When writing a resume, should you use a resume template? Remember, a recruiter only spends 6 to 8 seconds scanning a resume. In those short seconds, they will decide whether to follow it through or throw it in the bin.
Here’s the quick answer: It depends on how you make use of the resume template. However, what matters most in a resume is the content. You should worry more about the content than the format.
But that doesn’t really answer the question. To help you decide if you should use a resume template or not, I’ll go over the pros and cons. This way, you can weigh in the good and bad and see what’s best for YOU. Moreover, I’ll also go over what you should put in your resume to stand out.
Read More: Can You Put Future Things on Your Resume?
The Downsides to Using a Resume Template
Is it bad to use a template for a resume? It’s not necessarily bad. There are plenty of job seekers that land their dream jobs using a resume template. However, you can face a few downsides. Let’s look at this.
It will be the same as everyone else’s
Since it’s so easy to access free resume templates, millions of job seekers use them all the time. They find a template they like and simply swap out the details to make it their own. If you follow what everyone else is doing, there’s little chance you’ll stand out from the crowd.
Also, a hiring manager goes through hundreds of resumes each day. They can spot a resume template at a glance. What do you think that will tell them about your creativity and dedication to the job position?
You don’t have any creative freedom
With a resume template, you can’t change the design and layout. All you can do is copy and paste your information in the provided sections. Probably the only thing you can do is move the different sections around.
However, if you make your resume from scratch, you can get as creative as you want to be. You can create a functional resume, chronological resume, or a combination resume in whatever design you like. Let your creativity flow to stand out!
You can’t tailor it to each job application
If you’re applying to many different jobs, it won’t do to send the same resume every single time. No, you need to customize it to fit the job description.
Jennifer Herrity, a career coach, says:
Tailoring your resume can display genuine enthusiasm for the job because you took the extra time and effort to ensure it showcases your best-fit qualifications. Hiring managers will appreciate this thoughtfulness and feel more excited about a candidate who seems eager to work for them.
Say the job description asks for a specific section to be listed in your resume. Or, maybe the educational section is not required in the job you’re applying for.
Well, if you use resume templates, you won’t be able to include a different section. You won’t be able to remove any irrelevant sections, too.
It might face compatibility issues
Some job applications are passed through an applicant tracking system (ATS). If this is the case, know that some templates are not compatible with certain ATS software. This will lead to all kinds of formatting issues.
When your resume format is all over the place, I’m almost sure it will be discarded straight away. No one will be willing to take the time to read through it. Not only that but 70% of resumes are rejected by the ATS before a human can even get to them.
You risk overlooking key sections
When using a template, it’s so easy to get stuck in mindlessly filling up the information and sending it over to the hiring manager. This isn’t good as you can overlook important sections that are crucial for your specific industry or role.
The template might not include all the necessary sections or may include sections that are not relevant. This leads to an incomplete or unbalanced representation of your qualifications. Remember what I told you about tailoring your resume to each job application?
The Benefits of Using a Resume Template
By now, you might be thinking, “Using a resume template sounds pretty bad”. However, I say that it’s perfectly OK to use a resume template if you know how to use it wisely. I mean, it can provide quite a few benefits, too…
You can send in more resumes in a shorter time
Yes, you need to tailor your resume to each job opening. However, if you’re applying for the same position in different companies, it’s fine to send out the same resume. In this case, a resume template will make it much faster.
Instead of creating an original resume each time, you can use the same template and maybe just switch up the information and sections to make it fit the job offer better.
It’s user-friendly for beginners
Say you’re new to the job search scene and you have no idea what a resume should look like. Don’t blindly create a resume and hope it has the right information and format. You’ll only be wasting your time.
I’ll tell you now, it’s much better to use a resume template. This way, you’ll already have the necessary information and professional format right. You can even add a few graphic designs without any skills needed. You’ll have a much better chance of landing a job.
Yes, you won’t have to undergo a steep learning curve on how to write and format a professional resume. You can simply grab a template, fill in your information that matches the job description, and send it out. As simple as that.
