You may have heard that a recruiter will spend, on average, only 6 seconds reviewing a resume. My experience as a hiring manager confirms that statistic. Two things are required for me to spend a little more time; 1) It is easy on the eyes 2) I can quickly find what I am looking for.

If you are in career transition, you need all the seconds you can get!

The visual appearance of a resume is SO important to engage a recruiter or hiring manager. There are some beautiful resume templates out there designed by professional graphic designers and many people are tempted to just "fill in the blanks and go".

Most of the templates I have seen available for purchase from graphic designers get an A+ for white space, font type, and visual appeal. The challenge is, a graphic designer's primary concern is with visual layout out, not content and content flow.

If you are going to use a resume template, here are some things to look for and be aware of.

Resume templates put content in the wrong order

You may have heard the term "above the fold". It is a term coined by newspapers (remember those?) to signify what is on the front page before the newspaper folds over. "Above the fold" is where you find the eye-catching headlines that draws a reader in and sells-sells-sells those newspapers off the newsstands. We may not read many physical newspapers anymore, but the concept still works. The most important stuff goes on top.

So what is the most important stuff? The information that quickly shows you match exactly what an employer is looking for and gets your resume into the "interested" pile as quickly as possible.

I instruct all of my clients to ditch the "objective/summary section" which usually reads as irrelevant fluff. Trust me, I know you are a "passionate person seeking to find a rewarding role in a dynamic company…". I don't mean that sarcastically. Everyone wants a rewarding role. Everyone starts out a new job excited and passionate. Putting a summary statement with little added value just occupies prime real estate for something that isn't going to sell you and get you into the "interview these people" pile. Don't make me work so hard as a hiring manager to realize you are amazing. You ARE amazing and you have great skills, so, make that abundantly clear right from the beginning.

Replace the summary statement with a section titled something like "Key Qualifications" or "Accomplishment Highlights" and include 4 to 6 bullet points that show off the accomplishments, skills or knowledge that solidifies you are right for the job. Choose these bullet points based specifically on requirements you have gathered directly from the job posting. These statements are the things you are most proud of and also tie closely with what the hiring manager is looking for.

In addition to not leaving a space for "key accomplishments", resume templates often put a "skills" section at the bottom/second page of the resume. Skills and accomplishments are what a hiring manager is wanting to buy, so don't bury the lead. Make sure your skills section is meaningful, easily scannable and on the first page.

Another ordering error resume templates make, is putting too much emphasis on education by putting it close to the top. If you are just starting out in your career and don't have much experience, then putting education first makes sense, after all, up until now that is your major accomplishment. However, if the job you are applying for isn't your first job, then my strong recommendation is to put it toward the bottom. Employers want to see knowledge applied. If you can do something at another company, you can do it for them, so education becomes less important the more you apply your knowledge and skills.

A final caution on content ordering and flow. If you start moving things around in your resume template to account for these content ordering challenges, just be very careful that text boxes and lines continue to be aligned where they need to match. Visual lines are very important when someone is quickly reading.

Resume templates often highlight things that are irrelevant, inappropriate, or could unintentionally promote bias

The purpose of a resume is not to have an employer get to know you as a person, or understand everything you could offer. The resume isn't going to get you a job. The purpose of a resume is to get you into the "I would like to talk to this person" pile. That is it. In the 6 seconds someone is reviewing a resume they don't care about your interests, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work (unless that is how you gained some of the skills you are positioning for the role you want). You don't want to lead them to your Facebook page or Twitter account. Trust me, they will find it on their own if they like you (more on that in a different post). In those 6 seconds, they just want to know, "is this person someone I believe can do the job and I want to have a conversation with".

There are just certain things that don't belong on a resume.

Your Hobbies

Why - It is irrelevant for the resume. As a people manager, I love knowing the hobbies of my employees. It is part of getting to know the whole person, but it is not what I care about when I am determining fit for a role. A hobbies section simply distracts me from putting you into the "I want to have a conversation" pile.

References

Why - It is assumed you will give references should you get to that stage of the process. If you include it on the resume, you are taking away precious space where you can highlight what you have accomplished.

Social Media Links other than LinkedIn

Why - By including a link to your social media accounts that highlight non-work areas of your life, you are inviting someone to know more about you which is likely not relevant for determining "can they do the job" and opens you to unintentional bias. There is time for inviting team members to get to know you personally, but that isn't in the resume stage. If people are curious, they will find you on social media sites no matter what you do, but by putting it on your resume you are asking them to go there.

Pictures

I am not as much of a stickler about this as I used to be. With the advent of LinkedIn, we are sending people to a site with a profile picture anyway, and many employers check out a candidate's profile before bringing them in for an interview. That being said, I still don't encourage them on a resume.

As a hiring manager, when I am reviewing resumes at 6 seconds a piece, the only question I am trying to answer is "am I seeing something here that would warrant an additional conversation." That is it. With that in mind, a picture just takes up precious space where you could be highlighting more relevant things.

Template fonts are beautiful but often too small

I am not sure why, but almost all of the visually appealing resume templates out there use a size 4 font. Ok, I am overexaggerating, but seriously, the smallest size I would recommend is a 10, however, most fonts need at least an 11 to make it legible. If I can't see it, I can't read it, if I can't read it easily, it goes in the "no pile".

Digital submission is challenging

In today's digital world we can submit resume's in so many different ways. Most online submissions will allow you to upload your Word/PDF file and then scan your resume for relevant details. This scanning process magically and conveniently prepopulates online application forms. Often times resume templates use text boxes to make the document more visually interesting and place content in a non-traditional order. This impacts the scanning software and it ends up populating the application incorrectly. Just know that if you choose to use a templatized resume, it may slow down your application process and force you to manually enter everything.

Her are a few possible solutions to solve for this.

  1. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, (which I always recommend anyway) and when possible select the "LinkedIn" option to fill in your online application details.
  2. Have a rich text version you can also upload which allows the scanning software to do it’s job.
  3. Find a visually appealing resume template in a more traditional format that makes it easier for application software to scan.

Spell check may not work

This one is a biggie depending on how the resume was created. If you are using a resume template, make sure you run a test to make sure spell check is working. If it isn't working, don't chance it, do all of your writing and edits in a place spell check works. Once you have figured out the content, you can copy and paste it into your template.

Ultimately, Resume templates can be a good thing, especially for people who don't have much of a knack for visual design. Just be aware that you will need to account for all of the things listed here when you use them.

Good luck! Let me know where I can help.

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