The Ultimate Guide For Writing a Resume To Get You the Job of Your Dreams
How to write a resume?
Every job seeker at one point or the other, has gone through the extreme discomfort of having to put your whole life’s achievements on a sheet of paper: what we call a resume. It is a tedious and time-consuming task.
Many people think its simple to jot down your academics, career, abilities etc., as nobody could know yourself better than you. And yet, I’ve seen people spend hours and hours working on their resume, hiring professional services to craft it for them, choosing the content, editing and rephrasing, but the result still gets them rejected time and time again.
Why does this happen? To understand that, we first have to understand what a resume is. In short, it’s basically a compilation or summary of your education, work experience, credentials, accomplishments and some optional items like hobbies, key skills, and objective.
Three types of resumes exist: –
- Chronological: Listing down the above mentioned facts in order of sequence; starting from the latest job held/degree earned, to the earliest.
It is your best option if you’ve had a stable work history, if you are not switching fields.
- Functional resume: Focuses on the expertise and experience relevant to the job you are looking for. For example, if you have had gaps in your life when you were unemployed, or have held too many jobs in too short a span of time (job hopping), or little job experience, a chronological resume is a bad idea. Similarly, if you are changing your career, it makes more sense to write about your most pertinent background and transferable skills (leadership, people management), rather than list all of your work experiences that are not linked to your new field.
- Targeted resume: It is written specifically for the job you are applying for, as your resume is tailored to highlight the experience and skills that make you a perfect match for the job in question. If you really believe that that the job is a just the thing for you given your qualifications and experience, this is the best choice. However, it is a resume option that does take quite some effort and time.
- Combination resume: If you prefer a mixture of both, you can write a combination resume in which your skills and experience appropriate for the job are showcased first, but then you also mention your chronological work history that many employers prefer because it makes it easier for them to see what jobs you’ve successively held and for how long.
Similarly, if you want to show off more skills than the work experience section alone accommodates, you can use this format. It also works well for industry changers, who have some previous skills that will still be useful in their new field.
- Mini resume: This is just an overview of your career and academic background, and is usually written upon request; maybe from a prospective employer who just wants to have a concise synopsis of your achievements, or maybe from a reference writer quoting from your work making a summarised introduction of you.
- Graphical resume: These days, job seekers try to put a bit of creative flair on their resume and have started using the option of a web based version consisting of graphs, images, visuals etc.
So one of the first steps that you should take when asking yourself how to prepare a resume is what choice are you going to make.
Another mind-boggling question that often confounds people is the difference between a resume and your curriculum vitae (CV).
Although personally I don’t think there is much difference, some of the following factors may come into play: –
- Length: A resume should generally be just page long and definitely not more than two pages. A CV is a more detailed summation of your life’s work.
- A CV also includes, apart from education, jobs and academics, a mention to your publications, research work, affiliations (for example the Australian Cost Engineering Society or the Institute of Chartered Accountants), honors, awards and teaching experience etc.
- A CV remains static for different positions, and throughout life (unless you are adding more achievements) but the resumes, as mentioned above can be changed and customised as per need.
- A CV tends to be chronological to give an overview of the ‘course of your life’ (which is what it means in Latin). Once again, a resume can be molded into different types.
In some countries the CV is preferred for more scientific, research or education related fields, as well as when applying for fellowships and grants. In other countries, the CV is considered the norm, and is generally what employers expect.
In Australia, the terms are used interchangeably. Some also suggest the use of a resume for jobs in the private sector, and a CV for jobs in the public sector.
Now that we’ve got this confusion out of the way, we can start to write a resume.
Lets first start with the dos of resume writing, before we discuss what is a no-no when it comes to writing a resume.
A chronological resume will typically contain: –
- Experience/ Work history (latest to earliest)
- Education (latest to earliest)
A functional resume will contain: –
- Capabilities/ Skills/ Key Talents
- Work history
A combined format will generally contain: –
- Experience/ work history
Apart from these main subheadings, there are also some other essential elements, such as your contact details etc.
The start and end dates of all your qualifications and work experience are absolutely necessary, because otherwise you are providing incomplete information or making your resume look suspicious.
If you leave holes in career history dates, a potential employer will want to know what you were doing in that time.
