Your File Names Could Cost You Your Next Job — 9 Ways to Make Sure They Don’t

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k

With so much involved in the hiring process, does it really matter what you name your resume and cover letter? Isn’t the content what really counts? Yes and yes — but the devil is in the details. Something as seemingly insignificant as choosing a file name for your documents could mean the difference between the hiring manager or recruiter immediately nixing your candidacy and opening the documents to see whether you're a fit for the role. While the name you choose isn’t going to land you the role by any means, it could disqualify you. In other words, it probably won’t help you, but it could hurt you.

So, what is a good resume name? What are some resume title examples? And how do you name your cover letter and resume to stand out? Here are nine tips for application success. 

9 tips for naming your resume and cover letter.

1. Include your name in the title.

Your name should always be in the title of your documents. If you have a particularly long one, you may opt to just include your last name; that’s your call. Just make sure your name is in there in some form. That’s how the hiring team will be able to match you to your application documents. If you do include your first name, put it first, rather than reversing the order.

2. Add the job title.

You may opt to include the job title for the position for which you’re applying as well. For example, if the job title is Production Coordinator, you would call the file “Your Name Production Coordinator.” However, again, if you have a long name, you may opt to skip this step to avoid having files with overly long titles.

3. Put the word “resume” or “cover letter” in the document name.

This is another important part of being able to identify your documents. Make sure the file is labeled with the correct descriptor. So, for your resume, you’d put “Your Name Job Title Resume,” and for your cover letter, you’d title it “Your Name Job Title Cover Letter” (omitting the job title if you so choose). 

4. Be specific.

Don’t just call your resume “Resume” or your cover letter “Cover Letter.” That’s an almost guaranteed way to ensure that it gets lost in the shuffle. While you may only have one file called “Resume” saved to your laptop, the recruiter is receiving all too many files with exactly the same name and could easily mix up your documents with those of another candidate.

5. Don’t use spaces.

While it may seem reasonable (in fact, preferred) to use spaces in your resume and cover letter file names, this can is actually incompatible with many applicant tracking systems (ATS), which will replace the spaces with seemingly random characters and turn your file name into an unreadable jumble. Instead, it’s best to use underscores — so, Your_Name_Job_Title_Resume. It may not look as neat and tidy as spaces would, but it will look a lot better than whatever ATS turns out. 

6. Keep the formatting consistent.

No matter what you choose to name your files, make sure the titles are consistent. So, if you include your first and last name in your resume name, do the same for your cover letter and vice versa. If you call your cover letter “Last Name Job Title Cover Letter,” then your resume should be “Last Name Job Title Resume.” That same goes for the contents — make sure you’re using consistent fonts and other formatting for all of your application documents. 

7. Avoid special characters and version numbers.

We’ve already covered why special characters are a bad idea — ATS systems just don’t do well with them. You should also leave off numbers. The recruiter and hiring manager don’t need to know that this the second or third version of your resume (plus, it may make them wonder what’s in version one and who received it). Keep it neat and simple. 

8. Always follow directions.

No matter what, if the application instructions tell you to title your resume and cover letter in a certain way, do it — even if it goes against all the previous advice. So, if they say to just label them with your name, label them with your name. If they say to include spaces, then do that, too. Basically, these instructions negate any other advice you here about the topic. If there are no specific document-titling instructions, then you should follow these tips. 

9. Proofread.

You probably know the importance of proofreading by now, but does it really matter for something as menial as a resume or cover letter file name? In short, yes. Because how embarrassing would it be to misspell your own name in important application documents? It wouldn’t just be embarrassing, either; it might make the hiring manager wonder if your work could be sloppy, too. 

Sample resume template

When formatting your resume, there are certain rules of thumb to follow — for instance, avoid fancy fonts, because ATS systems have trouble reading them. 

Should your resume be saved as a Word document or PDF? Generally speaking, a PDF is preferred. That’s because your formatting will be preserved, and the file will look the same across different devices and platforms. However, at the end of the day, you should (again) follow directions — so if the application instructions ask for a Word file, then go with that instead. 

Here’s the basic formatting for your resume. You should, of course, tailor it to the specific position. Be sure to check out these free, simple resume templates as well.

Your name • Email • Phone number 

Special skills

Skill 1

Skill 2

Skill 3

Professional experience

Current or most recent position, employer 

Dates worked

• Responsibility/achievement

• Responsibility/achievement

• Responsibility/achievement

Second most recent position, employer 

Dates worked

• Responsibility/achievement

• Responsibility/achievement

• Responsibility/achievement

Third most recent position, employer 

Dates worked

• Responsibility/achievement

• Responsibility/achievement

• Responsibility/achievement


Degree/certification earned, date earned

• Any special achievements (honors, etc.)

Degree/certification earned, date earned

• Any special achievements (honors, etc.)

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