What to Name Your Cover Letter and Resume Files

It may seem trivial, but file names matter. Here, we discuss naming conventions and best practices for saving and uploading your cover letter and resume.

18 days ago   •   8 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team

You finally finished creating your cover letter and resume — and you’re excited to send it off to prospective employers.

But wait — how should you save your files? Do you send them off as word documents, or as PDFs? And how should you name them? Do you include your full name? What about the date?

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to name and save cover letters and resume files. We’ll talk about naming conventions, discuss dos and don’ts, and offer other practical tips and tricks on how to upload your cover letter and resume so that your application is professional and easy to read. Let’s do this!

Naming a cover letter and resume file

What to include in your resume file name

For starters, there are always two things you want to include in your resume file name:

  • Your full name, first and last
  • The word “Resume”

Example:

JohnSmith_Resume.pdf
JohnSmith_Resume_PositionTitle.pdf

What to include in your cover letter file name

Likewise, your cover letter should include the following:

  • Your first and last name
  • The phrase “Cover Letter”, preferably without the space or with an underscore in between.

Example:

Jenny_Su_CoverLetter.pdf
Jenny_Su_CoverLetter_PositionTitle.pdf

The order doesn’t matter — so “JohnSmith_Resume.pdf” or “CoverLetter_JohnSmith.pdf”, for example, would both be fine.

If you want, you can also include the title of the position you’re applying for in the file name (e.g., JohnSmith_CoverLetter_PositionTitle.pdf), though this is optional.

Unless specified, do not combine your resume and cover letter into one document. Upload them separately.

What not to include in your file names

There are also a few things you should leave out in both your cover letter and resume file names. These include:

  • The company name — Since the recruiter or hiring manager works at the company you’re applying to, you don’t have to put this in. It makes your file name unnecessarily long and difficult to read. Some people think that this is a good way to 'personalize' your application, but it isn't — it's the content of the documents that matter, not the file name.
  • The date — Generally, there’s no need to date your cover letter and resume — especially if you haven’t updated them for years. You don’t want an employer to know that you’re using the same old, basic cover letter specimen or resume template you’ve used since 2010.
  • Version numbers — You want your cover letter and resume to stand out on their own as final, definitive products, so leave out the “v3”. Remember, this is a job application, not a perpetually unfinished piece of software.

Examples of what not to include:

So, as an example, cover letter and resume file names like the following should be avoided:

  • “CompanyName_CoverLetter_v3.doc”
  • “Resume06092021.docx”
  • “CoverLetter_JohnSmith_CompanyName.pdf”,
  • “John_Smith_December2019.doc”, and
  • “John_Smith_Resume_Ver2.pdf”

Make sure your resume or cover letter file names don't look like the list above!

Other considerations

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when coming up with your cover letter and resume’s file names:

  • Keep it short — Long file names are difficult to read and hard to identify at a glance. Plus, file names (on both Mac and Windows) have a character limit of around 255 characters or so. Exceed that number, and you won’t even be able to save your file.
  • Follow general naming conventions — Use A-Z, 0-9, dashes, and underscores only. Ditch any special characters, symbols, or slashes.
  • Don’t touch the spacebar — Unfortunately, cover letter and resume file names with spaces in them will convert to “%20” symbols upon uploading to certain Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) — so a seemingly well-titled “John Smith Resume.pdf” will become “John%20Smith%20Resume.pdf” — which is awkward and hard to read. If you need to space out words, dashes and underscores are your friends.
  • Don’t use accents — No need to be fancy here. Call it a “resume”, not a “resumé”.
  • Capitalization — You can write your file names in either title case, sentence case, or in all lowercase. Most employers don’t care either way, so it’s not a big deal — though title case is arguably easier to read and looks more polished than the latter two options.
  • Follow the job posting’s instructions — Any specific instructions on the job listing override any tips in this article. If the job ad specifies a specific file type (e.g., .docx over .pdf) or a particular naming convention (e.g., include your middle initial), then always name and upload your cover letter and resume in line with those directions instead.

Why file names matter

While the way you title your cover letter and resume’s file names won’t make or break your application, it’s still important to name them in a way that’s professional and informative.

It helps recruiters identify your resume quicker

In particular, it’s good practice simply because it makes recruiters’ lives easier. After all, yours is not the only application a hiring manager will read — they likely have hundreds more to sort through — and clear cover letter and resume file names will help them find and identify your application more quickly.

Avoid generic resume file names

On the contrary, cover letters and resume files that aren’t clearly named — like those that are titled with a long string of numbers, or others that are just called “CoverLetter” or “Resume” with no other identifying information — are far more difficult on recruiters and hiring managers.