For example, if you went overseas for a year, then it’s as simple as just writing the dates and the word ‘sabbatical’.
Now for the don’ts! In their quest of how to write a good resume, people often add extra information just to be on the safe side.
But you know how the saying goes that less is more? It certainly applies to resume writing. Simple things are easier to understand, especially considering that the recruiter will only glance at your resume for a mere ten seconds.
If it’s too time consuming, he/she just won’t bother. So make sure to root out the following evils from your resume :-
- The heading should not be ‘Resume’. That’s obvious. It should be your name.
- The date of the resume written is again not required. It’s not a letter after all.
- Address, phone and email are enough! Don’t go into things that are unnecessary, like mentioning your sex, religion or marital status. Any company will not give the least importance to those extra details. Some things are meant to be personal, and even companies respect that.
- Similarly, it’s not advisable to add your picture because those companies are not supposed to make a decision based on your appearance in the first place!
- Once you’ve graduated from a university, your high school or primary school doesn’t matter. Unless you are still in high school or the early years of your university, or if that is your highest degree.
- If you’ve got a low GPA, you can leave it off while still adding the university, dates and any other honorary mentions or awards. However, recent grads and college students do generally make mention of their GPA.
- If you have had a long career, it’s okay to skip the very earlier ones (and summarise) unless they are crucial for you getting the job in question. The same applies to irrelevant experience, which you can leave off, unless you fear having too many gaps in your resume.
- Hobbies certainly give an insight into your personality, but don’t add too many.
- Salary is something to be discussed upon interview and selection. Don’t state either your expectations or your current salary on a cv/resume.
- It’s not really necessary to add references on your resume. An employer will ask for details of referees, should you proceed along the interview stages. It is as simple as putting a heading ‘Referees’ and stating Details will be supplied on request.
- Avoid acronyms. So if you were a part of Railway Technical Society of Australasia, don’t just say RTSA as it may be confusing. Just because you know what something stands for, doesn’t mean others will.
- Don’t exaggerate any of the content. Make it basic and to the point.
- Be sure not too highlight or imply in any way any grievances against past employers as it could lead to a very bad impression.
- Spelling errors go a long way in forming your impression. Your resume should have been read and reread firstly by yourself, then by other friends and colleagues.
- Avoid paragraphs and chunky portions of text. An uncluttered resume is more easily read. You can use bold font to highlight certain points. Also avoid too many bullet points.
- Avoid pictures or crazy fonts that steal the gaze away from the main content. Those precious few seconds cannot be spent appreciating fancy artwork or your profile picture.
These are just some of the things to consider when writing your resume. Remember this is the only way you will be granted an interview, so make sure you get it right, and get it right the first time.
The entry level employees often face a dilemma as to how to write your first resume, and end up making mistakes that experienced people would consider quite obvious blunders.
The new graduates can also add technical skills, competitions, internship and summer jobs, volunteer work, and any society affiliations etc.
If your career has had gaps, you can explain it in a different way, if it is not too personal. Say for example, you can explain that you were a mother, any courses you took during that time, or any volunteer work or skills you acquired during that period of unemployment.
By explanation, I mean a few lines, and in a similar format as the rest of your job descriptions.
In case of a long work experience, you have the option of writing a paragraph entitled ‘other professional experience’ or something similar.
So when you are contemplating on how to write a professional resume, you will have to pay attention to the tricky details that elude many.
For example, who did you refer to in the cover letter? Sir? Madam? To whom it may concern? It’s best to refer to the recruiter by name. The position should be mentioned accurately. The HR department spends time on giving names to roles and if you get them wrong, do you really think you deserve the job?
You need to ask yourself a couple of questions as a reminder: –
- Did you even bother to check out the basic requirements? There is no way to run from the fact that you have a business degree, whereas the job requires a technical one or vice versa, or the fact that you have only a year of relevant experience, not five, as the job demanded. Although these days it is considered discriminately for employers to state a minimum number of years experience that they seek.
- Is there an information overload? Ok, so you meet the job requirements, but you so wanted to show off everything you’ve done in your life – you’ve hidden the right things under the wrong material. For example, if you want a job in finance, but you’ve also added loads of marketing information, and the odd jobs you’ve done, then you’ve just undermined your main focus, which was finance!
