What is a resume?
One of the most important tools when applying for a job is your resume.
In some places, this is also called your CV, what does CV stand for? It is Latin for Curriculum Vitae. Although the names are used to mean the same thing, there is a slight difference in their structure.
The main difference being the length, and although both documents list summaries of work experience and skills, a CV is typically longer than a resume, typically at three to four pages in length.
Writing a resume can be harder because these are often only a couple of pages in length (as a maximum), apart from extreme situations. However, these days, most people tend to think a resume and CV are the same thing and will refer to their personal document as what they prefer, with no limit to page numbers.
This resume guide will run through the best ways to create a good resume, and what are your resume objectives, to help you in your quest when seeking employment.
All of the resume tips will show you what to include, and what you can safely leave out, and how it should be presented to the employers, you will be approaching.
What Format or Template Should I use?
Because sometimes you are limited for space in a resume, all that you include needs to be the most important information regarding your job application.
This will differ depending on work experience, and how long you have been working, or if you are seeking your first job.
One thing to do before beginning is to check over a resume sample and see how they differ, and then you can see how your own resume structure will be.
The basic steps of writing a resume will be as follows
- Review professional templates, this can help you to see the best layouts and formatting options. Simple is always better. Steer clear of too much colour, different fonts, or overuse of tables etc.
- Once you have your rough idea for what style or formatting options you desire, you would then create a rough resume outline. At this stage, you can list all information which is relevant, even if you end up deleting, or condensing, it later.
- You can draw up a rough copy, and be sure to add all your contact information, your professional outline, and your skills. The more you get into your resume layout in the beginning, the easier it will be to see how much space you will need.
- When you have all of the information, you can decide on the colour and font theme. As mentioned, elegant and straightforward usually works best, and too much colour or too many varied fonts will give the wrong impression altogether. If you do choose a colour on your resume, blue is always best – blue is considered a very trusting colour.
Now you have everything down on paper, you need to decide which option you go for. If your job applications are for the public sector, or academic positions, then you would be leaning toward a more detailed and comprehensive template design.
If your applications are in the private sector, or you are just leaving college and seeking your first job, you would be leaning towards a more simpler resume template.
If this is the direction you are going, there are three types:
- Reverse Chronological resume – this is the most common, and ideal for individuals with plenty of experience to list and which is relevant to the position they are seeking.
- Functional/skills-based resume – If you are lacking in work experience, and are a student, recent graduate or looking to make a career change in a differing sector, this is a good option.
- Combination resume – this type is suitable if you have diverse skills and work experience you feel will be relevant to the job you are seeking.
What to Include in a Resume
There is a lot to include in your resume, and all that is included here might appear to be too much for just a couple of pages. This is a full overview, and some of the sections in your resume might only be a line or two, or a couple of bullet points.
The very least you should include in your contact information is
- Email address
- Contact telephone number
A full home address isn’t required, although in some situations it could be a good idea. For example, if you are applying for a role out in a remote area, and you live nearby.
Contact details should never be placed in a resume header. Recruitment software can miss this because they have difficulty reading information in headers and footers.
This is a quick overview of who you are, where you studied/ or have worked, and what you brought to your last position, and what you can bring to the new one. This brief personal profile should be around six lines in length and written in the first person – try to avoid writing in third person (eg. Anna has …).
The first sentence should be one sentence about you, and what you bring to the job, after this, you should give your attributes and skills which are suited to the role.
Key Strengths and Skills
A good resume would include a list of 10 to 15 key skills which would be linked to the position you are applying for.
If you find you are struggling with this, a quick tip is, if the job was advertised, the advert or
the job description could give pointers to required skills which are essential. In some cases they list skills which are desired, you can match these to your skills while creating your list.
As you compile your list of skills and abilities for a resume, think of things you have learned or done which fall into any of the following:
- Jobs you have worked in
- Any relevant studies
- Work placements or internships you have done
- Any voluntary work you have done
Therefore, try to avoid just using one word for a skill, and be sure to elaborate.
Technical – Software Skills
In this section, it would just be names of software or any technology you know how to use. A few examples could be:
- Word processing or spreadsheet software (MS Office, Google Sheets)
- Specific software packages (MYOB, Quickbooks)
- Any programming languages you might know
- Any electronic equipment or tools (eg. cash registers, EFTPOS)
This would be more suited for individuals who are lacking in work experience, such as graduates. Personal attributes are a great way of demonstrating you are the right person for the position.
Being honest, trustworthy and reliable, are some of the more common attributes that people list on their resume. However, again, be sure to elaborate on each attribute, and not just leave it at one word.
Schooling or Educational History
In this section, you only need to show your highest attainments in your education. Results are not required unless they help prove how suited you are for the position. Therefore, you should merely just list what level schooling you completed, where, and what year.
If you have space, you can add a short bullet list of your academic achievements, or groups you took part in while in school or tertiary education.
This starts with your most recent role and works backwards. This should consist of position title and the dates you worked in that position. You should also list your key responsibilities in each role.
