Nancy Halpern
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10

Doing your taxes. Going to the gym. Calling your mother. 

There are things that we have to do, whether we like them or not. We can drag our heels, make up excuses, and rationalize them away. But sooner or later, we all woman up and do what we have to do.

And for many of us, doing our resume definitely holds a place of honor on the short list.  Hearing the longed for request from a target employer “Can you send me your resume?” triggers stress, procrastination, anxiety and hair pulling. 

I’ve had clients roll their eyes, make gagging noises, cancel meetings – and that’s even before we start working on the profile. Their excuses prove that although they may not want to capture their accomplishments on paper they would all be fabulous fiction writers.

So how do you get over and around what seems to be a natural resistance to producing the number one needed job search marketing tool? For many, using a resume template is a great alternative.

There are lots of good reasons to embrace using a template, including:

  • Speed. You can turn around a decent looking resume very quickly. Not only can you immediately respond to a job opening, you can devote the time you’ve saved to other job search activities such as networking or research.
  • Cost. Many sites have free resume templates or low cost templates, including Microsoft Word or Google. Since these templates have extensive track records, you know there will also be extensive user reviews.
  • Professional looking. There are hundreds of styles and examples of resumes to choose from, written by professionals who know what a visually impactful resume should look like. You’ll see different  fonts, colors, layouts, each one designed by a pro.
  • Ease of Use. All the key fields will be there, and some sites such as Resume Builder will also have suggested wording and time tested tips, making the writing process even that much easier.
  • Anxiety reduced. There is a ton of background information you can review and use, with some sites even offering cover letter templates, salary calculators and interview help.

But of course there are also some pretty good reasons NOT to use a template, including:

  • Restrictive. Your professional life might not fit into a standard format. And templates, pre-programmed for speed, aren’t necessarily very flexible. Modifying them can be time consuming and laborious.
  • Missing Fields. There may not be a category for listing unusual experiences that you want to include, such as published pieces or speaking engagements.
  • Cookie Cutter. Recruiters and Human Resource professionals see a tone of resumes every day. The resume layouts created by template, with similar looks and language, all blend together. So if you want yours to stand out, using a template may not be the way to go.  
  • Perception. For more senior roles, using a template may lead to the conclusion that you took a short cut, not willing to invest the time and money to create a more customized document.
  • No Expertise Guidance. Templates often have imbedded phrases that are overused and even clichéd. A professional resume writer will know how to best highlight a particular skill or accomplishment.  

With so many good reasons to use a template, and an equal number of compelling reasons not to, how do you decide? 

  • Is time or quality of the essence? If it’s the former, use a template to create a document quickly so you don’t miss a tight application deadline. If it’s the latter, take the time to make it perfect, which might mean hiring a professional writer.
  • Is cost a huge factor? If so, then using a template is the way to go. Hiring an individual to design and write a resume for you will be at least a few hundred dollars, with the expense going much higher in large metropolitan markets. You can use a site such as Fiverr to find a low priced resume writer, but they’re probably just using a template as well.  
  • Is your job search making you crazy? Sometimes just getting the resume done will be enough to reduce your anxiety and get you refocused. If that’s true, then using a template has a mental health benefit that can be enormous.

Either way, template or not, the best thing you can do is pay your taxes, go to the gym, and please call your mother. But only after you finish your resume.

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Nancy Halpern is an executive coach with a proven track record in helping senior leaders and their teams reach their full potential. She's been quoted in The Financial Times, The New York Times and other publications, as well as appearing on both NPR and the PBS NewsHour.

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