great to receive a CV from a potential applicant where all the bullet points are different sizes and/or have been replaced with Mercedes badges (unless you’re applying for a job at Mercedes).

The odds are, the person I’m emailing will be using Word on Windows (and if they’re not, will have been sent documents that don’t display correctly often enough, that they won’t think I’ve deliberately made all the bullet points different sizes or funny pictures). But my laptop is an occasional-use thing. It’s slow and old. My main machine is a Mac.

Word 2007 (Windows) / NeoOffice (Mac) incompatibility

I now have Word 2007 on a Windows laptop, but my main machine is a Mac running NeoOffice. This should be easy. Since 2007’s versions, I was under the impression that Word now had an open-format that anyone else can use. You can open Word .docx files on NeoOffice, LibreOffice, etc. can’t you?

While you can, what happens with the spacing is still anybody’s guess.

It looks fine on Word (Windows), so I open it in NeoOffice (Mac), and it looks alright. That’s a surprise. Make a couple of tiny changes, save it back in Word 2007 format. Hey things are looking up, aren’t they? Well no, not really. When you open the document again, on NeoOffice(Mac), the second page has now been shunted down a couple of lines splitting a bulleted list in half. Open that NeoOffice(Mac)-edited document on Word 2007 (Windows), and now there’s a different bulleted list on the first page that is split (but wasn’t when I looked at it 15 seconds ago on a Mac).

I can’t get it working right on one, where it also looks OK on the other, if there are any edits on the Mac. I can fix some by putting in manual page breaks, but that is almost certainly going to screw me over later, when I add one line somewhere, and end up with a 95% blank page elsewhere.

From what I’ve read this situation is no easier between Word.docx and Mac Pages (which I don’t own anyway). Further tests today tell me it isn’t any easier between Word .docx and Google Docs. Crazy page-breaks, aplenty.

Maybe LibreOffice is better, with the newer .docx format?

I took the original .docx file on Word (Windows), downloaded/installed LibreOffice for Mac, opened it in that and… all the bullet points are borked. So LibreOffice (Mac) doesn’t read Word 2007’s (Windows) bullet points right either.

Lets forget Word for a minute, then.

As a further test, I got it to a point where it looked right in NeoOffice (Mac), exported it to .odt. Opened it in LibreOffice (Mac), and the bullets were borked. In case this is something left over from Word, I opened NeoOffice again, deleted and re-bulleted it, and opened that again in LibreOffice. Bulleting fine. Great!

I took that document, modified it in LibreOffice, closed, re-opened, fine. Yay!
I took that LibreOffice-modified document and opened in NeoOffice, fine. Woo and indeed hoo!
I got on my Windows laptop, opened both of the documents from the Mac in OpenOffice, and they were screwed. The bullet points had turned into dots at the beginning of lines, the size and spacing of a full stop. All sorts of stuff split over pages. Bollocks.

Maybe NeoOffice is causing the problem?

In case that was a problem caused somewhere between NeoOffice (Mac), and OpenOffice (Windows), I opened it again on LibreOffice on the Mac, deleted and put back all bullet points, saved, opened on Windows in OpenOffice and… nope it’s still screwed. Balls.

So there’s a problem with OpenOffice too?

Maybe OpenOffice is shit now, yeah? OpenOffice and LibreOffice have split and been modified separately, so maybe they’re no longer fully compatible with each other? There’s a whole new problem I’d never thought about until now.

LibreOffice Mac -> LibreOffice Windows? How about that?

I downloaded LibreOffice on Windows, installed it,  and unbelievably, that runs both the document modified in LibreOffice(Mac), and the one modified on NeoOffice(Mac), fine. The spacing is fine, the bullets are fine. Everything is OK.

I modified it on LibreOffice (Windows), opened it on LibreOffice (Mac), fine.
I opened the same file in NeoOffice (Mac), fine. Saved it, reopened it on everything, fine.

I’ve forgotten something.

Shit. Hang on. In amongst my excitement about being able to create/modify any document in either NeoOffice (Mac) or LibreOffice (Windows or Mac), and save it back and forth without breaking it, I’ve forgotten that I need to be able to open this in Word. With SP2, Word 2007 apparently opens Neo/Libre’s .odt files, but when I try the LibreOffice one, it says it has issue with the file’s contents, and that it is corrupt. If you click OK through enough security warnings, it opens it anyway (looks fine to me), but that’s not a great start is it?

With the NeoOffice-created .odt file which has not been modified by LibreOffice, it opens it fine, no errors. When I save, it tells me it can save to .odt too, but when I try this, I get an hour glass. For ages. And ages. It took at least 2 minutes to save a 3-page text-only document. And if you try and open the resulting file in OpenOffice on Windows, or LibreOffice/NeoOffice on Mac), we’re back to tiny full-stop-sized-and-spaced bullet points, incorrect splits in pages, etc. all over again.

What I’ve learnt today:

  • Word 97-2003 .doc format isn’t fully compatible with NeoOffice (Mac) or LibreOffice (Mac) (or anything else really).
  • Word 2007-onwards .docx format isn’t fully compatible with NeoOffice (Mac) or LibreOffice (Windows or Mac) either.
  • LibreOffice (Mac)-created .odt files don’t seem to open properly on OpenOffice (Windows).
  • Even with SP2, Word 2007 still struggles to open LibreOffice-modified .odt files, but oddly – not NeoOffice ones.
  • .odt files appear to be compatible between NeoOffice (Mac) and LibreOffice (Windows or Mac), but not necessarily OpenOffice.
  • .odt files created in NeoOffice open in Word 2007 fine. BUT, you have to have service pack 2 installed in Office for the functionality to exist (I had to install it at the time), and any modification in Word breaks the file so that it only displays correctly again in Word.
  • The only one that you can use, to edit files that you can guarantee will look right in Word, is Word.
  • If you want to chop/change between Macs and Windows machines, editing the documents on any, and have it appear the same no matter if you send it to someone else and get them to look at it, the only way to do it is via something cloud-based like Google Docs.

I see now why people who work in design, save everything in not-so-easily-editable PDF files. Maybe I’ll do my CV in that, and keep the .doc/.docx mess as an ugly backup system for antiquated systems that insist on being sent something they can open in Word?

Update 09/01/12:

A google search suggests that applicants prefer PDF (for formatting consistency, page layout, etc.), recruitment companies prefer .doc because it can be processed by software and edited to remove personal details before being sent on to their clients. Maybe this is why recruitment companies will phone me and ask me to explain something which is written simply in black and white on my CV – because they haven’t read it – a computer has. These processing systems seem to not fully understand .docx either – so it’s not even a case of sending it in Word, so much as sending it in a Word format that became obsolete in 2007.

So I think my current plan is to send it in PDF if to a company (and while I’ve been job hunting, no recruitment company has got me so much as a telephone interview, while I’ve had quite a number of face-to-face interviews I’ve arranged myself), and as .doc if they’ve specifically requested that or it’s in the “how to apply” section.

Some of the commenters linked from that google search say it’s handy to make onscreen notes/comments on .doc files, but every interview I’ve ever had seems to have involved them printing my CV, and manually writing on it. You know, with a pen. Old school.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *