3 Reasons Why Using A Resume Template Is (Almost) A Waste Of Time

At first glance, choosing to use a resume template seems practical.  They save tons of time for busy professionals and many resume templates are visually appealing.  But often times they can hurt more than they help.  Here’s 3 reasons why..

1. Resume Templates May Send The Wrong Message

“According to The Ladders research, recruiters spend an average of "six seconds before they make the initial 'fit or no fit' decision" on candidates.” ~ Business Insider.  In the beginning stages of the recruiting process, most talent seekers visually “scan” resumes rather than methodically read them.  Since your resume’s purpose is to be a marketing document for you, it needs to quickly capture the attention of the reader and highlight the unique value you bring to an organization.  If your resume is written using a widely distributed template, will your resume be able to accomplish that ?

In most cases, your resume is your first introduction to an organization and an opportunity to stand out and make a stellar first impression.

Today's employers easily spot resume templates and using one may convey the wrong message.  It’s likely that the person reviewing resumes has seen dozens of the same template, and may infer that the people using templates didn’t care enough to put the time or effort into their career document. If a resume template conveys a message of a lack of effort or attention to detail, it’s entirely possible that talent seekers will then assume the same lack of effort will carry over into the person's work.  Whether that assumption is true or not, is it worth the risk of ruining a first impression?

2. Resume Templates Don't Present Your Skills And Background In The Best Way

By using a resume template you're allowing someone else to dictate what you say about yourself. You're squeezing yourself into a box that may not be a good fit for you.  We all have unique backgrounds, skills, and experiences.  Some of that information should be highlighted and presented in a way that maximizes impact. In addition, many people have special circumstances such as gaps in employment, lack of experience, or changes in career direction.  How this information is presented on your resume can make or break it.  Resume templates force you to present your information in the way that someone else has designed it to be presented.

3. Resume Templates Have Formatting Issues That Choke up Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

According to the Wall Street Journal, about 90% of today's Fortune 500 companies use ATS software. This means that unfortunately the ATS rejects bout 75% of candidates. Many of these people are highly qualified candidates, such as yourself. Companies continue using this software though because it makes information gathering and the hiring process easier.  So, it's up to you, as the candidate, to do something about it.

“It’s better to simply learn how to write resumes with both resume robots and human readers in mind. After all, your resume needs to move past both in order for you to land that all important big interview.” ~ The Big Interview

While beyond the scope of this post, taking the time to learn how to write an ATS enhanced resume is worth the effort.  While there are many resume writing tips to keep in mind when it comes to writing for Applicant Tracking Systems, here are a few formatting guidelines that most resume templates don't follow:

  • Don't use headers / footers.  ATS systems tend to scramble information in resumes that do.
  • Don't use graphics, images, text boxes or tables in your resume.  These may cause formatting issues that don’t play well with the ATS, causing your resume to be rejected.
  • Avoid creative section breaks & headings.  Using fancy borders and lines can cause an issue.  Use common section heading descriptors such as (Professional Experience, Education, etc.) 
  • Don’t use special characters.  Stick to standard bullet points to break up text and highlight certain content.

Use Templates To Your Advantage

Rather than using a template to write your resume, browse them for inspiration instead.  Search online for resume templates and take note of several designs and layouts that are visually appealing to you and would present your content in the best way possible.  This will help you organize your thoughts and streamline the layout & design phase of creating your resume.

It may be advantageous to have a version of your resume that visually packs a punch for the in-person interview.  Sometimes known as "creative resume" templates, these styles are often used by professionals in creative fields (artists, designers, developers, etc.).  While these types of resumes commonly contain images, graphic elements, or file types that shouldn't be used for online submissions, they can be an effective way to stand out from the crowd during the interview process, and provide a valuable piece of personal marketing collateral as a "leave-behind" for the interviewer.  Used in this manner, it could be beneficial to have a graphic designer craft a powerful resume design that presents your information in the best way possible, after you've written your resume.

Don't Sell Yourself Short

Don't use a template if you want your resume to stand out.  Take charge of your job search efforts by investing time into creating an original resume that effectively sells you so you get the job you want and deserve.