You remember to add all the important information
To counter the downside of “you risk overlooking key sections”, a template resume can actually help you remember to include important information. There is certain basic information that hiring managers expect to see in a resume.
If you miss that out, it might show a hiring manager or potential employer that you lack attention to detail. No doubt, your resume will be thrown into the trash without another thought.
A resume template can help you keep track of the crucial information required, whether relevant skills, work experience, education, etc. You don’t have to think and worry about that anymore.
You can use a resume builder
Want to be able to customize your resume without starting from scratch? Instead of using free and basic templates, you can turn to resume builders. These are online tools or software apps that assist you when creating and formatting resumes.
You can find templates and fill-in-the-blank formats that allow more customization. You can even get guidance from a professional resume writer. This will make the process so much easier. Plus, it will make your resume so much better than a standard template.
You can get insights from resume examples
Another type of “resume template” is grabbing examples from other professionals and seeing what worked for them. If you do a quick search online, you’ll find that there are a lot of people who want to help out, so they provide resume examples and samples that you can copy.
This is great because these examples are already tried and tested. You can even find a specific sample for the industry or role you’re interested in.
Here’s what Kaloyan Dimitrov from Enhancv had to say about this:
You can take a resume example, analyze why it worked, then take that information, and apply it to your own document. Of course, you shouldn’t copy an example completely. You need to make it work for you. Take the tactics, the key sections, etc., and craft a document that speaks for you, not someone else.
How to Make Your Resume Stand Out
Someone from Reddit puts it perfectly.
Content is WAY more important than format. The way to stand out from the crowd is not via beautiful formatting. The way to stand out is to clearly show a recruiter or hiring manager you have the skills, knowledge, and experience they’re looking for. So perfect your content first, then worry about format.
Should you use a resume template? Whether you use a resume template or not, it’s crucial to focus on the content. This is what makes a resume stand out.
Here are some tips you can follow if you want to make your resume content the best of the rest:
- Tailor your resume to the job. I know I sound like a broken record – but I keep repeating it because this step is the most crucial. For this, carefully read the job description and requirements. After that, adjust your resume to highlight the skills, experiences, and qualifications most relevant to the specific position. This tailored approach proves that you’ve taken the time to analyze the employer’s needs.
- Focus on achievements and results, not tasks. When a recruiter looks at your resume, they want to see how you can help their company. They’re not so much interested in your responsibilities in your previous company. This is why, when going over your work experience, always highlight achievements.
- Highlight relevant skills. It’s so important to read the job description to know what type of skills the company is looking for. When you include relevant skills, this will catch the recruiter’s attention. To make your resume stand out even more, use a mix of hard skills (technical abilities) and soft skills (communication, teamwork) to present a well-rounded picture of your capabilities.
- Start with a strong professional summary or objective. Before you go into the details, give the hiring manager a snapshot of your skills and experience (summary) or career goals (objective). A well-written summary can grab attention and encourage the recruiter to keep reading.
- Include relevant keywords. If you’re sending a resume through an applicant tracking software, you need to find ways to pass the initial screening. One of the best things to do is include relevant keywords. You can use the same wording or keywords found in the job description. Of course, you have to make sure that your resume reads naturally and is not just a bunch of random keywords.
- Keep it concise. Trust me, a hiring manager is not going to bother reading a resume that’s 3 to 5 pages long. You don’t want to take up any more of their time than what’s needed. This is why, to be considerate, keep your resume short but sweet. You should focus only on the most impactful information. The best number of pages is 1 to 2.
Conclusion: Should You Use a Resume Template?
It depends. If you’re not smart about it, using a resume template can be a bad idea. Your resume will come out as too generic and won’t have that wow factor.
But if you use a resume template wisely (even taking advantage of resume builders and examples), then you can make the process so much easier.
That said, the most important thing you need to worry about is the content. Whether you use a resume template or not, you should include the tips I mentioned here to make your content stand out. This is what will have a BIG say on whether you’ll be shortlisted for an interview or not.