Warning! Don't Use a Resume Template That Has Tables

Are you a tables whiz? If not, stay away from any resume template that has tables in it. Tables can be a real headache to work in and they don't even look that good.

You know what I'm talking about when I refer to tables, don't you? A table is a function in MS Word that creates a structure of boxes (called cells) that are connected top and bottom (to create columns), and on the sides (to create rows). Unless you're experienced in using them, tables can cause all sorts of resume formatting problems.

Tables in a Resume Template Are Frustrating

The biggest reason people have trouble working in tables is that tables are far from intuitive! Here's what I mean:

Each cell, row, and column of the table has its own settings for alignment and top/bottom spacing, almost like mini-documents inside your resume template. Most people don't know how to adjust those settings (most don't even know they exist). If those settings are even a little off, your text can have uneven spacing and uneven indents. So, if you're applying for a job that requires attention to detail, using tables that screw up your text alignment could be the nail in your coffin.

The rows of the tables don't copy and paste easily the way sentences outside a table do. You may think you're moving statements around on the page (let's say you want to reorder bullet points in your Experience section), but you're really creating very odd white gaps where the sentences used to be. That happens because the empty cells or rows are still there after you remove the text. And they won't disappear unless you know how to delete cells/rows of a table. Better keep your manual handy!

Resume Template Tables Are Ugly and Distracting!

When an employer opens your resume on his screen, you want his attention to go to your qualifications, not grid lines. I know, you thought you told tables not to show the grid lines. But guess what? That only applies to hardcopy print outs, PDFs, and print previews — not to the basic Word document you sent the employer. Those grid lines are grayed out on the computer screen — which is how most resumes are first reviewed by recruiters and employers — and they distract from the content you want your reader to focus on. They change the graphic look of your resume and can be distracting to your reader.

When to Use Tables in a Resume Format

In my opinion there are only two reasons to use a resume template that has tables:

1. You love working in tables.
Use tables if you have a lot of experience with them or you're technically inclined enough to learn them or you have the patience of a Zen monk and plenty of time on your hands.

2. Your table attracts attention to something important.
Use tables if the grid lines of the table emphasize a section of your resume that you want the employer to see in a quick scan. For example, if you use a table ONLY to organize your highly relevant skills (and don't use tables anywhere else on the page), that would be a good use of a table. And in that case, you might turn the grid lines on to give it even more strength.

The Long and the Short of It

If you don't understand how tables work, don't bother using a resume template that has them. There are plenty of other ways to get crisp resume formatting: use indents, columns, bullet points, varied margin settings.

There's nothing worse than facing technical problems when you're already overwhelmed with putting your professional life on paper. And, believe me, tables can give you problems that will drive you nuts if you're not familiar with the table tools.

Tables-Free Resume Templates

For all the reasons I've stated, I never use tables in the resume templates in my Ready-Made Resume Builder. They use straightforward MS Word formatting that's easy to write in, easy to copy and paste, easy to upload online, and easy on employers' eyes. Check them out if you don't already have a tables-free resume template.