Microsoft's resume templates aren't all that great.

Creating your resume can be a daunting task. So, if a tool that you use regularly, like Microsoft Word, has a slew of pretty cool-looking templates, why not use them? You're almost guaranteed to have a decent-looking and complete resume just by following their guidelines, right?

While all of that can be true, you may want to reconsider banking on that template to help you build a resume — especially if you want to win the job. In this post, we cover:

  • What is a resume template?

  • The pros of using Microsoft Word resume templates

  • Microsoft Word resume dangers and cons of using them

  • Tips to build a better resume

What is a resume template?

First things first, what exactly is a resume template? 

In addition to Microsoft Word resume templates, you can locate resume templates in Google Docs and through online platforms like Canva and Etsy. 

A resume template is a document with an already-formatted design. These pre-made designs can include resume sections, text, colors, images, and graphics. All you do is edit and pop in the information in the template sections, and you're done. Or are you?

With a resume template, you create your resume once, and ideally, you're finished. However, it's not typically that easy. Regardless of where you locate your resume templates, they generally have the same pros and cons. For this post, we focus on Microsoft Word resume templates. 

Here's a look at the pros and cons of using Microsoft Word's resume templates. 

*Spoiler alert* – the cons are going to outweigh the pros.

The pros of using Microsoft Word resume templates

Templates exist for a reason, and that reason is to make things easier. Why start from scratch when you don't need to? Though there are several Microsoft Word resume dangers to be wary of, here are a few of the benefits you'll find when piecing your resume together with an MS Word template.

1. Professional-looking format

One of the most difficult parts of putting your resume together can be getting the formatting right. Even if you know what you want it to look like, getting the font sizes and spacing all lined up can be a giant pain. Using a template takes the guesswork out of it. You can pick one that looks the way you want it to and simply plug in your information. 

2. Built-in checklist

A template will break down all of the sections of your resume for you; your work history, skills, education, and personal information will all have designated places for you to fill out. This makes it a lot easier to plug in all of your details without forgetting crucial information in the process. 

3. LinkedIn Resume Assistant

For Microsoft Office 365 subscribers, there is an option called LinkedIn Resume Assistant that can help boost your resume. Simply type LinkedIn into the search bar at the top of your Word document, and you should see it pop up. 

What Resume Assistant does is look up samples of resumes for the job title you are looking for so you can see some great examples of how people are phrasing their experience. You also see a list of job skills that employers prefer, which can really help take your resume to the next level.

4. Efficient to create

Because they are preformatted, Microsoft Word templates can be quick to build out and create. This can save you time vs. starting from scratch to design your resume. However, if it's going to cost you the job, as discussed in the next section, is saving time worth it?

5. Includes relevant elements 

One benefit of working in a Microsoft template is that the typical resume sections, such as Education and Work History, are included. This can make it easier to remember to include the necessary information for your resume. 

Microsoft Word resume dangers: the cons of using Microsoft Word templates

After reading the pros, you may be ready to start firing up your resume in a Word template — but not so fast. There's more to consider here. Here are the Microsoft Word resume dangers and cons of using them. 

1. You'll blend into the crowd

A key Microsoft Word resume danger is blending in with the crowd. Hiring managers see dozens, if not hundreds, of job applications and resumes each week. Guess what? Most of those are made by using some sort of template. While the templates help you design your resume, what you need to remember is that they are also helping millions of other people design their resumes exactly the same way. When it comes to your job hunt, you don't want to blend into the crowd — you want to stand out.

2. They are not optimized for the ATS

What's worse than blending into the crowd? Not making it to the party at all. Most of today's employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort and rank all of the resumes they receive. If your resume doesn't hit the right notes for that system, it ends up in the reject pile, and the hiring manager probably won't even see it. 

You can be the best candidate in the world for that job, but if your resume isn't optimized for the ATS, prospective employers will never know. That's why selecting an ATS-unfriendly template is at the top of the list among Microsoft Word resume dangers, wouldn't you say? 

Here are some factors that inhibit resume templates from getting past an ATS:

  • Charts, graphs, tables, text boxes, and images. Many resume templates include these types of elements. However, most ATS software can't interpret elements like charts, graphs, tables, and images in a resume, nor can it read information within a text box. 

  • Nonstandard format. Among the Microsoft Word resume dangers related to getting past an ATS, the formatting used is at the top of the list. The most commonly used resume format is a simple reverse-chronological format, which is also the most easily read format by an ATS. This format includes your most recent work history first and works backward from there. If your Microsoft Word resume template uses a fancy design or nonstandard format, it will be difficult for it to get past an ATS. 

  • Creative elements. Another no-no for resumes to bypass an ATS is using creative elements. Though it can be tempting to select a creative template or use creative elements to stand out, the reality is, using these types of elements will likely prevent your resume from landing in the hands of a human reader. It's best to stick with a simple design. 

  • Columns. Many resume templates include columns, which can be difficult for ATS software to parse information from. This is especially true for right-hand columns. If you are set on a template with columns, choose one with left-handed columns or rails. 

  • Font type. There are specific font types that work well for resumes. Oftentimes, templates will use a designer font that is not recognized by applicant tracking systems, which means they won't be able to correctly parse the resume text. 

