Resume templates don’t work. Self-awareness matters.

resume templates

This post is part of an ongoing series on resume writing focussing on whether you should be using resume templates (tl;dr you shouldn’t). We encourage you to go back and read our earlier posts on the subject after you finish this post.

I can’t think of any really great analogies for creating a resume, and because later in this blog I’m going to tell you not to use clichés, it isn’t entirely appropriate for me to use one here. So instead, my sage wisdom is that experience tells me throughout your career, creating a resume won’t change. It will forever and always be resume creation.

My statement means a few things, but I want to use this post to stress the importance of the creative aspect of a resume. Regardless of how far technology goes, it is unlikely the traditional two-page resume will be replaced with a one-size fits all approach. Let’s take a look at some common mistakes people make with their resume…


Your first resume

When it comes time to write your first-ever professional resume, a significant portion of you are going to do the exact same thing. Either you’ll:

  • do a quick online search for resume templates and use one you find; or
  • look for a resume template provided in your word processor of choice



Trying to differentiate yourself from other candidates (we covered that in What Employers Want) extends to the look of your resume. From a hiring manager’s perspective, a stack of identical-looking resumes implies every applicant is the same. You could be the most qualified candidate, but a resume that looks like everyone else’s hides that experience under a blanket of sameness.

Similarly, if creativity is listed as one of your values, a resume based off a template is probably a bad example of your creativity in action.


What you should do

Resumes shouldn’t be identical, but they should all cover the same information. Looking at resume templates is a good source for inspiration (or sign up to Successful Graduate now to learn more about what you should be including and how), but you should only be using them as a launching off point. Make sure your resume reflects your values and experiences.


Your second resume

You’ve found a job you’re interested in applying to and created your own resume. You do a quick search online and find several job listings, so you send off your resume to all of them.



Each resume you submit should be addressing the requirements of the job you are applying for. While you may be applying for similar positions, pay close attention to what each listing requires (as we told you in What does that mean). It’s unlikely each job will be identical, meaning a single resume will miss some requirements or provide irrelevant information.


What you should do

The first resume you create should be the foundation for all your other resumes. This means your professional experience section will still list the jobs you’ve had, but the experience you gained from those jobs will change slightly based on the job you’re applying for.

Think about what you’ve done and how it relates to the job’s requirements. It’s really a matter of slight tweaks here and there, but it shows you understood the job listing.


About you

Now you’re creating resumes tailored to each job you apply for. They address each listings’ requirements and look great. In your cover letter, you tell your prospective employee all about how great you are:

You’re a hard worker, who can handle pressure. You can work independently but you’re also a good team player who not only communicates well, but also listens well. You’re a proactive, enthusiastic problem solver with excellent communications skills.



In a way, clichés are a vocabulary template that not only prevent you from differentiating yourself, but can also hurt your chances of getting an interview. A New College of the Humanities study found 47% of recruiters hated seeing the phrase “can work independently,” followed by 42% who disliked “hard worker.” The list goes on.


Terms recruiters hate


There are other, less obvious reasons not to be using clichés wherever possible. For one thing, clichés have a tendency to mean less the more they’re used. Secondly, employers expect all of their employees to be “hard workers” and “enthusiastic.” You’re not actually saying anything by using these terms, you’re just wasting space on your resume.


What you should do

This is where being self-aware really comes into play. You should be showing how you meet selection criteria instead of telling. That means, instead of saying you’re “a strategic thinker who came up with creative solutions”, explain a creative solution you created.


Being self-aware is an excellent skill to have, because it means you can relate your experiences to others’ requirements. You aren’t born with it, but it can be learnt. Successful Graduate helps you self-reflect and understand what you have to offer employers. Sign up to learn more.

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