Why an Online Resume Builder Can’t Compare to a Human Resume Writer

Jan 15, 2021 | Resumes

A title graphic featuring Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo and an alternate version of the article's title: "Resume Builder Apps are Not Resume Writers."

In this cautionary tale, Grandma weighs in on our fictional protagonist’s dilemma of whether an online resume builder will help her write a job-winning resume. Grandma’s advice? Don’t expect a resume builder to compare to the unique help that a human expert can offer.

By: Katelyn Skye Bennett | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

From: Kara <KaraJ@gmail.com>

To: Grandma <grandma@aol.com>

Resume help again – Do resume builders work? 

07:13 PM

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Hi, Grandma. 

It’s been a few years since I updated my resume, and it is looking dusty. I’m graduating from college this spring, so I need to update it ASAP. 

When I was a freshman, you cautioned me about resume templates, but what about resume builders? They seem pretty snazzy! However, I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon without doing my research. 

As resume queen, I’m coming to you first. Please let me know your thoughts.



PS – Raphaelle says hi and that “as the smarter cousin,” she thinks she knows the answer but wants to hear it from you so she can say she told me so.🙄  Looking forward to your response! XOXO

Grandma’s Advice: Do Resume Builder Apps Work?

From: Grandma <grandma@aol.com>

To: Kara <KaraJ@gmail.com>

Re: Resume help again – Do resume builders work? 

10:27 PM

Dearest Kara! 

It’s so good to hear from you, especially since we couldn’t see each other over the holidays. Did I tell you about my latest hobby? I’ve been teaching virtual salsa lessons at my studio, which is why I’m responding so late tonight. Whenever it’s safe to visit and go out, we should go dancing together!

As for your question, it’s a good one. I’ll bet Raphaelle just learned the difference between resume templates and resume building software, so tell her I said to be kind. 😉

A stock photo of a man looking at a wall with the words

Grandma says: even the best online resume builder apps have some pros and cons to carefully consider.

Like templates, resume builders are limited, but they are pretty fun, aren’t they? I’ll give you a list of pros and cons, though my advice comes out on the side of caution once more.

As my friend Chris Villanueva says in this episode of his Career Warrior Podcast, resume builders are easy to use but not very adaptable. They have problems with customization, which increases as an issue the longer you’re in the workforce.

Chris is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, and I work closely with him. Since it’s getting pretty late on my end due to my virtual salsa class, I’ll give you some of the bullet points he and I have discussed regarding resume builders:

Why People Like Online Resume Builder Apps

They are easy to use. That’s the draw, of course. You can just plug in information, and they’ll churn out a document!

Part of their ease of access is the use of keywords. They’re included in the builders and can often pull up job descriptions based on what you input. You’ll have to double-check this to see if it matches up with your actual responsibilities, but it’s a neat feature when you’re lost for words.

They produce visually appealing work. The techies on the other end of the various builders know their stuff, at least as it relates to design. (But don’t get too excited — see bullet point #3 below for why a fancy design can actually be a con.)

How They Can Hurt You

The documents that resume builders produce are often hard to customize. You know by now that resumes should always highlight the most relevant information, and thus you need to adapt them over time. However, with resume builders, you have a harder time with that because the formatting can be sticky. For example, they might not let you shift your education placement or may limit the amount of bullet points. Every job search is different, and a resume needs to be flexible to fit yours.

Similarly, the design and alignment are less controllable, and it’s time-consuming to redo all that work if the end result has a formatting error!

This one is important, Kara: The coding behind many resume builders is solid, but the people who create them don’t always have the human resources knowledge to know how to arrange things to pass ATS. Chris says they often have “bad resume writing principles” behind them, which result in formatting that makes it hard for both the ATS and the recruiter to find the information they need. While the result may look pretty, it might not pass the screening test before it makes it to a hiring manager’s desk.

A screenshot of a resume in Microsoft Word, demonstrating a limitation of some free resume builders: they are sometimes not able to export your resume to Microsoft Word, which limits your ability to modify the resume.

Some resume builders may not allow you to export your resume as a Word or Google Doc file, which is essential for tailoring your resume to each job description.

• Additionally, resume builders often have limited file type options, which again affects customization as you go back to update your document. They don’t always transfer to a Word .docx file or a Google doc, where you could edit them as you move up in your career. If they fail you in this way, you’ll have to redo your resume all over again.

• Finally, the companies producing them often offer “free builders,” but the subscriptions will get you! You’ll have loans to repay soon, so I know you’ll want to keep your costs low and not be caught off guard by that.

Do Your Research and Prioritize Human Help

As a caveat, the cautions all depend on the specific resume builder, of course. Some have adapted with the times. But you do need to look for the bad eggs and continue to do that research you mentioned in your email before choosing a resume builder. 

Through this pandemic, we’ve learned the importance of human connection. The same goes for resumes: If you use a resume builder, make sure you add a human element to double check the work and add that HR knowledge that the AI just doesn’t have.

In conclusion, I’d like to quote another colleague of mine, Daniel Lorenzo

“An AI might be efficiently trained to auto-complete or suggest resume bullets for you, but they can’t ask you questions about your experience. They can’t guide you through tricky, gray-area issues like what to do about your career gap. They can’t talk to you about your job and draw out the biggest accomplishments that you should list. Simply put, you can’t automate creativity.”

I loved the way he phrased that: “You can’t automate creativity.” Kara, you are an intelligent young adult with a great brain and a bright future. You’re wise and thoughtful, which I can tell by the way you’re preparing for your career. 

If I’m being frank (or if I’m being Grandma, haha), you don’t need a resume builder to produce a good resume. I’d suggest connecting with a resume writer or service instead if you really need help writing yours.

Love you lots, dear. Can’t wait to see where life takes you!


Grandma 💃

Grandma knows best! Still not convinced of her advice? Listen to the Career Warrior Podcast episode mentioned in the episode here:

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