First job? Different role? New career? It all starts with the resume. Here's how to make yours shine.
Updated 19 December 2018
By Jarrod Cardy
Unless you start and end your career in a family-owned business, chances are at some point in your life you’re going to have to search for a job, and do it more than once.
In fact, international recruiting firm Michael Page notes that it’s commonplace for people to be employed by three, four or more companies during the course of a career.
But before you start visiting recruitment websites, the first thing to think about is your resume and what information on it needs updating.
In a soft job market, having your resume stand out from those of other candidates is crucial to securing your next role, so make sure that yours is appealing, up-to-date, accurate and relevant to the position you are applying for (and yes, you’ll have to tailor it for each application).
Below are five tips to get you started on writing a resume.
Be succinct and adapt for location
In Australia, a two- or three-page resume is standard practice. This means leaving out unnecessary detail and avoiding information that isn’t relevant to the position.
The length of your resume should change depending on the country. If you are applying for a position in Hong Kong, keep the resume between two and four pages in length. If you are looking for a job in the United States, aim for one page and never longer than two.
Keep in mind when writing a resume that you are summarising the skills and experience you have gained so far in your career, and that the interview will be your opportunity to go into more detail and explanation. So keep it short and to the point, and only include the important information.
Include these points in your resume
Use the resume to get a prospective employer’s attention by detailing your best attributes and skills. Make sure you’ve included the basics, like a current phone number, email address and location so the employer knows how to get in touch with you.
Consider including a short introduction at the start resume to let employers know who you are, what you’ve done previously, and to establish your key strengths up front. If employers like what they read in the first three sentences, it encourages them to keep on reading.
“If you feel like you need to tell everyone what your life objective is at the top of your resume – great! But if it’s just clichés, then I suggest you go straight into your employment history [instead],” says Simon Meyer, managing director of recruitment firm PageGroup Australia.
Related: Is a job overseas the right move for your career?
Follow on with a list of your education and training achievements, and then a chronological employment history. Provide dates to show how long you spent in each previous role.
“No matter where you are applying, recruiters want a ‘succinct and concise’ understanding of the companies you have worked for,” says Andrew Brushfield, Director of Victoria and New Zealand, Robert Half International, who has worked as a recruiter in countries including Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Volunteer work should also be included in your resume, as it demonstrates to an employer a willingness to go above existing work commitments and indicates that you are a community-minded person. It also allows you to highlight any extra skills you have learnt through volunteering and how they can be adapted to the position you are applying for.
Avoid these details in a resume
There are certain details that you may think define you, but don’t really have any impact on how well you can perform your next job. It’s not necessary to list personal details like your age or date of birth, relationship status, gender, or any health problems or disabilities.
Unless you’re certain that your hobbies will help you get the job because they relate to the necessary experience, keep them to a minimum. It’s good to show you are a well-rounded person with outside interests but they shouldn’t take up too much valuable space in your resume.
Address the selection criteria
Tailor the resume to the role you’re applying for by examining the selection criteria and required skills and values listed in the advertisement. You can use the job ad to your advantage by linking the duties and responsibilities of your past roles to the skills that the employer is looking for.
Use dot points to outline achievements from past positions. Back up the attributes you’ve listed with examples of real life situations where you’ve used those skills. Do more than just tell the employer that you have leadership qualities and are organised – give them details of how you’ve demonstrated these qualities thus far in your career.
Pay attention to layout and presentation
It might sound obvious, but it is essential to thoroughly check your resume for typos or spelling mistakes. Use the spell-checker, re-read what you’ve written and get someone else to proofread the resume. Sometimes it can help to read your sentences out loud to ensure that they make sense and are easy to understand.
Lay out the information in a neat and easy-to-read fashion. You want prospective employers to be able to navigate the resume with ease. And when it comes to formatting – keep it simple. Choose one font to use across the entire resume. It’s often recommended to format the text to size 11 and use a black or near-black font colour so that it is neat and easy to read.
10 great TED Talks on careers