5 Dangers Of Online Resume Samples


No one wants to spend money they don’t have to. If you’re in a job search, you may be tempted to try writing your own resume using samples you find online instead of hiring a resume writer. It’s an investment, so it’s understandable you might want to save the money and DIY.

However, the strategy of using content from resumes found online might end up costing you more in the long run.

Dangers Of Online Resume Samples

Many people don’t realize there are some possible negative consequences to using online samples. If you get tempted to recycle content you find online in your resume, heed these words of caution first. What’s the worst that could happen? Here’s what has been the result for some of my clients before they came to me:

1. Inauthentic

One client just didn’t feel like the resume she wrote for herself was really “her.” That’s because the words used by a professional writer are chosen because they represent that individual’s personality and talents well. Just because a word is commonly used in many samples, doesn’t mean it honestly describes you or is appropriate for your profession. The result is a document that just doesn’t match the personality of the candidate.

2. Errors

Clients come to me all the time with serious errors in their DIY resumes. There are many nuances of resume writing that take years to study and apply accurately. Grammar, formatting, and words that are overused or inappropriate for a resume can’t be learned quickly from looking at samples online.

3. Outdated Design Or Content

One client looked online and wrote his own resume from samples only to hear me tell him how outdated it was. (Sorry!) He was pretty mad at himself for wasting the time after I explained that some “resume” websites are scams with incredibly antiquated samples, hoping to attract folks who just don’t know what an excellent, current resume looks like. (To avoid a scam site, look for a real person as the owner.)

Note: Even some very talented resume writers sometimes have outdated samples on their websites. Staying current with the latest best practices is important to good writers and using these techniques in everyday writing for clients takes priority. Sometimes updating resumes on the website falls to the wayside until samples really need to be overhauled. To be cutting-edge, stay away copying from samples.

If you’re networking, (I hope you are, because you’re much more likely to see success with a little help from your friends) do you want to hand your contacts something outdated that could embarrass you later?

4. Not Strong Enough

Using content that was originally written for another person can sound generic and weak when reused. It’s crucial to describe your unique successes with language that substantiates the claims you are making about yourself. Please don’t be tempted to use overly general descriptors from samples online to fill out your resume. It will just sound lame.

It is extremely important for those who have extenuating circumstances in their career to have a strong resume. If you’ve been let go, taken a sabbatical, made a big change, then you NEED to have every advantage. If you are applying online (tough enough for candidates who don’t have difficult issues to overcome) do you want to risk your resume not making the cut because someone else had a much stronger one?

When my clients use their resume that really packs a punch, plus networking, they see results so much faster! This is what you really must be focusing on to shorten your search.

5. Illegal

One client of mine was in a hiring capacity at her job. She told me that she always Googled the content of candidates’ resumes before interviewing them to be sure the person hadn’t just copied it from a website somewhere. If you use wording from other writers’ samples, you could be breaking copyright law. Be careful with this. Being a plagiarist doesn’t make you look good in the eyes of an employer. The sample page on my website has a warning to this effect, but not all do.

Given all of this, is it possible for you to write your own resume well? Maybe. It depends on whether you have the time to research how to do it properly, the expertise with the software, the ability to know what will resonate with the employer, and can create original content without copying others’ work.

Of course, it might be better to just hire a writer. I even had help with mine!

Whatever you decide, just please don’t use content from samples online.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kristin Johnson

Kristin is a TORI award-winning, 6-times certified resume writer, job search coach, and social media consultant. She's the proud owner of Profession Direction, LLC, which was recently named one of Forbes' Top 100 Career Sites of 2013.


  1. Love it! I don’t know anyone who really enjoys resume writing, but for me the bottom line is that it must be authentic. You must feel like it is you, otherwise you will not be comfortable submitting it. Templates are cold, impersonal and hard to work with. There are A LOT of great resources on the net, and with a lot of hard work, goals can be achieved!

