Resumes & Cover Letters
How to write a resume
With hundreds of resumes coming their way, recruiters and hiring managers have limited time to read each resume in detail. In a matter of seconds, your resume either makes it on the shortlist, or not.
As with any written content, there is an art and science behind writing a resume. Let’s examine what typically goes on a resume.
By following this basic structure when you write your resume, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success when applying for any job.
Here’s what’s inside a resume
- Contact Details
- Use the name you are known by professionally.
- Keep it consistent. Don’t use Michael on your resume, Mike on LinkedIn, Mikey on Twitter and Mick in your email address.
- Add professional credentials relevant to the role - M.D., CPA, Ph.D.
- Use a professional-sounding personal email address
- email@example.com won’t get you taken seriously (except as a pizza delivery driver).
- Use your personal phone and email details, not your current work one.
- Choose a phone number and email address where you answer, control voicemail messages and open the emails.
For media, creative and IT roles, a professional online presence and portfolio can boost your image.
Don’t include personal social media accounts like Facebook – and if they’re public, make sure that your future employers won’t be shocked by what they see.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and visible.
- Career profile
Your career profile is a short paragraph that positions you as the right “fit”for the role. This is usually one of the last items to write and should answer the following:
- How do you want people to see you in the future?
- What specialist knowledge do you have?
- What are your strengths?
- How have you added value in your previous roles?
It serves to position you going forward and should show ‘what makes you different’ and hook the interest of the reader.
Don’t forget to include keywords in your career profile which potential recruiters or employees will immediately identify when looking through your resume.
Many recruitment companies also use databases which skill code resumes. When recruiters search their databases, these key words become critical to ensure that they find you or that you appear high on the search list.
Example: Sample Career Profile
“An adaptable and proven compliance and safety specialist with extensive experience across energy and mining sectors. Subject matter expert, consulting both nationally and across Asia for Shell, BP2 and Total. Provided audit regulatory affairs and health, safety and environment global benchmarking. Thrives on mentoring and training junior team members to successfully undertake management roles.”
- Work history
Cut the clutter. Go for clear, concise & current.
Things to include
- Give more space to details about current or recent jobs and achievements.
- If you have had many roles in the early stages of your career, include relevant ones together in a brief paragraph or listed under ‘Other roles’.
- Get to the point
- Use bullet points
- List achievements in 3 bullet points per job / maximum 2 lines per bullet point
- Be backed by evidence: use facts, figures, $ and % in achievements
Things to avoid:
- While you may have been the best babysitter on the block in high school, delete clutter not related to the role.
- Are you an older worker? Don’t list your entire work history. Consider a skills based format.
- Include when or how long you worked at each job - years and months.
- Make sure the dates on your resume match those on your LinkedIn and other online profiles.
- Briefly explain any obvious gaps in your resume: ‘Overseas travel’, ‘Had a child’, ‘Returned to university’.
- Don’t combine multiple roles at one company into one entry - highlight your different job titles. It shows you were valued, promoted and able to transition between roles.
- Avoid excessive detail and long blocks of text
- Education & Training
- Include relevant university & vocational education or training (VET) qualifications and awards.
- If you are a recent graduate with no previous work history, move your education qualifications & achievements higher up on your resume.
- List volunteer work, internships and student teaching under ‘Other Work Experience’.
- Hobbies & Interests
- List up to 4, separated by a comma.
- Interests show your personality and how you’d fit in with other workers and the organisation.
- Keep it relevant – e.g. social media if applying for a marketing and communications role.
How your hobbies can sell your skills
Including relevant hobbies on a resume isn’t just a conversation starter for interviews; many organisations look at a candidate’s interests outside of work as a guide to how well their personality and skills might ‘fit’ with the organisation’s culture and needs.
It’s generally advisable, especially if space is an issue, to indicate that references are available upon request or leave this section out altogether.
- Always ask for permission before listing someone as a referee.
- Choose former managers, or people in positions of responsibility in your former workplaces or industry.
- If you are a graduate with no work history, ask a former lecturer.
- Do use testimonials from previous employers.
- Add as hyperlinks to the employer testimonial section of your LinkedIn profile or personal website.
These aren't necessary, but can give an employer a better idea of who you are and what you offer. Create a heading and include them - if they’re relevant to the role or organisation.
Bonjour. Konichiwa. Salut.
Bilingual? Multi-lingual? List your language skills.
At your service? Volunteer & community work
Community service with clubs, sport or youth groups shows commitment, leadership, interpersonal and organisational skills.
Other work experience
Use side projects, freelance or pro bono work to highlight initiative and additional skills.
Show you are actively involved in your industry.
Being published in your field shows your industry knowledge and profile, as well as research, analytical, writing and thought-leadership skills.
Remember in order to attract an outstanding job you need an outstanding marketing tool that communicates your value Potential employers are NOT interested in your biography, they are interested in your value!
13 things to check on your resume
Does it grab attention quickly?
Does it demonstrate your experience?
Does it illustrate the value you can bring to an employer?
Is it easy to read?
Does it represent your professional ‘brand’?
Have you selected the right structure?
Do you have all critical sections?
Does your language shout “achievements”?
Have you tailored the content to the role you are applying to?
Do you have a strong career profile?
Have you taken the critical information from your resume to begin setting up your LinkedIn profile?