Once your CV is finally ready, in all of its beautiful glory, there is one more immediate action you can take to optimise its success.  I’m talking about the way you name and save your CV file.

The filename is a prime piece of CV real estate that is often overlooked by jobseekers.  It’s one of the first things a recruiter will see, so it’s worth giving it due attention and respect.  Read on to discover how.

An unoriginal or ambiguous filename won’t do your CV justice

First and foremost, avoid naming your CV ‘CV.doc’.  This scarily original tactic will be used by countless other jobseekers, and once the file is outside the confines of your PC, there will be no immediate way to differentiate it from the files of the other applicants who have followed suit.

Other examples of ambiguous filenames include just initials and filenames which use complex naming conventions only recognised and understood by the creator.  Sure, the recruiter may end up renaming your CV, but imagine how arduous (and therefore unlikely) that task could become once magnified to take into account all applications.

Examples of what NOT to do:


Using your name as your CV filename

The CV filename is actually a great way that candidates can position themselves in recruiters’ and employers’ minds.

Using your name within your CV filename will help the reader(s) to identify your document at a glance.  Recruiters will know whose CV they are looking at straight away and every time they come across the file henceforth.  Your CV will also be easier to locate at a later stage.

Best practice examples:


Your filename as a personal branding opportunity

Even if your CV filename isn’t a variation of CV.doc, chances are that you are not using this piece of CV real estate to its full potential.

Without going overboard, or coming across as an egomaniac, you can go one step further and use your CV filename to position yourself in the reader’s mind.   Consider adding a keyword or two to describe your role or USP.  Check out our recent blog on using keywords in your CV to ensure you select the right words for your specific target.

Best practice examples:


Examples we are not so sure about:


Adding the date or year to your CV filename

People often add the year or date to their CV filename because they have a ton of CV versions on their PC, and it enables them to quickly identify the version they need.   Adding the date or year won’t earn you any brownie points, as a recruiter will expect your CV to be bang up to date anyway.  Worse still would be sending a file named along the lines of CV2009.doc – a clear indication that you haven’t updated your CV this year, or even this decade.

Examples of what NOT to do:


Indicating version numbers on your CV filename

Using version numbers whilst preparing your CV is good practice.  However, once you are ready to send your CV to a recruiter, I’d advise renaming your file in line with the guidelines above.  Avoid using terms like ‘revised’, ‘final’, or ‘updated’.  They don’t add any value once the CV has left your computer.

Examples of what NOT to do:


Using your CV filename to show your commitment to your target company

You could add your target company name to your filename to send a message about your commitment to this role.  If you do this, remember to change it for future applications!

Best practice examples:

John-Smith-CV-Marketing- GiraffeCVs.doc

Filename best practice

Try to keep it brief.  Many computer systems only show the first 24 characters including spaces.

Use your name first in the filename, this is the most important information you need the recruiter to see.

Capitalise letters to separate words or use spaces, dashes (-), or underscores (_) to achieve the same effect.

Don’t use forward or back slashes (/ or \) or full stops (.)

A note about file compatibility

Before sending your CV, check if the job advert or employer careers site specifies the file format you should use.  If not, .doc and .pdf are good choices.

By saving your CV as a Microsoft Office Word 97-2003 and pdf file, you can help to ensure that the reader can open it, and see it as you do, regardless of what version of Word they have.

If you create, save, and send your CV in the latest version of Microsoft Word (.docx), and your target audience is using a previous version, it could throw out your lovely formatting and make your carefully presented CV look a complete mess.

PDFs show your document exactly as you created them.  However, sending your CV as a .pdf alone may not get it through the applicant tracking system.  If in doubt, send your CV as a .doc and a .pdf.

What to do when you are sending more than one document

If you’re sending more than one document, for example, a cover letter or a publications list, make sure the files follow the same naming conventions.  Also, make sure you save and send all files in the same format.  Use the same version of Word to create each file, and if you create a pdf for one, do the same for all.  This consistent approach demonstrates attention to detail.







Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire is a professional CV writer at Giraffe CVs. She has 15 years of experience gained delivering interview-winning CVs and cover letters for professionals at all levels, helping individuals to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive job market.
Lis McGuire
Lis McGuire