Writing a great resume
Your resume, or CV, is an essential tool in the job searching process. The difference between a good resume and a great resume could cost you an interview! We’ve listed some key steps to help you write an excellent resume and outline the best way to sructure your resume for potenital employers.
Tailor Your Resume:
The most important thing when writing your resume is to make 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 financial administrator role, your part-time experience working at your local chicken shop isn’t necessary to include, but your experience with accounting software is. Does the job advertisement mention anything about company culture and is this reflected in my own 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, the role might not be a good fit.
Job advertisements will also have a number of ‘keywords’ scattered through their key capabilities and responsibility sections- words like ‘HSEQ’ or ‘compliance’ for example. Being able to match these keywords within your own resume (where applicable) will demonstrate to HR professionals and recruiters that you’ve taken the time to digest what the role will entail. It will also help to visually convey your suitability to the role in question.
Provide Quantifiable Examples
When listing your previous work experience, it’s important to not just list your key responsibilities in the role, but to provide quantifiable outcomes or achievements that resulted from your responsibilities. This gives you a chance to provide measurable examples of how you’ve contributed to the success of the previous companies you’ve worked for and provides evidence to support your claims. Some people can struggle with this, when working in an industry which often has intangible KPIs, but examples don’t always have to be sales or numbers based. For example you could say, ‘your strong leadership skills were demonstrated through leading weekly team meetings of 10 or more’ or, ‘managing the implementation of a new learning and development strategy led to a 10% reduction in retention rates from the previous year.’
Include Your Soft Skills
Soft skills refer to the qualities, behaviours and attributes needed to succeed in the workplace like empathy, creativity and adaptability. According to the Linkedin 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 91% of talent professionals believe soft skills to be vital to the future of work. HR professionals value soft skills because while particular technical skills can be replaced or mimicked by technological advancements and make certain roles redundant, human-based skills like empathy and creativity cannot, making them more valuable within the job market. Consequently, being able to demonstrate these skills through your work experience will help you to stand out from the pack
Moreover, soft skills are transferable; traits like emotional intelligence and communication skills are considered core competencies and required for all jobs . So, if you’re looking to change industries (perhaps due to COVID-19) and are struggling to provide relevant work experience for a role, including your responsibilities and experiences that demonstrate the soft skills relevant to the job can be a great alternative.
Keep Formatting Simple
When formatting your resume, it’s best to keep it clean and simple. You want to ensure that your resume is easy to read so that HR professionals looking over it can quickly scan and digest the relevant information. A document crammed full of information in tiny font and no paragraph breaks can be off-putting to the reader and immediately place you at a disadvantage. Furthermore, if an organisation is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Applicant Tracking Processes (ATS) to help in the initial stages of recruitment they’ll be sensitive to particular formats; any formats the technology can’t recognise or read, won’t make it to the shortlist. So, ensure you’ve chosen an easy to read font, have equal spacing and use bullet points. You also want to ensure grammar and spelling is correct; typos or spelling mistakes on a resume suggest you haven’t invested much effort into the document and therefore don’t care enough about the role. It can also indicate that you don’t have great attention to detail and poor communication skills- again, two traits that are universally important for most jobs.
Finally, be conscious of any jargon or abbreviations you use in your resume. Every industry has specific terms and concepts that are unique to them and referring to these can demonstrate your knowledge within your chosen field. However, you need to be confident that the abbreviations you’re using are widely recognised within the industry and will be understood. Perhaps they’re mentioned within the job advertisement? If unsure it’s best to leave them out, as you don’t want to cause added confusion to either the reader or the AI & ATS technology examining your resume.
Substantiate Your Claims
Can you substantiate the claims and results you’ve mentioned when discussing your work experience? A great advantage of an online resume is that you can link to particular projects or work that you’ve done; perhaps writing or design samples or a Powerpoint presentation. If you think these examples are relevant to the job, linking to them on your resume can be a great way to showcase your talent and stand out from the competition.
It’s also important to remember that in the digital age we now live in, everyone has a digital footprint which your potential employers can easily trace. When applying for a role, think about your current profiles on Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If there’s anything you would feel uncomfortable about your potential boss seeing, take it down before applying for the role. In the same vein, remember that because social platforms make it that much easier to do background checks on candidates, potential employees can easily confirm the statements made on your resume, so ensure you don’t exaggerate or provide questionable facts. These will be found out and won’t paint you in a favourable light.
Employers receive lots of resumes when they post a job. They may not have the time to read every resume thoroughly. Make the structure and format of your resume clear and concise to make their life easier and increase your chances. You resume should be professional and between 2-4 pages long. You don’t need to include every little detail - employers can always ask for further information if they need to.
SUGGESTED RESUME LAYOUT
Personal details should always be at the top of your resume and should include:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Linkedin Profile Link
This is where you include a short summary which describes your applicable experience relevant to the role. This summary should prove your value and help to differentiate you from other candidates through highlighting your unique strengths. Avoid mentioning what you’re specifically wanting from your next job, so as not to sound too presumptuous. A good example could be: “Financial executive with extensive experience building and leading teams. Areas of expertise include: Strategic planning, business process reengineering, SEC reporting and governance.” Your professional summary should be altered depending on each job you apply for.
This is where you outline the key strengths and skills you possess that are relevant to the job you are applying for. These can be written in dot point form and should be a combination of both technical and soft skills.
This is where you list your key work achievements to date that you believe are relevant to the role. You can also include any training which developed your skills but didn’t come with a qualification. If applying for your first role, you could include any significant achievements at university, through work experience etc.
Education and Training
In this section, list your highest qualification first, and then follow with other qualifications or training based on how relevant they are to the job you’re going for. This section is essential for all employers and when listing your education, you should include the following information:
- The place of education
- The subject
- Your final grade
- The years of study
If you are applying for entry-level or mid-level roles, you should put your education section at the start of your resume. When applying for a senior-level role put the education section towards the end of your resume.
In this section you can list any memberships or industry associations you belong to that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, it might be worth mentioning that you’re a member of Engineers Australia if you’re applying for a structural engineering role.
Employers will always look closely at this section to check you have the relevant skills and experience for their vacancy, so it should be the most detailed section of your resume. List your employment history in reverse order, starting from your most recent job to your first and each job you list should include the following information:
- Your job title
- The company name and location
- The dates of your employment, including month/year.
- A short summary of your role within the business, including key responsibilities
- Quantifiable outcomes and achievements that resulted from your key responsibilities
Try and ensure this section is clear and neat by using bullet points to separate the details. Be as positive about your experience as you can, highlighting your strengths, responsibilities, and achievements. If there are gaps in your career because you took a gap year or had a baby, reference the break rather than then leaving a big gap between jobs.
Your references are usually listed at the end of your resume and should include 2 to 3 people you’ve worked with in the past. Ideally, your references should be either someone in a managerial position or who you worked closely with on projects, in order to provide prospective employers with the best insight into your capabilities and strengths. A good format to follow is:
- Full name of referee
- Job Title of Referee
- Company Name of Referee
- Location of company
- Phone Number of referees\Email address of referee.
Some applications might also provide you with the opportunity to include written references in your initial job application or ask to have them included in the resume. In this case, you can ask your references to write a short summary on their experiences working with you.