- Are you coming across as too general? You need to let your personality shine through – make connections between the job, company, your skills, experience, personality traits, etc. You don’t want to sound like someone just looking for a job.
- You need to check that you’ve included all the details, like cover samples, references etc., that the employer asked for, because otherwise it just seems like you skimmed through the job advertisement.
The Best Resume Templates to Use
As I’ve mentioned before, the key focus is the content. However, the presentation is, nevertheless, just as an important factor.
Some of the best resume templates which are developed by specialists (for a hefty price) work on the following guidelines: –
- Leave enough ‘white space’. But not too much, as to make it seem as if you ran out of content or things to day. However, on the other hand, not too little. The details could be tricky so ask a creative friend to advise or help you.
- The language shows results. Not simply ‘I lead the marketing campaign’, but also the ‘the marketing campaign I lead resulted in 15% increase in demand’.
- Don’t say ‘I haven’t had enough experience, but I am an avid learner’. Even if you have little experience, just highlight what tangible things you achieved in that short duration.
As for the unfortunate amongst us who don’t even get to the interview because their resumes get thrown into the rubbish bin for evident blunders, what do they do that is so wrong?
The ugly truth is, the job seekers outnumber the recruitment team members by a large amount. Therefore, in order to make that pile more manageable, they simply toss away the ones that don’t have any promise in them.
Some of the things that will get you in those unlucky few (or many) are mentioned here, which good resume layouts generally avoid or take care of: –
- Is the font consistent throughout your resume? Is it same in both the cover letter and the resume? Are you using too many fancy fonts and sizes? Times New Roman or Arial size 11 works best most of the time. There are different preferences for different people, but as per expert advice, some prefer Arial because it’s easy to read, Calibri because it is associated with stability, and being Microsoft’s default font, it is read beautifully on a computer monitor.
Similar reasons are cited in favour of Century Old Style for very traditional, run of the mill kind of jobs, Garamond for elegance, Georgia which goes well on screen, the trusty Times New Roman, and Trebuchet MS to set you apart, a delicate balance between doing something different, but not so out of the way that it turns the reader off.
- Is the information arrangement too disorganised? There must be a visual hierarchy and some semblance of order.
- The contact details should be centered at the top of the page. Also bear in mind about your email address, and be sure that it doesn’t come across as immature, or just downright silly. For example, if you have a personal email that is firstname.lastname@example.org, this is not considered an appropriate email address when placing on a resume.
- The remaining material should be aligned towards the left of the page.
- Headings should be bold. As I’ve mentioned before, you can highlight certain key factors by making them bold or underlining or italicizing, but too much, and it becomes overkill.
- Consistent bullet or dot points should be used. Avoid using too many varieties.
- Colouring is just kindergarten. Avoid it!
Some other details that should be taken into consideration in resume layouts while mentioning your work history, is to follow this general structure: Job title, employer, dates, and responsibilities held during which time frame, and achievements. Listing too many responsibilities does not mean that you are the most reliable.
Outline key things, which you owned and excelled in. For example, attended the site meeting is not the same as organised the site meeting, or chaired the site meeting. As far as achievements are concerned, they should make mention of a particular improvement, not just your routine job.
It could be something that won you a commendation, employee award, etc. It could be an initiative you took that resulted in cost savings or increased profits etc.
If you want to mention hobbies, they should be above references, which come at the end. You can provide name, designation and phone number, or you could leave it out until the employer asks for it. Usually the latter is preferred.
You can gain some example resumes for free from Google Drive and also from the Primer Magazine. You can also have resume examples from the website of Job Access, which is an initiative of the Australian government.
Their website can be used to download the standard chronological template for free. They also have valuable insights and sample resumes for people who are not currently employed, or who have had a disrupted work history.
The standardised layout that they recommend includes the following: –
- Contact detail: name, mobile number, address (optional), and email.
- Career objective
- Employment: Employer, Job title, Duration and Achievements (also include volunteering).
- Education and trainings: Institute, course title, dates. It is also important to put in courses that have not been completed.
- Skills (relevant to the job): You can also include software that you know (eg. AutoCAD, Pro-Engineer, SAP, etc.) You are expected to rate your skills as either ‘basic’ ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’. If you know additional languages, you can also rate them in a similar way. Remember to he honest though.
