Resumes and Cover Letters

Do I or Don’t I? Resolving the Myths of Using a Resume Template

resume template

Job seekers often struggle with an age-old question: Should I use a resume template or should I create my resume from scratch?

If you’re not familiar, a template is simply a pre-existing structure. Typically, it refers to basic formatting and general flow of content. Instead of re-creating the wheel, you can use a resume template and sort of “fill in the blanks” to create your document.

However, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there about whether or not templates are a good thing for your job search. There are also several myths and misconceptions. So, as a job seeker, you might be slightly confused as to what you should do. To help you decide whether or not to use a resume template, I’d like to offer my perspective, as a career coach and a professional resume writer.

Addressing the Concerns about a Resume Template

Most people are worried that using a resume template will make them look lazy to hiring managers and recruiters. Plus, if you’re using the same template as everyone else, won’t you just blend in?

In truth, recruiters and hiring managers aren’t concerned with the template you’re using or not using. They won’t judge you as lazy if you use one, as long as you’ve used it well (more on that in a minute). They really only care about the content of your resume—the skills and qualifications, the experience, accomplishments, etc. As long as the document is clean and easy to read, it doesn’t matter if it looks similar to others. They expect most people to use generally accepted resume best practices, which means they’re all going to (more or less) look the same anyway.

The bigger problem with using a resume template is that many people use them poorly—meaning, they drop in their info and don’t make any adjustments at all. Templates are not foolproof. The formatting can get thrown off if you’re not careful. Extra spaces can appear out of nowhere; columns, bullets, and tables can get misaligned, and so on. Not fixing these kinds of issues is what makes you look lazy, not the template itself.

Choosing the Best Resume Template

If you’re interested in using a resume template, be careful to choose a good one. What does that mean? Well, there are 2 key factors to consider: 

1. Simplicity

DO NOT use some jazzed up template that looks more like a sales brochure than a resume. As stated earlier, there are generally accepted resume best practices that hiring managers and recruiters expect you to follow. Bucking those rules will make you stand out—in a bad way. For example, don’t select a template that uses colored text, unusual fonts, crazy graphics and other odd formatting features. It might look eye-catching but it’s totally out-of-step for a resume.

Instead, you want to use a resume template that is simple and clean, with plenty of white space to make it easy to read. Basic is perfectly fine for a resume—because remember: it’s the content that really matters. The format should not steal the attention away from the actual substance.

2. Ease of Adjustment

Also, consider how easy or hard it is to adjust the format of the template. All too often, resume templates are built using tables and other features that can act a little odd in Microsoft Word. I’ve seen job seekers spend many frustrating hours trying to adjust their templates and fix the formatting issues discussed earlier. In such cases, it would be far more productive to simply start from scratch.

A good template will be straight-forward to adjust. If it’s not, don’t waste your time dealing with it.

In my experience, resume templates often end up being more hassle than they’re worth. I have nothing against them in principle, but practically speaking, they leave much to be desired. It’s just as easy to create your own template using totally basic features in Microsoft Word. You don’t have to be an expert to create something clean and simple and easy to use.

Also read: Executive Challenge: I’m Good at What I Do – but Struggle to Say it on Paper


About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.