Resume Writing Advice
Why resumes are important
Employers receive lots of resumes so it’s important that yours stands out and tells the employer why you are the right person for the job. Your resume should summarise your previous work experiences and the skills and knowledge you developed through these – attributes that you will bring to your new employer. It’s usually a good idea to have a template resume which you can adapt to each position you apply for.
What to include
Not all resumes look exactly the same, but there is some information that is essential to include:
- Your personal details: name, address, telephone number and email. It’s not necessary to include personal information such as marital status or age.
- Career profile or strengths summary: a brief summary of your strengths, professional achievements and career ambitions, if relevant to the employer (in a few short sentences or 4-6 bullet points).
- Education and training: start with the most recent experiences and work back. Include the name of the institution and your qualifications. If you have tertiary qualifications, only include secondary schooling results if relevant.
- Work history: start with the most recent experiences and work back. For each previous experience remember to include name of employer, your job title, dates you worked there, your main responsibilities and any major achievements (especially if you can show how they benefitted the employer). You don’t need to provide details of work that is more than 10 years old, unless it is particularly relevant to the role.
- Any other information that shows how you suit the role, such as additional training, voluntary experience or skills (i.e. other languages), membership of professional bodies, work experience and interests/hobbies (briefly).
- Names and contact details of two referees who have recently agreed to provide you with references.
It is not unusual for people to have gaps in their resume for a wide range of reasons including redundancy, family duties, illness, travelling etc. Most advice suggests that it is best to be upfront about these gaps.
Tailoring your resume
Your resume should be tailored to fit the role you are applying for. Having a template version is okay, but you will need to make some changes each time you apply for a new job to make sure that your resume really promotes the skills and experiences each employer is looking for. Remember to:
- Read and re-read the job description to make sure you understand what the employer’s needs are.
- Emphasize the skills and attributes which are most important to this role, particularly in your profile or strengths summary and in the responsibilities and achievements you list in your work history.
- Try to recycle key words and phrases from the job description.
Formatting and layout
There’s no correct way to present your resume, but here are a few guidelines to
help make sure employers aren’t put-off reading your resume.
- Resumes should be typed and printed, not hand-written, with a simple layout. Generally, using one common font is best; stick to size 11 or 12 font and aim to leave lots of white space. Using bullet points instead of long paragraphs can help if the page starts to look cluttered.
- Put your name on each page and include page numbers.
- Use either ‘bold’ or ‘underline’ for headings, but not both, to keep things simple.
- Your resume shouldn’t be too long – advice on length generally varies between 2 and 4 pages. Accepted length depends on your experience, for instance school leavers may only need 1 page as they have limited experience and work history. However, in some industries a longer resume may be the norm. The most important test of whether your resume is too long is whether all the information included is concisely written and relevant to the role.
Hints and tips
- Make sure important information doesn’t get hidden away at the end of your resume: if there’s something you really want the employer to know think about putting it in a career profile or strengths summary on the first page.
- Promote your achievements by using action words like “supervised”, “delivered”, “initiated”, “created” etc.
- Include quantifiable results if possible as these are easy for employers to interpret, i.e. sales figures, number of sign-ups etc.
- Everyone makes mistakes now and again and it’s easy to miss a typo, but it can appear unprofessional. Make sure to read and re-read your resume and, if you can, ask someone else to look over it for you too.
- Your resume is your chance to convince an employer that you have the skills and experience to do the job, so make sure your resume is tailored to fit the role and use key words from the job description.
- Make sure your resume is easy to read by keeping formatting simple and tidy.
- Check your resume for typos and other errors before submitting it.