Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Resume Templates — Yes or No?


I’ve been a resume writer long enough to have seen many generations of resume templates over the years. In the 1990s, there were the “resume-in-a-box" software programs. In the 2000s, you had Microsoft Word resume templates — which were either super boring or overly designed (with multiple columns). More recently, you've been able to purchase resume templates on Etsy or use the resume designs in Canva.

The problem is, many of these documents LOOK good, but aren’t GOOD to use in an actual job search because, especially in recent years, they have not been compatible with applicant tracking system (ATS) software, putting applicants at a disadvantage with their online resume submissions. 

But the world of resume templates changed when career industry pioneer Michelle Dumas introduced “Distinctive Resume Templates.” As a longtime professional resume writer herself, Michelle recognized the need for modern, ATS-friendly professional resume templates that could be used by career industry professionals to enhance their interview-winning content with visually attractive designs.

Michelle and I started in the resume writing industry in the same year (1996) and we’ve both seen lots of changes through the years. But one thing hasn’t changed: The need to create compelling, attractive, and interview-winning career documents.

In 2020, she created a series of resume templates to use with her company’s own clients. They were designed to be easily customized, right down to the color schemes. Her first goal was to streamline the resume development process, creating templates that were useful but also easy to customize. In using the templates with clients, she realized how useful they would be to career industry colleagues. So she started selling them to other resume writers.

“Our work is tremendously time-consuming and we trade our precious time for money. Writing a great resume for a client is a very time-consuming process,” Dumas says. “Our income is limited by how much we are able to produce, which makes it hard to grow/scale a business.”

By introducing resume templates into your resume writing business, you can focus more on the content creation and let the design enhance the content, instead of having to struggle with formatting the resume and associated career documents.

“Writing and graphic design are two different skill sets,” Dumas says. “We are professional resume writers, not graphic designers. While both of these — the writing skill and the design skill — require talent, they are completely different skill sets. Graphically-enhanced resumes that incorporate color and shapes became the norm and the expectation.”

Simple Microsoft Word design enhancements can make a big difference. 

For example, take this Key Qualifications section:

In the Amplify template, it becomes this:

Because the templates are provided in Microsoft Word format, you can change the color of the themes. The change from blue to green was done with ONE CLICK.


The templates are Microsoft Word templates (.dotx extension), and MS Word is required to use and customize them. Template collections are sorted into categories — professional and executive, student and entry-level, industry and trade-specific, career change, etc. When I choose a design, I start with the client and pick the template to fit the content. Sometimes I write the content first and then copy-and-paste the text into the template. Other times, I write “to the template,” writing directly in the template. Or, you could do a combination of both. Fill in the “easy stuff” — education, certifications, affiliations — in the template, and then write out (long hand or in a blank Word document) the other content and then paste it into the template.

Dumas suggests that resume writers can save approximately one hour per project by using one of the templates. My personal experience reveals similar time savings — more for complex projects. For an average $1167 project (the average price for a resume and cover letter project, according to the 2022 Profile of Professional Resume Writers), the investment of $21 in a Distinctive Resume Template provides a strong return on investment (representing only 2% of the project cost but saving one hour of the average nine hours resume writers estimate spending on an average resume project).

Instructions for making the color changes are included in each document, including links to videos to illustrate the process. Successive page headers are automatically set up, including page numbers.

There are dozens of templates to choose from. 

I’ve been using Distinctive Resume Templates with my clients since March 2022. My favorite designs that I’ve used so far with clients are:
    Amplify (the design showcased in the samples above)
    Alluring Luxury
    Ascendant Modern
    Blue Collar
    Career Launcher First-Job Resume Template

The resume templates are $12 per design. You can also purchase coordinating templates (cover letter template, biography template) for $8 each (or save 10% when you purchase the resume and coordinating templates in the same transaction). For less than $21, I save hours of design time while providing my clients with attractive, ATS-compliant documents.*

* The templates are marketed as “ATS-friendly” but I have found them to be ATS-compliant for all the clients I’ve used them with. The official documentation says:

Disclaimer: While all efforts have been made to ensure resumes created with these templates will be ATS-friendly, it is impossible to guarantee ATS compatibility. The purchaser takes full responsibility for ensuring ATS compatibility, if this is important to them. Distinctive Career Services, LLC is not responsible for the content or effectiveness of any resume created with one of our templates.

But like I said, I’ve found all the ones I’ve used to be ATS compatible.

(I test graphic resumes for ATS-friendliness by saving them as text and reviewing the content to make sure it remains intact.)

The license for the template allows resume writers to use the templates to create resumes for clients. (You may use the templates with your clients on an individual basis. However, only one writer per firm may use the template, so if you are a contracting writer, you must purchase one license per writer – but discounts are available for large agencies.)

Want to try them? Get 50% off your first purchase using this promo code:

(Fifty percent discount is valid on first purchase of any amount. Visit to redeem. Expires 1/1/2024.)


Note: This post contains affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links, but there is no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions stated in this blog post are my own. As stated in the blog post, I personally use Distinctive Resume Templates with my own clients. Thank you!

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