Both in my work as a recruiter and a career coach I often come across CVs that are built on a basis of a template.
Here are some examples from a popular CV templates website:
Most people don’t realise that a templated CV like this may seriously hinder their job search and prevent them from getting interviews for roles they are perfectly qualified for.
What’s wrong with these?
They are pretty. They are neat. Everything is one page. They are skimmable.
And this is where lies the problem:
❌ Aesthetics over substance
Templated CVs look appealing but they detract from the content of your resume.
The design dictates the content, forcing you to fit your information into predefined fields and page limits (often just 1 page).
There is no way you can tell your career story and engage your potential new boss’s attention.
The wrong reason most CV templates exist
Most of CV templates found on the Internet are self serving. There are businesses built on using CV templates as a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a marketing term for a freebie that draws you to a website where you are presented with paid products or services.
So most online CV templates are designed to benefit the website creators financially rather than to help you secure employment. The prettier they are, the more visitors they get. Needless to say these CV templates never get tested in real recruitment environments.
Lack of flexibility
The main drawback of templated CVs is their rigidity. They are often limited in length and do not let you easily to tweak the content to suit different job applications.
This inflexibility can prevent you from highlighting the aspects of your experience most relevant to a particular role (which may take more space than the whole CV template).
Poor readability with column layout
Many templates force you to present information in two (or more) columns: the main one for your experience, and a narrower one for everything else.
When there is a competing column on the side, it disrupts the reading flow forcing the reader to re-focus on the neighbouring text.
Since hiring managers spend only 3-6 seconds deciding whether to delve deeper into a CV, a confusing layout may lead to your application being overlooked.
✔️ What you can do instead
Start with a blank slate
Begin your CV on a clean, empty document. This approach allows you to freely express what you want to say about your professional journey and then format it attractively without being constrained by a template.
Prioritise content flow
Design your CV to guide the reader smoothly from top to bottom, highlighting your achievements and skills in a coherent, easy-to-follow manner. Use clear subheadings a good amount of white space.
Don’t obsess over CV length, two to three pages depending on seniority is totally fine (yes, even in the US or France).
Customise for the job you are applying for
Without the restrictions of a template, you can tailor your CV to each job application: rewrite the summary, bulk up your relevance experience, add or remove skills.
In my practice as a recruiter, many of my candidates got the jobs because we’d invested time and effort into rewriting their CVs to address the needs of the hiring team.
Each time a restrictive CV template was involved, it had to be ditched to allow us to express what’s important.
I hope this gives you some inspiration.
See you next week.