  2. … a resume writer who can’t use correct parallel structure? Really?

    I hate to be rude, but I’m forced to assume that the error at the end was the work of a hasty editor, and honestly, Googling a name to find a serious parallel structure error would influence my choice of resume consultant far more than that resume would. It’s just something to be aware of when writing articles like this one.

  3. Don’t forget, there are county workforce centers throughout the country that offer free resources including resume writing classes, interview prep classes, one-on-one resume critiques and dozens more. They can be easily found online by searching under “workforce center (your) county”.

  4. I find it rather obnoxious how so many people seem to have the magic bullet for resume writing, career counseling, and just plain finding work. The truth of the matter is that everyone seems to have the right answer as long as they are successful. I agree that many of the basic principles of writing a resume need to be adhered to, but NO ONE has the right answer for every situation. Some common sense and applied logic goes a long way, not just icons and graphics and shameless self-promotion. I understand the whole concept of promoting oneself, and knowing both your strengths and weaknesses. However, the kind of sample resume offered here looks to me more like an advertisement or sales brochure for her company than as a resume. Maybe I am wrong, but I think there needs to be a little more modesty involved here. I heard someone say one time “When everyone is someone, no one is anyone”. We can’t all be super-duper, A1, on top at all times. What about having a legible, understandable, clear resume that doesn’t yell “I am the most important person you will ever meet”? I understand that the world has changed, but how about just stating the facts without out all of the double-speak and buzz words? I speak the English language very well and never in my life have I seen such creatively hopeless BS on resumes. No, I am not grumpy or “behind the times”. I call baloney on a lot of current trends that in 2 years simply won’t be “cool” anymore.

    • Chris,
      There actually *are* some “tricks and tips” to writing a resume that only someone that has been involved in/with recruiting in the last 5-7 years would know, and it has to do with two things: the technology that we (recruiters) use to identify resumes (“keyword searching” aka Boolean Searching) and certain federal compliance initiatives (in the US)that have had a far-reaching effect on who we can/not hire based on certain EEOC practices. So someone that knows how these two things work will be the best resources to help you write a resume.

      • In another word: go to linkedin, find out contacts in that company (some companies use bonuses for current employees referral to a candidate), network and BYPASS THE RECRUITERS SOMEHOW. Recruiters only exists to put a barrier in the process, lets face it… its the only reason for their existence, although they like to pretend to be gods: I’m the gatekeeper, I’m the only one that can land you this job, follow the rules of my bible-book or you not gonna be in heaven….

  5. I agree with Cori – I once had a pretty resume with columns which got zero response. Same information in a more standard format lead to 3 interviews of 8 resumes submitted. So while Kristin’s resume stands out visually I wouldn’t recommend that type of format.

    It’s the KISS rule – Keep It Simple, Seriously.

  6. Great article, I agree that job seekers should not be copying online resume samples. I’ve been in recruiting for 16+ years, and I have to say that looking at the resume you had done for yourself, whether you did it yourself or had someone do it, would not be a resume that could be uploaded into a database to apply online. The resume would be distorted because of all the columns and check marks and clip art in it. The resume looks pretty with colors and bells and whistles, but it seems a little confusing to read because the content is not just an up and down glance, which recruiters and hiring managers do a very quick up and down glance at the content. I think resume writing has become very confusing for people today which it doesn’t have to be. Hiring Managers and recruiters need to see the content related to the job, no matter what the resume looks like or how pretty it is, if it’s not easy to read and the content we are looking is not there, the resume will be tossed aside.

    Cori Swidorsky
    Recruiting Sourcing Specialist

    Author of: Straight Talk from a Recruiter: Resume Writing Strategies and Easy To Follow Techniques (eBook)

  7. While many people don’t think they have the money to invest into hiring a resume writer, it’s incredibly important that your resume isn’t a complete copy of another. Expert advice is essential to a successful job search and even having an expert review your materials can set you apart from the competition.

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