If this application is your first job, you can add other elements to demonstrate your experience:
- Volunteer work
- Internships or work placements
- Any work experience you did during your schooling
For each one, be sure to add things you accomplished while in this job, along with contributions you made to the company. Be sure these match the key skills you listed earlier but don’t duplicate.
You should list three people who will recommend you as an employee. These individuals would ideally be people you have worked directly with (and reported to).
Referee details should include: Name, position title and their contact details should be listed (either phone number or email).
If you go through an employment agency, they use software which scans resumes and picks up on keywords and common resume phrases. If your resume doesn’t contain enough of these keywords, it could be rejected.
To make sure the right keywords are used, check the ad or job description and list what they use.
One of the best places to add keywords is in your professional summary which would be your opening statement.
Aside from catching the attention of software, it needs to be written in a way which would grab the attention of anyone reading it.
Do’s and Don’ts of a Great Resume
To get a great resume, there are plenty of do’s and don’ts. Here are a few tips of what information to put on resume, and what you definitely shouldn’t add or do to your resume.
- If you are applying for a position outside of Australia, add a professional headshot.
- If you have any social media profiles which are relevant, consider adding these. LinkedIn or Twitter are the main ones. Avoid ones like Facebook and Instagram.
- As mentioned in the previous section, be sure to make full use of keywords and action verbs. Make sure they are all relevant and not overloaded throughout your resume.
- List specific accomplishments – show the value you will bring to the hiring company and the position. This would be done by saying what you achieved in previous roles.
- Use numbers to quantify accomplishments where required.
- Include a few words for your summary. This can focus on your qualifications and strengths.
- Make sure you add dates where needed. A manager often rejects resumes if they have no dates next to previous employment or schooling which is listed. Gaps in timelines can be a very bad thing!
- Formatting is crucial, and this would include the best and easy to read fonts to use. Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, or Century Gothic are the best for a great looking resume.
- Don’t worry about sticking to the one-page rule. If you go onto a second page, just make sure it fills at least a quarter or half of the second page. Some white space is always good.
- Don’t show your objective, using “I want” rather than what you can offer is a no-no.
- Never lie. Some individuals try to make their resume look better by slipping in a couple of untruths. These will be noticed straight away, especially if you are asked questions you can’t answer. Or even worse, if you get the job, and then can’t perform.
- Don’t use common buzzwords or clichés. Hiring managers hate it when they read continual phrases which aren’t really that relevant to the individual and are more marketing hype.
- Don’t share any personal information. This would include date of birth, marital status, or religion. (This could differ if you were using one of the European CV formats which include some of this information, however, regular resume formats don’t).
- Not have a references/referees section. If you do not wish to list your referees, just merely write ‘references available upon request’.
- Don’t include all school education. No potential employer is interested in where you went to primary school. What they are interested in, is what level you completed (eg. Year 12).
- Images and graphics, these serve no purpose at all. This includes photos of yourself.
How Long Should a Resume Be?
This is a debatable question, many strictly say your resume should only be a couple of pages long.
It can be very confusing, because not one size fits all, and if you have more than a couple of pages worth of information which is relevant, you could spend ages trying to condense it when there is no real need to.
In the end, it all depends, but before going into the why’s, a shorter resume can be more effective than a longer one. Maybe this is because managers are not interested in flicking through multiple sheets of paper. A resume that tends to be too wordy or long, a potential employer could be tempted to just put it aside, or worse still, file in the waste bin!
It is this manager who you need to impress, and you need to do that with one quick glance, hence the reason why a shorter resume is preferable over a longer one.
Here is some brief information on how many pages a resume should be:
- How many pages should be in my resume? Ideally 3 – 4+ pages, based on work experience or a long list of skills which are relevant.
- Why resume length will matter? When you have had multiple jobs, they convey the breadth and level of experience you have gained.
- Should a resume only be one page? If you have worked for less than 7 years, or you are a graduate, then yes, one page is more than sufficient.
- How long can a resume be? In very extreme cases, a resume could be up to 10 pages in length. However, this is only on rare occasions and would be more for government or academic positions.
- How far should a resume go back in work history? If you have a long work history, you should list all of your roles, but only go into detail and depth for the last 5-7 years.
How to Make a Resume the Right Length
If you follow a few simple rules, you won’t need to worry yourself about the length of your resume, Why? Because it will regulate itself to the relevant information, you have detailed in it.
Here are the tips on how to construct your resume which will self-regulate and find its own ideal length.
- Keep it Interesting – Limit any long descriptions, these are hard to read and won’t catch a managers attention because they skim through resumes in as little as a matter of seconds. Keep it brief and stick to your achievements and selling points.
- Keeping it Relevant – If it doesn’t leap off the page and make a hiring manager say “Wow” then don’t include it. Your achievements are the best way to do this.
Condense your achievements, you might have done the same thing in different employment, and listing each one would be repetition. Condense many occurrences into one bullet point. This also makes them appear more impressive.
- Fonts – Spacing and Margins – all of these can have a dramatic effect on your resume length. You can make fonts bigger or smaller (within reason), as with the line spacing. Margins should also be equal and give the appearance of plenty of white space on your page.
