Resume templates


It’s funny how often people ask for this stuff. A recruiter commented on my post about the one page resume saying that if you used the resume template in Microsoft Word, you have a 75% less chance of being interviewed (grrr, throwing out random, unsubstantiated numbers…wait, is this a political debate? I digress…). So I wanted to check out the templates so I could have a somewhat informed opinion and here I am back again to let you know what my opinion is.

First, let me tell you about my opinion of templates in general. Most often when someone refers to a “template”, my reaction is less than positive (especially when they pronounce it like “tem-playte”…can’t we all get together and agree on one pronunciation?). I’ve met people in life who can’t get through a day without several templates. I like an occasional template, but over-standardizing can be mind-numbing.

As a recruiter, I love e-mail templates that I can use when I am sending out the same message to a number of people (like thanks for applying, etc.) but to use templates for some of the more creative aspects of the job bothers me. I’ve adapted though. For example, we do have some phone interview templates we use for certain types of roles. This allows us to ask consistent questions of our candidate pool. The negative side of this is that the recruiter can get so focused on the template that they forget to listen and forget to ask question probing for certain talents. So I’m a big proponent of flexible templates; which include some “must-have” questions (“Are you open to relocation, are you authorized to work…”) and some additional questions you can use if you need them, but flexibility to ask questions based on the candidate’s resume and then probe the answers. I don’t want templates to become a crutch. I still want to use my brain in my job.

So let’s talk about resume templates. I did check out the resume templates in Microsoft Word. Specifically, I looked at the resume templates for a “Marketing Manager” Resume on the Microsoft Office Online template page and I have to say that what I saw was pretty darn good (really like that first one for an experienced candidate). At the very least, it’s better than most resumes that I see. There are a bunch of different templates there from different sources (independent sources…not Microsoft’s recruiting department, of course). Just make sure that you pick templates that work for your background versus trying to make your background work using a specific template. Let me explain what I mean. Let’s say that you are a relatively new grad. It will not make a bunch of sense to a recruiter reading your resume of you start out with a “career profile”. But it would make sense if your education section came first.

The templates should just make you think about how you might want to present your background so don’t feel like you have to adopt a particular template format outright. You don’t have to use just one template (I would encourage you not to). I would recommend flipping through the templates available and finding elements of different templates that you like. Think about why you like them and how you can incorporate them into one document. Think about what the different formats say about how you position yourself. But don’t let the templates take the creativity out of marketing you. Find the right combination of the info you want to say and how you want to present it.

Early in my recruiting career I heard some information about how the eye scans the resume. From what I remember, someone (a recruiter) reading a resume actually “reads” the top third of the first page and then scans to the bottom of the page. Then they read the very top and bottom of every subsequent page, scanning what is in between. So taking this type of thing into account is what you want to do when selecting a resume format. Develop a format that highlights strengths (don’t forget to highlight results) in the top third of the first page and think about where you place the rest of it.

So the answer to the question of whether I have “a good resume template”  to use is “sorry, but no”. However, realizing that most of you don’t stare at resumes for the better part of the day like I do, I think there is some value in reviewing some templates online to help you visualize what your resume should look like. So by all means check them out. But make the resume yours. Put your stamp on it and make sure what people are noticing isn’t the sophisticated resume format, but the sophisticated professional it represents.

PS: Gerry Crispin posted recently on the “personal” information most often found on resumes. Moral of that story is leave that stuff off your resume.

Comments (25)

  1. Sean Kent says:

    Heather, the recruiter that threw out the "75%" comment was me. Let me be more clear – I cannot stand the default MS Word resume template. Not the nice ones you find at MS Office Online, but the ones that reside on your PC and are named Contemporary, Elegant, and Professional Resume Template. I can quickly and easily spot a resume that was hurriedly composed using one of the aforementioned templates. Net result? I give them at best a passing glance. So for me, myself, and I, the 75% rule is 100% accurate. If you don’t place enough value on yourself and your background to put together a professional resume that makes a statement, then why should you expect me to take you seriously for one of my openings?

    Bottom line – as you mentioned, templates are great for repeating common tasks. Your resume, however, should NEVER be common! 😉

  2. Heather says:

    Sean..OK, now that I agree with ; )

  3. I hate mispronunciation too. Let’s get everyone to talk the way we do. Especially people from Rochester.

  4. I remember the conventional wisdom about leaving out the personal information on resumes, but I’m not so sure that it’s still right. Certainly, there are some–ok, many–kinds of personal information that should not appear, but the harmless ones have occasionally been helpful to me. I think the key is to keep it short and at the end. Every once in a while, they help form a connection with an interviewer. And in this impersonal market, any personal connection is good.

    Isn’t that why we know about your boots?