- Achievements: sports, volunteer, community work, etc. can be included.
They also recommend that you reserve bold or italics only for the headings, give page numbers (if your CV or resume extends beyond a single page) and making sure to give your name and contact in footer in all pages. There is nothing worse than your cv coming apart and then the potential employer not knowing what page belongs to what resume.
- Referees (should be a former teacher, employer, trainer, co-coordinator, president of a club etc.): List their full name, job title, organisation name, and their contact number/s.
Additionally, you can mention your professional affiliations after the skills section and hobbies; although it is optional.
Also, while you should choose a good resume layout, it is ultimately the content that should outweigh and make an impression on the employer’s mind.
So don’t overdo it in such a way as to make the layout distracting for the reader or to shift the focus away from the content.
What to consider when using a professional resume template?
There are many things to consider when you go online to browse through the large volumes of online template for resume available.
Firstly, as I’ve said before, you have to choose the type from chronological, functional, combined or targeted as per your specific situation. Next there is the organisation where you want to apply.
A place like Wall Street or Coleman Brands might mean that you should go for the tried and tested, basic resume template that works for conservative and hard-core corporate organisations.
One such example is the resume created by a career expert at TheLadders, the organisation that conducted the research saying the recruiters spend a mere 6 seconds going through your resume.
It starts with a centered name and contact details (and also includes the link to his/her LinkedIn profile). This is actually a good idea because hiring managers look you up anyway, so why not provide the URL that you would prefer for them to view.
It mentions the name with the middle initial (because the name is so common) which is just one of the psychological ways of standing out from the rest. This name is consistently used on the LinkedIn profile, and should be similarly applied to Twitter and Google Plus accounts.
One of the most creative categories that it has made to the resume is that instead of adding the career objective and the repeated lines that just bore anyone to death ‘I want to work in an organisation where I can utilise my skills’ or ‘I want to work in a situation with growth opportunities’, it has used the same section to sell the jobseeker.
It provides an executive summary with the title as what you are doing.. E.g. financial analyst, or operational excellence champion, then goes on to provide a brief explanation of what you can do, are interested in doing, and what you would provide to the employer.
For example, instead of the career objective, it goes like this :-
Crisis Management Specialist
I am a highly experienced Non-Profit Victims Advocate who has formal education in Psychology, provides victim advocacy, and is capable of dealing with emergency situations of the most critical nature while remaining composed and clear headed.
Key skills include effectively engaging the victim’s family for support, excellent organization and communication skills. I can lead a multifunctional team towards a unified goal and interacting with the critical stakeholders to keep them well-informed of the situation.
Why is this so much better than the career objective? Because instead of focusing on what you want from your employers, it shifts the focus away to what you can bring to any organisation with your skills and experience.
One thing that I would advise is that resume writing is a tough nut to crack!
Some other things to consider include :-
- Make sure that it’s a .doc file rather than a .docx, because that is not compatible with many applicants tracking system.
- Include keywords that were found in the job description, as that could give a psychological impact.
- Prioritise the information so that the most relevant experience or qualification (the ones that you really want to shine) are towards the top.
- If you haven’t worked in an organisation that would really make a mark on the employer and just leave them to wonder what’s ABC Corporation, you can add links to the websites of your previous companies.
- Another paradigm shift for employers would be if you change the approach from what you have done to what you will do? In other words, you can highlight your potential and what you can do when you get the target position.
- It’s good to have an updated version of your resume online, to make the virtual you as smart as the real you. It should be easy to find, so no fancy names.
We have all heard that a professional resume template is tweaked to match the job right? I just gave an example of how the simple chronological style is suited to a person going for a grounded job, like a banker, lab technician etc.
Similarly, a creative job needs you to demonstrate that in your resume. Here’s how that can be accomplished: you can add your own logo, and similarly add oomph by showcasing your graphic designing, or illustrating skills on the resume.
Yes you can! Creative people are seen a little bit “different” and similarly they should stand out. For example, a fashion designer can add one of his/her sketches. You must also include a link to the online portfolio of your work.
While advising the creative individual to be creative, I would also advise them not to go overboard. At the end of the day, your value proposition should stand out. Understand that you would not be sketching or designing at your will, but to drive a business that has to garner some profit.
