Resume Templates: Good or Bad?

Using a template to format your resume CAN help land you interviews. They provide a professional looking layout without requiring a lot of computer or design savvy, and offer a guide for naming and ordering resume sections and formatting all that text. Templates are a really useful tool when you aren’t already a resume expert.

So why are they getting a bad rap?

One reason is that professional resume writers want you to buy in to their services instead of using ready-made templates. Fair enough, they need to make a living by promoting their work as better than a regular old template.

Another reason is that there is a ton of low quality and poorly made templates out there. This is an easy trap to fall into, and it takes time to find a good template that suits you and your profession.

Overall, if you avoid the hazards of bad templates, they can give your resume a boost and are worth using. Here’s what to look out for:

Avoid online resume builders that format your resume using tables. The document may look great at first glance, but online application systems can’t read tables well, so your resume may not be accepted by the system, or may appear in the wrong order. Eliminate all tables from your word processing document to avoid a lot of hassle when uploading your resume online.

Avoid skill ratings. Don’t get caught in the current trend of visualizing your skills using stars or other graphics. This is useless information, and hiring managers don’t know how much they should trust your self-rated 5/5 stars for ‘teamwork’. Prove your competence by listing your accomplishments in the work experience section. Anything less than a perfect score makes you look incompetent, but perfect scores in everything make you seem a liar – there’s no winning with skill ratings.

Avoid low quality layouts. Look for templates that are easy to understand and read. The ability to clearly convey your experience and skills is the most important thing a template can provide. If your text looks crowded, if it’s hard to tell which dates belong where, if the font is difficult to read, or the layout seems overly complicated, find another template.  Simple is better.

Lastly, always use your own words.  Resume templates should never replace your own personal experience and wording. Templates can serve as a useful guide, but they are not made to be copied. Use your own words, and be 100% truthful.

What should I look for when finding a template?

Look for resources from a trusted, expert source. This may include career advice blogs, like AskAManager, or organizations that are experts in the hiring industry. Templates can vary based on where you live, what stage of your career, or what industry you are in: find one that suits you and the jobs you are applying for.