  5. Heather says:

    Nathan, Rest assured that nobody will be reading about my new boots on my resume; ) Blogs are another matter entirely. I agree with a lot of what you said. If you think about adding personal stuff, definitely keep out the stuff that Gerry talked about in his post (height, weight, kids, marital status because frankly, it’s nobody’s beeswax). With other stuff, like affiliations, consider 1) whether the entry has the potential to alienate a reader and 2) if there’s something that the reader can glean from the entry that presents you as a better candidate (like Toasmasters if you were applying for an evangelist position). The kind of things that could potentially alienate a reader are political afilliations, religious affiliations, fraternal organizations (you know what they say about opinions…we all have them). Those are all personal things that people feel strongly about (which is why I think some people put them on their resume), but they do open up the possibility of a reader reacting negatively based on their own feelings (which means they might not call you). People may be concerned that since you put those things on your resume, they also follow you into the workplace, so I would just advise to tread carefully but make up your own mind. I’m not trying to make a point about what people do in their lives, but whether that belongs on a resume which I believe represents what you are offering a potential employer. So the stuff on the resume needs to pass the relevance test.

    Like I said, blogs are another matter, but you still won’t see me talking about religion, politics (even though I think about it a lot and would love to share my opinion…just not appropriate here in my opinion.) and other stuff that I think is personal. That’s just me. Other people do.

  6. Yorri says:

    Before you criticize pronunciations you should take a course in linguistics. You will then understand that there is a historical reason for the difference in pronunciation of certain words from different regions.

    For example. Canadians generally use dipthongs to pronounce certain vowels. The word template is no exception. Since Canadians have a stong British influence on spelling and pronunciation, you will find this and it doesn’t make one right or wrong.

    You will see these differences by comparing an American dictionary (such as http://www.m-w.com) to a British based dictionary (http://dictionary.cambridge.org). If you look at the entry "template" in the Cambridge dictionary and show the phonetics you will see that the a in template is pronounce as ei (which is a dipthong).

    Doesn’t look like an incorrect pronunciation to me. It just looks like 2 people with 2 different backgrounds.

    If you are still adamant about the pronunciation I highly suggest you take an ethics course to learn how to live with people in our highly pluralistic society.

    Just a couple things to think about.

  7. Heather says:

    Wow Yorri, I wasn’t discussing differences in pronunciation based on where a person is from. I’m very familiar with the differences in pronunciations of English words by foreign nationals and by no means insist that the "American" pronunciations are correct. Frankly, I was simply joking (and if you have ever read my blog, you know that I make fun of myself quite often) and wasn’t expecting anyone to be so deeply offended. Since you obviously were, I apologize and appreciate the feedback. My ethics are unquestionably high though, and people who know me know that.

  8. There is a great deal of antipathy amongst recruitment professionals about resume templates, and dire warnings that the use of such devices is akin to "shooting yourself in the foot". I can’t help but feel that there is a degree of professional snobbery in this.

    The purpose of a resume is to provide information and to provide it in a way that can be easily accessed by the recruiter. A well designed template such as the sort my company provides, is perfectly capable of doing this, and is far superior to many "home grown" resumes based on misinformation and lack of knowledge about what is required.

    Like you Heather, I believe a template of any sort is a sound starting point for the user. There is nothing to prevent the user from exercising a degree of discretion and creativity in amending the template in order to better meet thier needs.

    Sadly, many templates are of poor quality, and are not based on sound principles. If you are unfortunate enough to be using one of these then most of the horror stories will become your reality.

  9. There is a great deal of antipathy amongst recruitment professionals about resume templates, and dire warnings that the use of such devices is akin to "shooting yourself in the foot". I can’t help but feel that there is a degree of professional snobbery in this.

    The purpose of a resume is to provide information and to provide it in a way that can be easily accessed by the recruiter. A well designed template such as the sort my company provides, is perfectly capable of doing this, and is far superior to many "home grown" resumes based on misinformation and lack of knowledge about what is required.

    Like you Heather, I believe a template of any sort is a sound starting point for the user. There is nothing to prevent the user from exercising a degree of discretion and creativity in amending the template in order to better meet thier needs.

    Sadly, many templates are of poor quality, and are not based on sound principles. If you are unfortunate enough to be using one of these then most of the horror stories will become your reality.

  10. sondra jordan says:

    I think templates can work particularly if they’re supported by strong, clean words that describe their asets.

    There are but only so many formats one can use. I’m a recruiter who likes a simple, professional layout that embraces a marketable work history.  

  11. i am a mba student at present i am in 3rd semester. i hv my specialisation in Marketing and IT .I want a new and good resume format or template ,so that i can be able to register myself in various job sites. already most of my friend has got some interview calls where i am just waiting for the same moment.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Debendra- I’d recommend checking in with the career center at your university. They should have some recommendations on templates appropriate for new MBA grads. Otherwise, you can use the templates I linked to.

