Which resume template should you use for your job search?
Good quality resume templates make writing your resume a lot easier. But with so many resume templates to pick from, how can you know which to choose?
Creating a resume from scratch can be challenging to say the least. Many people waste time in Microsoft Word trying to find the perfect font only to neglect the all-important content.
Downloading a ready-made resume template allows you to focus on your unique experience, saving you valuable time. Also, many resume templates include prompts with the latest resume best practices, which eliminates a lot of guesswork.
However, not all resume templates are created equal, so it’s important to choose the right resume template for your job search.
I’m going to outline everything you need to know to choose the perfect resume template for your job search. I’ll cover the major dos and don’ts and help you to avoid the mistakes that many job seekers make.
What are the different types of resume templates?
Search Google for resume templates and you’ll find endless options. It’s possible for anybody to create and distribute a resume template, which means the quality varies considerably.
There are some great resume template options out there, like those found here on Job Search Journey, but sadly there are also some horrible ones.
You’ll find resume templates created by all kinds of people, from graphic designers to helpful citizens sharing what worked for them.
You will also find resume templates available in programmes such as Canva, Pages and Microsoft Word itself.
Whilst many of these resume templates have their uses, my number one piece of advice is to seek out a resume template created by a career professional.
If you read no further and only take away this one piece of wisdom, then you’ll get a long way!
Other resume templates might look appealing, but only professionally created templates can be trusted to perform optimally in a recruitment process.
How to spot a professional resume template
Professional resume templates are typically created by resume writers, career coaches or people with in-depth experience of the hiring processes.
These people know what hiring managers are looking for.
They also know the latest trends and understand how recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sort through the resumes they receive.
You wouldn’t hire an electrician to do your plumbing, a lawyer to build your website or a cake decorator to do your taxes.
So why would you trust a graphic designer, a software company or a well-meaning amateur with your career?
Why not hire a resume writer?
Hiring a resume writer is often a great option.
This is especially true if you are struggling to tell your story, or simply do not have the time to write your resume (even aided by a strong resume template).
However, many people like to remain hands-on in the process and to write the document in their own words. What’s more, resume templates are typically available at a small fraction of the cost of hiring a resume writer.
This makes purchasing a professional resume template a really affordable and cost-effective option. It allows you to leverage professional expertise on a budget.
The most important considerations when choosing a resume template
Here’s my checklist of the main things to look for when choosing a resume template.
1. Understand who designed the resume template
As I outlined above, choosing a resume template designed by an industry professional is your safest choice.
There are some template sources that I advise avoiding:
Resume templates designed by graphic designers
These are probably the most common culprit of non-professional resumes. Many graphic designers sell various templates online and decide to turn their design skills to resume templates.
These resume templates typically have the same issue, they focus on design over function.
Often these resume templates use tiny unreadable fonts and contain very little space for you to actually detail your relevant skills and experience.
The document might look nice, but it defeats the purpose if the recruiter can’t actually figure out what you have to offer because the text is so limited.
These graphic design resume templates also often have elements that, simply, do not help your job search. A large space for your photo, pretty graphics and random sections like ‘my typical day’ are all common offenders.
Recruiters can scan through hundreds of resumes for each job posting, they want to quickly understand your skills, work experience, and the difference you have made to previous organizations.
Too many irrelevant design elements can seriously hurt your chances.
Standard resume templates in Microsoft Word and Pages
I find these ones really disappointing. With all the resources behind them, you would have thought that these companies would have been able to consult with top industry experts to create the perfect resume templates.
However, their standard resume templates are outdated, make poor use of space and rely too heavily on text boxes (more on that later).
What’s more, because of their proliferation, the designs they offer can be overused and therefore don’t stand out to recruiters.
Three helpful tips
So, you know you need to choose a resume template from an industry professional, but what other factors should you consider?
Make sure that they are designed for your region. Not every country follows the same format and so it’s vital that the designer you choose understands what a resume in your location should look like.
Check the reviews. Most reputable sellers will have reviews of their resources. Checking what other people have said about their experience of the template can help you make a wiser decision.
Consider specialist knowledge. Some resume designers have specialized expertise, designing with a particular industry, job role, or seniority level in mind.
Understanding what the designer is known for and their background will help you determine if the resume designs they create are the right fit for you.
For example, a resume writer might specialize in helping ex-military or c-level executives or people looking to break into Silicon Valley/big tech.
If your target role falls into a niche area, you may benefit from seeking out a resume designer with a track record of advising on those types of positions.
2. Pick an ATS-friendly resume template
In the modern world of recruitment, most companies use software to help create a smoother process.
Although there are hundreds of different software options available, these are collectively known as Applicant Tracking Systems (or ATS).
In most instances, when you submit your resume online it will be funnelled into an ATS that will store your resume under the role you applied for.
The recruiter can then easily review all the resumes received and quickly sort them accordingly.
A lot of ATS will integrate the entire hiring process, meaning that job interviews are also scheduled through the system, all correspondence is recorded and offer letters are generated from one place.
ATS does what it says, it tracks applicants through the recruitment process.
Many ATS have additional features, such as the ability to sort resumes by relevance, or filter by certain criteria.
Most ATS will also allow the recruiter to search the entire database of applicants who applied to the company to potentially find someone that previously showed interest for their new role.
You may see a lot of scaremongering about ‘beating the ATS’ or resumes ‘being rejected by ATS’. Whilst this isn’t entirely true, it can help your job search to submit a resume that the ATS can easily parse.
This will make it less likely that you will need to re-enter information into a hiring portal (as it is often pulled from your resume).
It also makes it more likely that all the information you have inputted will be picked up when a recruiter is filtering or searching through the digital database.
Many resume templates will claim to be ATS-friendly. The key things to look for are:
- No text boxes, headers or footers. Some systems do not read the information contained in these sections so they are best avoided (except for non-vital information).
- Created in Microsoft Word. Although other programs can create an ATS-friendly resume template, Microsoft Word is your safest choice. At the very least, you should ensure that the document is not an image file. You can check this by hitting select all, copy and paste. All the text you have written should come through to a plain text document in a readable format.
- No sidebar. Sidebars are often problematic and it is generally best to use a single column, top-to-bottom layout.
- No tables or symbols. If you have displayed your experience in a bar chart, or image form, this experience is not going to be pulled through in a searchable way. It’s best to write everything out as text instead of relying on pictorial representations.
3. Pick a resume template that will make your content shine
The content of your resume should be the star. The design is simply a support act.
When you pick a resume template, you should consider how you want to tell your career story, which sections you will want to emphasize, and how much space you’ll need.
The resume template should work around your content. You should never pick a resume template that will force you to compromise, or distract from your message.
It can be helpful to choose a resume template that is flexible; one where you can delete or add sections and where you can include as much, or as little information as you want, whilst still having a document that looks great.
4. Make sure the resume template matches your industry, function and job level
Before a recruiter even reads your resume, the design will have an impact and will already be signalling what type of candidate you are.
A great trick is to pick a design that you think will resonate well with people in your industry and send the right message about you.
As a general rule, newer industries often respond well to more modern creative designs. You’ll find that more traditional industries favour a conservative approach.
For clues, review the branding on the company website or look at real examples that resume writers have created. Pay attention to the visual language and choose a resume template that resonates with the overall trends you find.
Resume templates can be an incredibly helpful tool in your job search, but it’s important to pick the right one.
Research is key! It will help you pick a resume template that looks great and also helps inspire you to write great content.