  • Information in headers or footers. ATS software cannot read content in the header or footer areas. If a template incorporates information in the header or footer of the resume, like your name and contact information, an ATS will not be able to read it. 

3. They include outdated resume styles

As mentioned before, using a template can help you recall the types of information to include in your resume. That said, there is also a downfall to having sections already included in a template. 

If you're using an MS Word template, you might be using a template that is out of date. Believe it or not, resumes are always evolving. 

Using a template that isn't up to speed with today's resume rules can immediately make you look out of touch — and that's not the first impression you're trying to make. 

4. They offer limited creative ability and customization

They may look good, but using an MS template means you'll have limited ability to adjust or customize the template. Even rearranging and moving sections around can be difficult for various reasons, including the fact that the adjustment might not translate well in terms of formatting. Bullet points might appear off and misaligned, text might be spaced unevenly, and so on. 

Suppose you're an entry-level candidate with little to no work experience, and you need to include your Education section before your Work Experience section. Yet, when you attempt to make this adjustment in the template, it throws everything off. Scenarios like this can be extremely frustrating when attempting to create a resume from a template. Not to mention, it voids the pro of being able to more quickly create a resume. 

5. They break resume standard practices

Resume readers want to view a resume where they can easily find and read the information they're seeking. Unfortunately, MS Word resume templates break many of the standard resume-writing rules, which can be frustrating to hiring teams. This means that, even by the rare chance your resume template bypasses an ATS, it could still be rejected by recruiters and hiring managers who are wondering why your resume looks as it does or includes what it does. 

Here are a few of the standard rules resume templates tend to break:

  • Including irrelevant details related to the job

  • Incorporating out-of-date elements and sections, like your full address or an objective statement

  • Using a difficult-to-read format

  • Including information that could result in bias or discrimination, like personal details and photos

  • Using an unprofessional or creative design

6. It could cost you the interview and job

When you take all of the Microsoft Word resume dangers listed here, any one of them could mean you miss out on interviews, which means you miss out on landing the jobs you desire. 

That's magnified when you consider them all together, and who wants that? 

A resume template can save you time and money to create, but if it means you're prevented from landing interviews – the key purpose of creating a resume in the first place – is it really worth it? No, it's not. It ends up being a waste of valuable time and resources that delays your job search goals. 

Tips to build a better resume

By now, with the many Microsoft Word resume dangers outlined, you've probably figured out that it's better to skip the templates. So, where do you begin? Here are a few tips to help you build a resume that will get you through the door.

Find examples

Go online and look for people who are doing what you want to do, and see if you can find some sample resumes. There are a lot of great people out there who are willing to share their resumes. Look at how they organize their content and phrase their successes. Then, use that to make your own information sparkle.

Start fresh

It's always tempting to simply update your old resume, but starting over may actually be more beneficial. You'd be surprised at the things that you now want to highlight, and things you may leave off that were simply bogging down your old resume. 

Don't want to start totally from scratch? 

Make sure you're at least customizing your resume to fit the new jobs you are applying for. That means utilizing job descriptions to pick out the keywords you want to hit and taking note of the type of language you should use to impress. 

Include valuable content

Beyond proper formatting and incorporating standard resume rules, content is king in terms of truly capturing the attention of employers. To do this, you want to ensure your resume effectively captures your accomplishments, skills, education, and relevant work history. Be sure to include the following elements:

  • Resume summary. A strong resume summary captures the attention of resume readers, so they want to keep reading.  

  • Core competencies and skills. Any key relevant soft and hard skills you possess should be highlighted throughout your resume, as well as in a core competencies list right below your summary. 

  • Work history. Your work history is generally the most important section of your resume. Be sure to include action verbs to start each bullet point with accomplishments, and use as much quantifiable data as possible when describing your results.  

  • Education. In your Education section, include your degrees and the institution that issued them. You might also include additional training and certifications in this section. 

  • Additional sections. If you have additional relevant training or experience that adds value to your resume, like certifications, volunteer experience, and special projects, you have the option of adding sections to include these. 

Optimize for the ATS

Don't think about it merely as “getting through” the ATS. How can you build your resume to impress the ATS? Do a little research and optimize your resume accordingly. 

Incorporate keywords

A great way to optimize your resume for both an ATS and human readers is to incorporate keywords throughout. Refer to the job description and ensure you're including the keywords that align with your relevant experience in your resume. Company lingo and jargon is also a great way to incorporate keywords, though don't overdo it, and only include what's relevant.

Get a second opinion

If you know a hiring pro, run your resume by them and ask for suggestions. If you don't, you can request a free resume review from TopResume. It even includes an ATS-compliance check and will also give you objective, personalized feedback on how you can improve your resume overall.

Have your resume written by a pro

Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of writing your resume? Don't sweat it. Instead, have one of the TopResume expert resume writers help you out. Not only do our resume writers know how to get your resume through the ATS, but they also know how to make sure your resume impresses the human hiring manager on the other side. Trust us — sometimes it's best to leave it to the experts. 

Don't let those tempting MS Word resume templates ruin your chances of landing your dream job. Avoid the many Microsoft Word resume dangers and build a better, more original resume that wins over those hiring managers.

Before you send your resume out into the world, make sure it's showing you at your best with a free resume review. Don't wait. 

This article was originally written by Tyler Omoth and updated by Ronda Suder. 

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