Resumes. They are the gateway to securing that initial job interview and yet, they are often the step that can cause the most confusion for candidates. Furthermore, easily avoidable mistakes on your resume could cost you a call back for that job you had your eye on. Today, Design & Build have compiled a list of the most common questions our consultants are asked about resumes, complete with answers.
Hopefully, they provide some added assistance to those currently job hunting!
Q: How long should my resume be?
A: For the majority of candidates, resumes should be limited to one or two pages. Recruiters and HR professionals have minimal time to read through the hundreds of resumes they receive for an active role and are consequently put off by applications that are more than a few pages. Therefore making sure your resume is easy-to-read and scannable is to your advantage, as it allows those who have to read it, to quickly make their mind up on whether they are interested in you.
Some can find it difficult to limit their relevant experience and achievements to one page, which is why utilising bullet points and subheadings can be a great way to minimise word length and help recruiters or hiring managers easily identify the necessary information they are looking for. There are also some great online resume templates, which can help you with layout and ensure you’ve utilised the space on the page effectively.
The exception for the one-page rule, is those applying for executive or senior-level positions or those in fields like construction, architecture or planning. Usually, these applicants will have a longer list of achievements or list projects they have worked on and might have to include a portfolio of their work in their application.
Q: What are keywords and how can I utilise them in my resume?
A: Resume keywords and phrases are specific abilities, skills, expertise and traits recruiters and hiring managers have identified as crucial to the role that they are advertising and consequently will be looking for in the successful candidate. Keywords will consist of job-related nouns that describe your hard and soft skills and qualifications for a job. They’ll then often be paired with action verbs, which demonstrate your past accomplishments. Many bigger organisations have started using online systems that are built to scan the combination of both keywords and action verbs as they appear in a resume, to highlight relevant candidates more efficiently.
Consequently, including keywords within your resume (where relevant) can improve your chances of getting noticed. Doing some research and carefully looking through the job advertisement’s listed requirements and key selection criteria can give a good indication of the particular words HR professionals or recruiters will be looking for. Being able to match these keywords will demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to digest what the role will entail. It will also help to visually convey your suitability for the role in question.
Q: How should I handle employment gaps on my resume?
A: It depends how long ago this employment gap occurred. If it was quite a few years ago, it will probably go unnoticed. However, if it was more recent, it may raise a red flag for your potential employer. Being open and transparent about any career gaps is also dependent on the reasons why. For example, if a career gap is due to a recent redundancy, it is important to mention this in your resume. Especially after 2020 (where the pandemic resulted in Australia’s unemployment rate peaking at 7.5%) organisations understand that being made redundant during this time isn’t necessarily a reflection of your work ethic or skills, but of the unprecedented times we are living in. If you have been made redundant over the last year, mention it on your resume, rather than giving the impression you’re still working at your last place of employment. Otherwise, you have to explain the redundancy during your interview, which will come as a surprise to your interviewer and might raise questions about your honesty.
Similarly, if you’ve had a career gap due to study, or starting a family, it’s important to make this clear on your resume. Ensure your contractual start and end dates for each role listed on your resume are up-to-date. For any gap, you can then provide a short explanation in your cover letter to provide more context and prevent prospective employers from making their own assumptions as to why you’re no longer with a company- especially if you had been at that company for some time. Saying something short and simple will suffice- like ‘unfortunately in September 2020 myself and members of my finance team were made redundant due to X’ ( a company relocation, a merger, the impact of COVID-19).
It’s also encouraged to think of activities you got involved in during any employment gap, or any unpaid experience such as volunteering or community projects that are relevant to the role, which you can include.
Q: Should I tailor my resume?
A: The short answer is yes, absolutely. While you might be applying for similar-sounding roles during your job search, each job advertisement will have unique requirements or skills that are specific to their particular organisation and processes. Consequently, the most important thing when writing a resume is making sure that it’s relevant to the particular job you’re applying for. Organisations hiring are inundated with hundreds of resumes and only have a finite amount of time to scan each one; if your resume doesn’t include the key skills or attributes mentioned in the job advertised, it will automatically be dismissed. To ensure you’re catering to job requirements, it’s a good idea to make a checklist when giving your resume a onceover. Ask yourself the following questions: does my work experience and knowledge correspond with what has been highlighted in the job description? For example, if you’re applying for a project manager role, your part-time experience working at your local chicken shop isn’t necessary to include, but your experience managing commercial projects is. Does the job advertisement mention anything about company culture and is this reflected in your resume? For example, if a job advertisement states they are looking for a ‘team player who likes to collaborate’ but your resume mentions that you like to be ‘self-directed and independent’ in your work, those reading your resume might not consider you a good fit for the role.
Q: What shouldn’t be included on my resume?
A: Similar to tailoring your resume, the simple answer to this is avoiding anything that isn’t relevant to the job advertisement or getting you an interview. Consequently, there shouldn’t be a need for you to include anything additional to your contact information, relevant recent work history and relevant achievements and skills.
One area people can often get confused about is whether or not to include personal information, like their hobbies and interests. For the most part, this isn’t necessary unless it has been specifically requested in the job advertisement or the interest is relevant to the job. For example, listing recent volunteer experience or community projects that demonstrate transferable skills listed in the key selection criteria like leadership, emotional intelligence and collaboration could be of value, but you should avoid creating a laundry list of things you like to do in your spare time.
You also don’t need to include the following:
Physical attributes like your health or features
A photo of yourself – unless the job advertisement instructs you to.
Any negative statements about previous employers
Your marital status, whether you have children or any other personal information.
For more information on how to write a stand-out resume, you can read our top tips here: https://www.designandbuild.com.au/jobseeker-advice
Design and Build specialise in helping candidates with their resumes and know what clients are looking for when hiring- especially within the built environment industry. If you’re wanting specific advice on your resume and how to ‘cut through’ within the current job market, reach out to our team of consultants at: firstname.lastname@example.org