Resume Template Yes or No?

by Leslie Toth, MBA, CPRW, PHR, SHRM-CP

Resume Templates Cookie Cutters

A client recently asked the question, can I use a Google Doc template or Microsoft Word template to write my resume? Many of the resume templates out there are appealing to the eye and seem very functional, so what is the issue? Your resume will get 10-15 seconds of review before the person screening it decides to read the rest of it or move on. This is the only chance you will have to make a great first impression. Using a one size fits all resume template is a sure fire way to send the message "I’m ordinary, and just like everyone else applying for this job." Even if you don’t use a template, you might be tempted to steal a format from the many resume samples you find online (and believe me there are TONS of them).

Your resume is NOT the place to take shortcuts! It’s your personal marketing tool – basically it’s you on paper. So you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. Your resume should play up your expertise and qualifications, but at the same time communicate softer qualities including your attention to detail, ability to communicate in the written form, and commitment to quality. These qualities are almost as important to potential employers as your education and expertise.

Most of the time a resume template sends the wrong message. Not because they are bad templates, but because they are not customizable to each job seekers’ individual situation. Your resume should be as unique as you are. When you use a resume template, or copy someone else’s format, you are allowing somebody else to dictate what you say about yourself and how you say it. You’re squeezing yourself into a box that may or may not be a good fit for you.

As a professional resume writer, my job is to make my clients stand out from the crowd of candidates applying for the job. I do use a variety of resume styles to achieve this. Some of my clients may benefit from one format while others will need a completely different style. Many factors go into this decision including individual needs, current goals, past work experience, industry, and current position in a company.

How you present your past experience is critical to how you are perceived by potential employers. Resumes should be written in an active voice using action words to deliver the message that you are a person that can make significant contributions to their organization. Knowing how to write bullets, profiles, and sentences is imperative to sending the correct message. Incorporating industry keywords demonstrates your knowledge and proficiency. Knowing where to put your keywords is also very important.

Another reason to steer clear of resume templates is if you have issues with your career history. Issues such as:

  • Employment gaps
  • Job hopping
  • Age concerns
  • Multiple career changes
  • Too much education
  • Too little education

Resume templates traditionally do not offer solutions to these issues or others that job seekers may be facing. In fact, using a resume template in some of the situations above may intensify the problem, drawing attention to the issue as opposed to presenting it in the most favorable light. A professional resume writer has expertise in how to present sensitive information to downplay “red flag” items while playing up information that will help you get the job.

When determining how to lay out your resume, consider what message you want to convey.

  • What is your value proposition?
  • Why are potential employers interested in you?
  • What sets you apart from the crowd?

Once you have the answers to these questions you can select a resume style that fits you, rather than trying to fit yourself into a standard template.

Be original! You are one-of-a-kind. No one else has your unique combination of education and work history. Simply plugging your information into a template that thousands of others are using does not do you justice, nor does it make you stand out from the crowd. You only get one chance to make a first impression. If you are struggling, enlist the help of a professional resume writer. They will craft a customized resume in a format that is appropriate for your background.

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