How to select the best resume template to showcase your work history

If you undertake a quick search on Google, you will discover hundreds of sites offering free resume templates. In this article, we share exactly how to select the best resume template that will effectively showcase your work history.

Hint: Most are not worth downloading or using (even the paid versions).

# 1 – Ensure the resume template is ATS friendly

If you don’t know what an ATS is, it is the abbreviation for an Applicant Tracking System that is used by numerous recruiters and companies. An ATS is used to streamline the recruitment process for organisations and recruiters who receive literally thousands of applications per year. Part of the ATS process is shortlisting resumes based on keywords and other identifiers such as years of experience and university details. So unless your resume scores highly within the ATS, a human being won’t even look at your beautifully presented resume.

The other problem with ATS is that many cannot read (parse) the following:

  • Content located in tables
  • Fancy graphic designs and images
  • Charts and graphs
  • Content contained within a column design
  • PDF files (this is not true for all ATS, but the older systems still can’t read a PDF format)

Unfortunately, if you look at the hundreds of resume templates available online, the vast majority would not pass the strict ATS test.

# 2 Don’t use the fancy graphic designed resume templates

So many of the resume templates created are so pretty and are products of design. The problem is of course, is that these designs are not appropriate for the vast majority of job candidates.

Unless you are a desktop publisher, graphic designer or within the innovative sector – forget the non-traditional resume designs and stick with solid conservative design elements.  Why?

  • Many of the designs are distracting and most recruiters are only after a clean and simple version, which they can quickly scan to gather all the relevant information.
  • Recruiters using an Applicant Tracking System to parse your resume, often only see the text version and the elaborate designs can lead to your content not being picked up by the ATS (see our comments about ATS above).
  • Standing out is not about creating an aesthetically dazzling document. You can have the best-designed resume in the world, but if your content sucks, you are not going to make the shortlist. The reality is, recruiters are not interested in amazing resume design – they are only interested as to whether you are good match for the job or not.
  • Most established businesses are still conservative, so you need to keep this in mind and not submit a non-traditional document.

# 3 Make sure your template has these design elements included

When selecting a resume template design, keep the following design elements in mind.

  • Apply white space liberally, that is space on the page that is not covered by type. White space will accentuate visual pattern.
  • Segment paragraphs and avoid lengthy blocks of text. Large blocks of text generally don’t get read, so pick a template, which allows for segmentation.
  • Use bullet points to accentuate achievements and information such as skills lists. Overuse of bullet points detracts from key elements of your resume.
  • Have consistent design – e.g. use full justification throughout the document
  • Stick with clean and simple fonts and avoid using more than 2 fonts throughout the document.
  • Go easy on italic and the underlining of information

Qualified resume writers generally ignore resume templates

Finally keep in mind, that the top resume writers of the world generally ignore online resume templates from the likes of Hudson, CareerOne and Canva.

Certified Resume Writers, do create visually appealing documents, many quite elaborate and beautiful, but they look nothing like the templates that you find online.  The reason they don’t use these resume designs:

Each work history is unique, so how content is presented changes depending on the client. For example: most resume templates place education at the front, whereas education would go to the back for an experienced job candidate.

Since templates are created by designers that don’t have a clue about the recruitment process – data is included that a resume writer would not dream of inserting. For example, including the heading Interests, or creating a space for a photograph.

The language on some of the templates undervalues job candidates. For example, the use of the heading Duties and Responsibilities. Since duties and responsibilities are not the linchpin of a great resume and simply inform employers on what you were supposed to do, not your unique value, I don’t know of one Certified Master Resume Writer that would use this term.


Creating a visually appealing resume helps, but don’t rely on free resume templates.  To help you with this problem, we utilised a Certified Master Resume Writer to create ATS friendly and effective resume template designs.

If you apply for membership and are accepted by My Career Groove, we have highly functional and effective resume templates that you can use, to help propel your career.

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