Poorly-named cover letters and resume files make it harder to tell at a glance what a file contains and who it belongs to, which means that you run the risk of having your cover letter and resume accidentally discarded and your application ignored for being incomplete.

Resume file formats

So far, we’ve covered how to name a cover letter and resume file, but what file type should you save it as?

Use PDFs generated in Word or Google Docs

While you may be tempted to save it as a Word document for the sake of convenience and simplicity, you should try to avoid this, when possible, since different versions of Word may mess with your cover letter and resume’s formatting options, like margin widths, fonts, or headers. This means that your nicely-formatted document may not look as neat on your recruiter’s screen — or in the worst-case, even be readable at all.

To make sure your recruiter sees what you see, you should export both your cover letter and resume as PDFs instead. Saving your finished files as PDFs ensures that all text formatting will be preserved, no matter what application a recruiter or hiring manager uses to open your cover letter or resume files. If you need to make any changes to your cover letter or resume, just edit it in your word processor, export it as a PDF again, and write over the existing PDF.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with this, you can elect to send in your cover letter and resume as a Word document (or a Google Doc). Just be aware that you run the risk of formatting issues if you do so.

Don't use PDFs generated in Photoshop or Canva

That said, make sure you generate your PDF of either your resume or cover letter in a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Do not use an image editing software like Photoshop or Canva which will result in your resume not being readable by Applicant Tracking Systems.

Let's summarize how to name your files

Step-by-step guide to name your resume

  1. In either Word or Google Docs, click File -> Save As / Export to PDF
  2. Type your full name.
  3. Add the word 'Resume'.
  4. Make sure you keep the '.pdf' file extension.
  5. Remove all spaces, and replace them with underscores (e.g. Jane_Brooke) or sentence case (e.g. JaneBrook) if necessary.
  6. Remove version numbers, dates or other irrelevant words.
  7. Remove special characters.
  8. Save your resume.

Step-by-step guide to name your cover letter

  1. In either Word or Google Docs, click File -> Save As / Export to PDF
  2. Type your full name.
  3. Add the word 'CoverLetter'.
  4. Make sure you keep the '.pdf' file extension.
  5. Remove special characters, version numbers, dates or other irrelevant words that make your filename lengths unnecessarily long.
  6. Save your cover letter.

How to save your cover letter and resume

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to save your cover letter and resume, in several file formats.

Microsoft Word

To save your cover letter or resume as a Word document, follow these steps:

  1. Open up your cover letter or resume in Word
  2. Under “File”, hit “Save As…”
  3. A dialogue box will appear. Next to “Save As:” at the top, name your file.
  4. Next to “File Format:”, located near the bottom of the screen, check to see that your file is saved as a Word document (this should be selected by default).
  5. Once you have confirmed this, hit “Save”.
The dialogue box for saving your Word Document
The dialogue box for saving your Word Document

Google Docs

Google Docs is convenient because it auto-saves your files. However, you’ll need to do a bit of work in order to share it with your recruiter or hiring manager. Here’s how:

  1. Open your Google Doc. The filename is displayed in the top left-hand corner of the screen, next to the blue docs icon. Double click to edit.
  2. Go to “File”, then click “Share”.
  3. A dialogue box will appear. You can either:
  4. Share with people directly, under “Share with people and groups”, if you know their email
  5. Under “Get link”, hit “Copy link” for a sharing link, which you can send via your application
A screenshot of the dialogue box that appears when you click “Share” in Google Docs
A screenshot of the dialogue box that appears when you click “Share” in Google Docs‌‌

Export as a PDF in Word

Finally, here’s how to export your Word Document as a PDF:

  1. Open up your cover letter or resume in Word.
  2. Go to “File”, and hit “Save As…”
  3. A dialogue box will appear. Name your cover letter or resume file in the field next to “Save As:” at the top.
  4. Click on the field next to “File Format:”, located near the bottom of the screen, and choose “PDF”.
  5. Once that has been selected, click “Export”.
Select “PDF” next to “File Format:” in the dialogue box that appears when you hit “Save As…”
Select “PDF” next to “File Format:” in the dialogue box that appears when you hit “Save As…”


Get your resume right

Apart from getting your cover letter and resume’s file names and file types down, you’ll also need to make sure that the content within those documents — especially your resume — is well-written.

Resume Worded’s Score My Resume is an instant, AI-enabled resume scoring platform that audits your resume line by line, and gives you feedback on how to improve — helping you maximize your chances of landing a dream job.

Score My Resume analyzes your resume, looking for ways to optimize it even further
Score My Resume analyzes your resume, looking for ways to optimize it even further

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