So for that purpose, include examples of how you have contributed through your work to the organisation’s goals and vision.
One of the many creative ideas in some good resume examples include using the number of pencils or a battery charging to show your skills on software (say, a full battery shows expert, and half shows intermediate, or five pencils versus one for a similar purpose). I’ve also seen hobbies highlighted by pictures (plane for travelling, book for reading, etc.)
Another way of demonstrating your skill level, say in a software or language, is by using bar graphs labeled beginner, intermediate or expert on the y-axis, and the bars all labeled say, MySQL, Adobe Photoshop etc. to show which one you are talking about.
Apart from bars, you can also use colored dots to show your skills, like five dots, or three, or just one.
People have learned the art of turning their resumes into creative art pieces, by using self promotional mailers instead of the cover letters, and even a resume in the form of a map, showing the different locations you’ve worked for and some explanatory notes of how you got there (thanks to the My Maps feature of Google Maps.)
Best Resume Examples to Use
You can find many Australian resume examples online that will help you to update or edit your resume as per the requirement of the Australian job market.
- There are two resumes covered by this link. One is a targeted resume, with an executive summary, skills, awards, and finally the experience. Another, has the basic reverse chronological experience, technical skills and the education. Both are apt for a decent and simple look, which works well for a conservative organization.
- They again provide excellent advice for cover letter writing and walk you through the resume writing process, along with a resume sample to boot. This is a very organised and neat resume that is sure to impress and shows a hardworking individual’s full span of career.
- An excellent initiative from the Government of Western Australia, there are example resumes here for all types of people, namely an entry level position, a higher level post, a semi professional position, as well as a school student looking out for some volunteer work or internship. Again, there is a targeted resume where skills and licenses come first, then experience, and a very organised sample for a construction position that shows a full summary of work and achievements. An excellent sample resume for a student shows how you can add quality material to show for yourself even with little work experience. Same goes for a recent school leaver, which very efficiently builds up on her skills and areas of expertise given that she’s had little work experience.
- This website is also a good initiative for people seeking out a position as a waiter or hairdresser, as opposed to working in a corporate in a typical 9 to 5 job. It is a very simple template, that shows the skills, experience and education, and also adds availability ( as many of these jobs have unconventional working hours).
- They offer some advice on how to use the templates given in Microsoft Word to your advantage.
- For some really good examples of resumes in the creative field, you can check out this website . The ideas range from sober to mind boggling, but it all depends on your particular situation. I, for one, prefer the infographic resume by Zhi Liang, as it demonstrates creativity with some notion of organization, and without making you feel too overwhelmed with the graphics and the artwork.
- Similarly, this website has some spectacular and some good resume examples that would really help you in your quest to find your dream job in the highly competitive creative market. Just remember to choose the ones that focus on your business mind, and appreciation for the key drivers of the employer as well as your own flair for imagination.
- Another example of a resume can be had from the following website: . They also give advice on how to develop your resume or CV in Australian style as the ones prepared for UK and other European countries may not be suitable in Australia.
- You can also check out the example resumes from the website of the Monash University, which has put up some of the resumes of its undergraduate and postgraduate students from various faculties to give you an idea or a starting point to generate your own depending upon your field. Don’t copy the resumes from their word for word. There is also a very good example for a person interested in volunteering that shows their availability as well so that it is easy for the employers to decide whether or not to hire them, and also highlights general interests and hobbies.
To summarise, resume writing is not a piece of cake. But it is not too tough either, as long as you follow certain guidelines.
Avoid long paragraphs, exaggerated narratives, and disorganised piles up of information. Don’t make it too bland, show your interest by inserting key words, and adapt your resume to different job applications.
Show some tangible achievements rather than general words. Choose a sensible font, and try to compile it within two pages if possible. The rest is all luck and fate.
Remember, a resume is just a means of getting you to the interview, but the final selection depends on a number of written or verbal tests. Show that you are worthy of getting the position in hand.
Too many people get mired down by spending way too much time on the resume and way too little on themselves, so even if they land an interview, the looks of disappointment on the face of the recruiters conducting it are obvious.
And finally, best of the luck for that job hunt! It takes time, but it will happen, as long as you don’t give up.