Raise your hand if your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is perfecting resume margins in Word.

No one? Not surprising. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just enter your information into a beautifully designed resume and be done?

Well, that’s exactly why resume templates exist. The trouble is, many people believe that the use of a resume template, while convenient, may end up getting your resume overlooked by recruiters and applicant tracking systems (ATS). There may be some truth to that, the pros of using resume templates outweigh the cons – you just have to be smart about it.

Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you choose a professional resume template that’s attractive to hiring managers and logical for your skills, experience, and career objectives.

What are the potential drawbacks to using resume templates?

Resume templates exist to make your life easier. Most word processors, including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Apple Pages, offer free resume templates, allowing you to create a resume with little to no effort. So, why is that a bad thing?

There are those who argue that with six seconds or less to impress a hiring manager, using such a basic resume might give hiring managers the wrong idea (that you’re lazy or unoriginal). Microsoft, after all, estimates that over a billion people use Office every day. That’s a lot of individuals who have the very same resume template at their fingertips. So the main risk is that using a cookie-cutter resume may make you look like a cookie-cutter candidate.

The thing is, resumes are by definition standardized documents.They are designed to communicate a candidate’s professional information as quickly and simply as possible. And resume templates are perfect for organizing your information and making it look attractive.

The good news is that there are so many resume templates available online that you don’t have to be resigned to using the Microsoft Word templates that everyone else has. Take the time to search online, and you will find something that both appeals to you visually, and helps you organize your thoughts and experience.

How do you choose the best resume template for you?

When you search for downloadable resume templates online, you’ll find thousands of different choices. To narrow things down, start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. Does the company have a unique presence or culture?
  3. Does the job require skills that a resume template could reflect?
  4. What do I want the template to say about me?
  5. Do I want it to reflect my personality?
  6. How do I strike a balance between my audience and personality?

Knowing the answers to these questions is fundamental, for both choosing a template and tailoring your resume to job postings and companies. For example, let’s say you’re applying to a larger, more traditional corporation. You might want to go with something that avoids graphics and flashy colors to present information in a more conservative fashion. This is especially true if the company uses an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which often do not read information within graphics. So, if you use a chart to illustrate your skills, there is a good chance the software won’t recognize those skills.

Then again, let’s say the same job requires you to be creative and bold. You might, in that case, want to add a bit of color. It’s up to you to find a professional resume template with the right balance.

The point here is not to scare you; as long as you’re thoughtful about your choice, a simple resume template isn’t going to harm your chances of getting an interview. In the end, it’s more about the quality of your content and not the packaging that wins the day.

Here are a few sample resume templates:

The traditional resume template

Choosing a traditional resume template is a good idea for people who are applying for more traditional or corporate jobs. The effect is clean and professional. Notice the lack of color and design elements.

The modern resume template

A modern resume template puts a bit of a spin on the traditional resume. The example below is a modern resume template with a splash of color and some interesting graphics. The content remains displayed in a more traditional reverse-chronological format.

Modern resume template
The creative resume template

The point of using a creative resume template is to show off some of your more creative skills. Creative resume templates can include elements like infographics, graphics, designs, charts, or colors.

While this might be the best approach for your personality and skillset, remember to always consider the audience. This kind of template, for example, will go over better in creative fields. If you’re not in a creative field but would still like to go with this approach, try to limit the use of graphics, as this might make it harder for your resume to pass through ATS software.

The ugly resume template

There are obviously ugly resume templates – those that use Comic Sans as a font or have kittens wearing bowties on them for no apparent reason. There can be value in going this approach (no one will ever say you didn’t stand out), but in general the negatives outweigh the positives.

One way to avoid making your resume ugly is to make sure that you aren’t cramming your information onto the page (like the example below). Use a 10-12 point resume font, and be sure to balance your text with enough white space to give your resume a clean look.

A hot pink infographic resume with Vivaldi font may seem like a good choice at the moment, but it’s not. Choose neutral colors, legible fonts, and clean layouts, and consider tailor the presentation of your information to the aesthetics and culture of the company you’re applying to.

Key takeaway

If you decide to use a template, you could save yourself a lot of time and effort. And you could end up with an impressive resume that’s easy-to-read and attractive to hiring managers. All you need to do is put some serious thought into what you’re choosing and you’re ready to go. Click here to try some free professional resume templates.

And if you find any of this discouraging, remember, content is still king. So, all of the advice on how to write a resume still stands. You need a killer opening – either a resume summary or resume objective that tells a hiring manager that you’re the person they want right away. You’ll need to tailor your resume to the job description by adding keywords and skills from the offer. You will want to add your achievements to your experience section and make them quantifiable. That way the hiring manager knows what it looks like when you bring value to a company.

An elegant resume template is similar to good packaging in that it should be attractive and inviting. But if your content is lacking, having an attractive resume isn’t going to do much for you.