Common Scene in the Career Center: A patron is trying to revise or update a resume. He/she tries to add or delete a line or section, or tries to change some of the formatting, but it does not seem to work right. The formatting and spacing get thrown off, and we are not able to fix it. We see this happen when a resume is formatted with tables or text boxes.
Where tables and text boxes come from
There are 3 reasons why your resume might contain tables/text boxes:
1) You are using a resume template that includes them. Some resume templates, in Microsoft Word and other sources, use tables and text boxes to lay out the structure of the resume. These formatting structures are usually invisible unless you specifically look for them.
2) You used a website to build your resume. Some websites that say “just enter your information and we will build your resume for you” use tables and/or text boxes to lay out the structure of the resume (assuming that you downloaded your resume from the website in Word format).
3) You put the table or text box in yourself.
Why you should avoid using tables and text boxes in your resume
Why do people like to use tables and text boxes? They look great because they give structure to the resume template. Tables are very useful for laying out a document in certain ways. Cells and rows and columns work well to create “sections” for different kinds of information. Text boxes can also work well for creating a “block” or a section. One advantage of text boxes is the freedom to move them around to different locations in the document. They can be useful for creating a header or a “left column” section.
Nevertheless, the Career Center still recommends against using tables and text boxes in your resume, for the following reasons:
1) They can “get in the way” when you want to revise your resume or change the layout.
- Let’s you want to add an item to your Work Experience. You think “just add a new line and type information.” But if your resume uses tables, the layout is not the same as the rest of that section. Using Enter to create a new line in the same cell/row will not look the same. To be consistent you would need to create a new row and/or cell in the layout table. Unless you’re savvy with creating and editing tables, this may be hard for you to do.
- Similarly, deleting something from your resume is difficult if the template uses tables or text boxes. Often, there is a bunch of empty space that will not go away. Why? Because now you have an empty cell and even empty cells take up space.
- Tables and text boxes can get in the way when you try to change the margins.
2) Websites that import information from your resume have trouble “reading” information that is in tables or text boxes.
- We have tested this with several different Automated Tracking Systems (ATS) such as Workday, Taleo, and Brassring. We found that they could “read” or import most but not all of the information in your resume. Some websites, such as job-posting giant Indeed, cannot import resumes with tables at all.
- This is a big deal. You want websites to read correctly the information in your resume. For one thing, this saves you time and effort typing information on a job application. (Job application websites “read” your resume and use the information to fill in many of the boxes.)
- More importantly, these websites might have trouble reading your work experience and qualifications. That means they might not recognize key words and information and not “flag” your resume so that a hiring manager will take a closer look and perhaps contact you for an interview. If the software can’t properly read your resume, due to tables and text boxes, then it may never get seen by human eyes.
How to Recognize Tables and Text Boxes in MS word templates
Usually they are invisible and can be hard to spot (as in the example below).
However, usually you can see a little square (with four arrows inside) in the top-left corner of a table and/or text box. If you cannot then click on an area inside the document – or move the cursor over the top-left area – and the little box should appear. Right-click on the little square. This makes a little menu appear.
Click on the Borders icon (which looks like a 2 x 2 square). And then choose All Borders. This will change the Borders setting for the table and/or text box so that the border(s) become visible.
And there is your table! Of course people usually want tables and text boxes to be invisible (no borders) so that they do not show up when printing the resume (and a person reading the resume does not see them). But in this case, you want to know that they’re there – so that you can choose not to use a template that has them.
What are other ways to format a resume?
- If you are laying out your resume yourself, you can use tabs, justification settings, and indents in order to provide structure. These can all provide results that look similar or identical to what tables and text boxes accomplish. Although they can take a little more effort, the result is a document which you can edit as much as needed, which can be easily read by ATS.
- Use a resume template that does not use tables or text boxes. This can be tricky because, as noted above, tables and text boxes are often invisible. One thing to look for is blocks of text next to each other in neat columns (as in the first example in this article). Or a section of text that seems to stand by itself and is not part of any paragraph.
- Easiest method of all: Use one of our Career Center templates! The Career Center website has several different resume templates. They follow current “best practices” for resumes. They are well laid out and space efficient without being cramped. Click here for our resume templates.
Written by Richard Wright