It's important to get your resume right - so what should you be including?
A resume or CV (curriculum vitae) is a brief, usually two-page summary that contains details about yourself, your education and qualifications, your experience, and other relevant information.
It is one of the most important parts of any job application and selection process, so it's important to get it right. It basically introduces you to your potential employer and is further supported by items like your cover letter, responses to selection criteria, and (fingers crossed) the interview itself.
So, what makes a great resume?
Professional and up to date contact details
Make sure that your potential employer can get in contact with you. Double check that all your contact information is up to date and correct, otherwise your potential employer won't be able to get in touch with you.
You should include your:
- full name
- address or location
- phone number/s (mobile is a must, landlines are a bonus – and don’t include your current work phone unless the application is for a position within your current organisation)
- email address (again not your current work one but it must be professional – best practice is to use an email address that includes some form of your name, either in full or using your initials). Hint: Be sure to check it regularly and respond promptly.
Extras to add if relevant/applicable to the position and company could include:
- a link to your LinkedIn profile - especially if you know the organisation is particularly digitally minded. Have a snoop around their website and look for a page about their executive or board members. Chances are if they link to their LinkedIn profiles it is a good idea to include your own (after first making sure it is up to date).
- links to your online or digital portfolios (if you're applying for a creative or design role).
For standard resumes and applications, you are under no obligation to provide your:
- height or weight
- marital status and/or dependents
- health details
- your date or place of birth OR age
- a photo (unless requested and reasonable e.g. for an actor/actress or model OR you’re really, really ridiculously good looking)
Professional Summary or Objective
Start by getting your prospective employer or recruiter hooked by using a professional summary or objective. Overall, these statements give your reader an understanding of how your skills and qualifications can translate into their success. A professional summary is essentially an overview of your work experience, qualifications, skills and expertise. If you’ve been working for a long time, especially in the industry you’re applying in, a professional summary is the statement to use. If you’re an entry-level candidate or looking to change careers, a professional objective may be a better option. This is a statement centred on your skills and career goals that outlines what you’re seeking from your next role.
Education and qualifications
List all of your education and qualifications from the most recent to the oldest. Include university, VET and or school courses, and include any additional training courses completed or relevant qualifications. Don’t forget to highlight subjects, projects or awards completed or received during these studies that are relevant to the particular job you’re applying for.
List all of your work experience (paid and volunteer as relevant) from the most recent to the oldest. Include the employer or business name, how long you were there, your position, the key duties and responsibilities you undertook, key results and outcomes, projects, and any special achievements. Try not to leave long unexplained times gaps in your work history.
If you've taken time away from the workforce to raise a family, make sure you outline it clearly in your resume. Parenthood gives you a huge range of skills, such as organisational skills, time management, negotiation techniques and managing a budget. These easily translate into the workplace.
A common question is whether you should list your work experience or education and qualifications first. If you Google it you’ll find millions of results listing the pros and cons for both ways, so make sure you take some time to consider it. A hot tip is to consider which section you have more strengths in. If you’re just starting out you may have a stronger education section (especially if you’ve just finished a course), but if you’ve been in the industry a while or have previous experience it may be the opposite.
This is the section where you include things like first aid qualifications, software and computer proficiency levels, additional languages and any certificates or licences. It’s also where you’ll list personality driven ‘soft’ skills. Both are equally important.
Secondly, this is a great place to search the job listing you’re applying for and, using the terms they’ve used in the listing, answer why you’re the right person for the job. Now that we’re applying for roles mostly online, more and more employers are using Artificial Intelligence technology to scan your resume and narrow down candidates based on how well your text matches theirs; this is before they’ve even received a copy of it to their inbox! If you’re applying for multiple roles, it may be a good idea to tailor edit your resume each time using terms from the listing.
A referee is a person who can comment accurately on your knowledge, skills and experience in relation to the selection criteria for the job you are applying for. Make sure you always ask their permission first before listing them as a referee and give them a heads up when you submit an application so they can be prepared for any calls or questions. Hint: it’s not a bad idea to provide them with a copy of or link to the job description and selection criteria as well so they can prepare.
When choosing your referees, think carefully about why they’re a great person for a potential employer to speak to about you. Past supervisors are a great start if you still have a good relationship with them, as are teachers and professional or personal mentors.
Great! You’ve now created an A+ resume that’s up to date and impressive. But, have you thought about how to save it? Firstly, we always recommend saving your CV as a PDF to ensure how it looks when you close it is the same as when your prospective employer opens it.
Second, be sure to save it from their perspective too. Saving as ‘resume.pdf’ will likely add you to a pile of documents in their downloads folder with the same name – lost and never to be opened without frustration again! Instead, name your file so it’s easy to find: firstname-lastname-resume.pdf or firstname-lastname-resume-role.pdf