Should I Use a Resume Template?

Question: What are the best resume or cover letter templates out there?

When working on your resume, it can be tempting to use a template. And there is no shortage of templates from free options through Google documents or Microsoft Word to more professionally designed, paid templates available on Etsy and Creative Market.   

Be very careful when using a resume template. Hiring managers and recruiters may review hundreds of resumes when looking for a candidate. They are well acquainted with the standard resume templates and in fact, using a template could work against you, signaling a lack of effort or creativity on your part.   

Google Document template

Google Document template

Looks are not everything; content matters more! Though resume templates can be visually appealing, they can box you into fitting into their specific layout.  The temptation becomes building content to fit the template rather than focusing first on generating strong content and formatting later. Hiring managers want to know that you have the experience, competence, skills, education, and training to do the job. A pretty layout may look good, but more importantly, you need to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for the job advertised.

Template formatting can be tricky. One of the tricks to a great looking resume template is the use of hidden tables to keep data in place. In the Microsoft Word resume template example, the entire resume is done in a hidden table. But tables are exceptionally difficult to work with when trying to make formatting changes or add additional content. And more importantly, if you apply online, an automated applicant tracking system may struggle to correctly extract the right information from a table. If you do decide to use a Google document resume template, be aware that you will need to submit your resume in Microsoft Word and your Google document may have conversion issues.

Word Document template. This sample uses hidden tables.

Word Document template. This sample uses hidden tables.

Building your resume without a template is worth doing. The purpose of your resume is to highlight what you have to offer. Instead of obsessing over finding the best resume template, spend your time building strong content that will help an employer understand how you can meet their needs. When writing resumes, try answering these questions:

  • What are the skills, experience and education that I have which demonstrate my ability to do this job?
  • How can I show some personality and make the resume interesting to read?
  • Have I shown that I am committed and dependable and accounted for any major gaps in my work history?

Once you have your core content created, you can then find ways to make your resume look exceptional. Beyond simply doing a web search, you can head over to Pinterest, Creative Market or Etsy to get a few ideas on formatting. And feel free to check out our resume samples here.

If you are feeling stuck in building your resume, consider working with Career Story.  Each resume that we build is unique to our clients. We focus on building strong content and then presenting it in a visually-appealing way to ensure that it gets noticed by hiring managers. Contact us at 604-614-3155 or email us at