    Good luck

  13. I would like to endorse the comments made by Sondra Jordan, regarding a "simple, clean layout".

    "Bling" might be a great companion to evening wear, but has no place in a Resume or CV.  Recruiters want to get to the information quickly and easily.

    The look to strive for is simplicity, organisation and professionalism.

    Excessive formatting and colour on a Resume or CV is a "turn-off".  I think it tells a recruiter that you don’t believe you can win a job on your merits and are trying to mask this.  Might not be true in fact, but perception can be as important as reality.

  14. Deepak Patil says:

    I differ with Sean Kent (the recruiter that threw out the "75%" comment).

    If I am into technical field then one should assess my technical knowledge, not my resume writing skills. I will do the best what I am supposed to do and I will take others help if it is not my job.

    Using a resume template does not mean hurriedly composed resume. One takes equal pain in filling his/her personal information in that template.

    Also, I feel that if everyone follow certain standards for resume writing then it will be easier for the recruiters to scan and compare them in less time.

  15. One Louder says:

    This time of year, I’m burning excess vacation days and you may be doing the same or hiding from in-laws

  16. Slybaby says:

    I am doing a resume for the first time. I would like to send it to you so you can tell me if its good or not. And if theres anything I should include or improve on.

  17. Susanna says:

    What an interesting conversation!  First, templates are simply a guide to formatting.  If the right information is in a resume, any template or clean format will work for you.  

    I’d like to bring up the #1 mistake that I think candidates make is having only one resume — whether or not you use a template.  A resume should be different for each job application.  You want to showcase the skills that are required for the opening that you want.  You want to pump up the key words that you feel really showcase your strong suits.  A resume is a "living document", a sales tool, to get you an interview — it should be fluid and dynamic — not one rigid document.  

    Employers want to know what you will bring to the table — why are you worth the money.   You must include accomplishments and responsibilities — not simply job descriptions.

    Remember that in this Google age, Recruiters are searching for key words to find that perfect match.  A key word rich resume leaps to the front of the search results.  

    Whether or not you use a template to set up your resume is irrelevant.  

  18. Vishnu says:

    Hi All,

    I am some one who always thought that Resume will not do much unless if you dont have the knowledge to deliver.After seeing this blog there are different things going on to my mind i am a finance guy with nearly six years of experience,i need your help in building a good resume my e mail id is vshnu_22@hotmail.com i appreciate if you can send me a good resume format please.

    Regards

    Vishnu

  19. floyd says:

    Please assist me in finding a site that has resume templates so that I may build a professional resume.

  20. Jordan says:

    I think it depends on the job you’re applying for.  I help high-school youth build resumes and unfortunately, the free template downloads off of Word are better than the ones you find on the net.  About 90% of the youth I help build resumes with these templates find jobs right away because they’re mostly looking at getting hired at McDonalds or something like that.  So, we need to consider that variable.

    On that note, I have a job that is pretty high up in the company I work for and I used a standard Word template that I mildly edited for added visual effect.  The most important thing about the resume is the information.  I’ve seen people with resumes that look like a flyer for a furniture blow-out sale that is cheesy, overly distracting and way too dramatic to be taken seriously, regardless of the effort put into it.

    Sean, I think if you’re an employer and you’re only glancing at a resume because of the design, you’re selling your organization short.  The fact of the matter is that Word Templates are very attractive and better than a lot of the crap people are posting on the net for downloading.  Personally, I’d rather spend my time putting more effort into the information on the resume than the appearance.  

    I understand your point about putting extra effort into the resume because it is symbolic of the person’s work, etc.  But to completely disregard it based on that is unprofessional in my opinion.  For $10 I can buy a resume template package off the net and have 30 to choose from that you’ve probably never seen before and put just as little effort into it as the ones that Word provides.  The only difference is that you take the unique looking resume and hire that applicant who has sucessfully fooled you.  That’s not the employee that I would want working for me.

  21. Joanne says:

    I understand the fact that you get bored seeing the same template over and over, but the fact is, it helps keep people organized. I see TONS of resumes that are “made by hand” that are disorganized and scattered. The templated ones are boring to look at, but at least I can find what I’m looking for quickly.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    My point was not that resume templates are boring. I don’t count on getting my excitement in life from looking at resumes. My point is that some templates are very helpful but that if someone is going to use a template, they should pick out one that is appropriate and then make it their own (with unique content about themselves). Depend on the template for structure, but not content.

  23. Risk Averse says:

    A template can only be advantageous when a process requires clearly defined information.  It’s hard to see that a recruiter wants a robot that can be described a a 1 or 2 page form.  Resumes have to live and breathe just a little like their owners.

    In my line of work (where there often is 1 right way of doing things) I love templates.  They ensure tasks are done comprehensively and they "cover backsides" very well.  Not sure these are the star qualities of the best recruits.

  24. HeatherLeigh says:

    So you like templates, but they are a sign of robots. And you don’t like recruiters. Got it.

    Whatever.