1. Don't color inside the lines. Just because something is formatted a certain way in a template doesn't mean you have to keep it that way. Use it as a guideline and idea generator, then play by your own rules.
Are you using a template for a chronological resume? Mash it up to create a combination resume that better illustrates your skills. Don't like the font? Change it. Add a border. Take away the section dividers. Make the template your own.
2. Go off the beaten path. Many people use Microsoft Word templates. So find another less-used template to stand out. Even looking on Google Docs can give you some templates that are slightly different from the norm.
3. Make your own. You can look at a variety of templates for ideas, then build your own without filling in the blanks. Cut and paste the parts you like into a new document, and make sure your end product looks cohesive (with the same font and size throughout) and attractive.
4. Use resume builders. Most job boards offer their own resume generators that give you the opportunity to fill in blanks using your information. It might be easier to use these generators since most of your job applications will be done through sites like these, even if it means a little extra work up front.
Some text files and PDFs don't render well when uploaded to job sites, so these builders might help you ensure that your information comes out reader-friendly. Another option is a resume builder site like LiveCareer.com, which creates your resume as you input details.
5. Skip the resume altogether. Depending on which industry you're in, you might be able to get away with using a site like About.me to highlight your experience. This works best in creative or writing jobs, where you can show off work samples rather than just listing a point-by-point career history. These sites are visually appealing, and give some respite to hiring managers whose eyes cross after reading hundreds of resumes.
What to Keep in Mind
Most positions require a resume, so make sure you have one.
Use the format that best highlights your work experience. If you don't have many roles under your belt, aim for a functional or combination resume rather than a chronological one.
Avoid annoying buzzwords that turn off hiring managers. Be as specific as possible when elaborating on your skills and experience. The more concrete examples and numbers you can give, the more a potential employer can gauge whether or not you're a good fit for a company.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.