- Impressive Achievements vs a Long List of Responsibilities – There is no need to take each of your responsibilities from previous employment. These could be repeated and waste space. It is much better to come up with a list of good skills to put on a resume which will make anyone reading it take notice.
- Bullet points – with the above in mind, for each previous occupation you have on your resume, only add between 3 and 5 bullet points for each, and each of these should be one or two lines.
Do I Need to Change My Resume for Each Application?
One of the biggest questions which get asked, and with good reason, is, should I change my resume for each application?
On some occasions, apart from having to update or change your resume due to personal changes, a resume doesn’t need to be altered for each application.
However, things do change, and now resumes, and job applications are stored in employers databases.
As mentioned previously, managers can spend as little as 30 seconds scanning a resume, so if you aren’t a good fit, then it will either be discarded or stored away with the rest, which is on file.
Customisation Pays Off
Depending on the position, and when done correctly, customising your resume for an application can reap the rewards. It will also do two things for you:
- Your resume will pass an ATS keyword test. When your resume has been tailored for a position, many of your keywords could change to fit the position.
- A hiring manager will also see you have ‘wow’ factor. They will receive many resumes for a position, so if yours is tailored to the job, then you should stand a better chance of standing out from the crowd.
Here are a few steps on how you can quickly tailor your resume.
This doesn’t mean you need to re-write everything. It does, however, mean it meets the criteria of the position you are applying for.
- Analyse the job application as you did previously. Here there might be slight differences which you can make quick alterations. Pay attention to the positions job title, duties and responsibilities, job requirements, and the location of the job.
- Customising Your Resumes Target Job Title can be one area which differs from others. If the one you have is the same as the job application, there isn’t much you can alter, but if the company uses a unique one, then you should match it.
- Should I match my skills to each job application? If you have skills, you will have listed them on your original resume. However, you might have omitted a couple which was previously unsuitable, and these can be added. The other way is to change the wording of your skills, if these match how the job description speak of them, then you are showing you are a match for those specific skills. A good example being “Solid background in Microsoft Office.” This can be changed to something more fitting, “Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office applications – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.”
- Highlighting skills which match the description in a section at the beginning of your resume. You can add a section below your contact information and call it “Summary of Qualifications,” and here you highlight your skills that match the company’s requirements.
- Confirming your location. This can be good to add for one reason. You might be living a fair distance from the job location, but are in the process of relocating. In this instance, you would say future location. Generally, just add the city or suburb, and never include your full address.
How Many Years of Experience Do You Put on a Resume?
Much of this depends on work experience. However, the ruling is to keep things as current as possible.
The standard in the industry is for individuals to go back to around 7-10 years of career history. This should fit in with a 3 – 4 page resume with ease.
Some of the information of responsibilities can be condensed as was mentioned before. This will save space and save you from repeating yourself.
Diversity is one key area you need to show. You begin with your most current employment and then work your way backward until you reach the 7-10 year point.
This could alter a little if you had a position 11 years ago, but it is highly relevant to the position now.
Staying educated and up to date with new techniques can do as much for your work history as anything else. If you don’t have ten years of experience, but you have attended classes on your own accord to learn new things, then this can be more suitable for a hiring manager.
An aside to this is, if you have only worked with antiquated techniques, then that is all you will be accustomed to.
Write Your Own Resume or Hire a Professional Resume Writer?
All of the information above is enough to help you craft a resume which can stand out to a hiring manager. However, there are a couple of things which aren’t mentioned above, and these can be the most crucial elements when your resume is put in front of a hiring manager.
You might have all the very best information on one or two pages, which means you’ve done well, but a manager can sit there and notice there is something wrong.
A spelling mistake can be costly and is a bad thing. Resumes should always be checked for grammatical errors also. Being sure to proofread resume contents before sending them out – it can make or break your application. It is always a good idea to have a second (or different) set of eyes cast over your final draft, so ask a family member or friend to take a look….you will probably be surprised that they find something, you did not!
First impressions are critical, and either spelling or grammatical mistakes don’t set good impressions – it will show that you rush things, don’t take care, or don’t have a keen eye for detail.
Next to this is the resume formatting. As this would be done on a computer, not all individuals are up to a level to make sure their resume looks the best. Don’t be afraid to play around with some templates.
There are plenty of templates around, but some of these are very generic, and they don’t always show you in the best light.
There is a solution to make all this easier. You have worked hard in getting all your information together, and now you just need the finishing touches.
Resume writing services are being used by lots of job seekers now, and especially when the positions are higher up the ladder so to speak.
Competition is hard for every post, and if all the other applicants have used these services, they will, unfortunately, stand a good chance of being noticed first.
The main reason for using a service such as this is that it isn’t easy to create a resume which looks good. It is a skill, and it is a skill which keeps changing depending on the trends in resumes. What you think looks good and eye-catching, may not necessarily be the case!
As long as the content, and you have the skills to perform what is in your resume, then there is no reason not to use a professional service and gain an advantage.