Résumés, cover letters, selection criteria, portfolios & personal brand

Whether you apply for internal vacancies at your current school, or external work opportunities at another school or in a different type of organisation, you should review your job search tools (e.g, résumé/CV, cover letter, statement addressing selection criteria (if required) and career portfolio) and target them to the work opportunity you are applying for.


Résumés and CVs

There is no shortage of accessible information on how to prepare a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). Your school career resource centre is likely to have a number of helpful publications. A google search for résumés or CVs will overwhelm you with articles and opinions on how to write a résumé or CV that will enhance your chances of being selected for a job interview. Similarly, you will be swamped with links to the websites of professional résumé or writing services, complete with résumé writing hints. A search on LinkedIn posts is another way to locate numerous tips and links to support your résumé writing efforts.

There is so much freely available information on how to write a good résumé that it can be confusing as to which pieces of advice you should follow. The information here is an overview of the main points about résumé writing gleaned from:

Selected articles about résumé posted job vacancy websites and the websites of professional résumé writing organisations.

  • Career information websites.
  • LinkedIn posts on the topic of résumés.
  • Australian journal/magazine articles and research.
  • Various print publications on résumés.

Résumé or CV – What’s the Difference?

A résumé and a CV have a similar purpose. They are both self-marketing documents used when seeking employment, promotion, grants, or scholarships. In Australia the terms résumé and curriculum vitae or CV are used interchangeably, even in academia. However, in some countries there is a clear distinction between what is a résumé and what is a CV.

For this article, which is aimed at members of staff who work in a school at all levels of the school hierarchy, knowing the differences is useful. CV or not CV - What is the difference between a resume and a CV? is an informative article prepared by Susan Wareham McGrath that can be accessed from the InterviewIQ website. In essence, the points below summarise this article and other sources that differentiate between résumé and CV:

Résumé: 

  • A self-marketing document that succinctly summarises your skills, experience, education and employment background targeted to a specific position or work opportunity.
  • Short in length – 2-4 pages, depending on your experiences and expectations in the country where it will be read.
  • Contains sections such as Objective, Summary, Work History, Education and any other relevant headings given your experience and the specific position or work role concerned.

Note: Many countries (e.g., New Zealand, Ireland, England) refer to a self-marketing document with the characteristics described above as a CV rather than a résumé. However, some countries, (e.g., the United States of America and Canada) regard a CV as a comprehensive self-marketing document that is clearly distinguishable from a résumé.

CV: 

  • Usually a relatively static document several pages in length, more detailed and comprehensive than a résumé.
  • Used for senior executive roles, academic positions, grants, scholarships, high-level research and positions in the medical profession.
  • Contains information included in a résumé in addition to a detailed chronological listing of items such as the following that are relevant to your experience and the position you are seeking such as:
    • Educational background and academic qualifications
    • Professional experience - details of every position, listed in reverse chronological order
    • Publications
    • Conference presentations
    • Teaching experience
    • Research
    • Projects
    • Other academic or executive roles
    • Other sections that are relevant to your experience and the roles you are applying for.

Should I Prepare a CV or résumé?

In an Australian context:

  • If you are applying for senior executive or academic roles within your current school or externally, you may wish to shape your self-marketing document towards the style of a CV.
  • For other positions in your school or external positions, a comprehensive CV may be a hindrance and an Australian style résumé may be more appropriate.

Australian Résumés

As Gail Howard from Top Margin Resumes Online notes, Australian résumés have a theme, that is, your CV or résumé should target a particular career field or work opportunity. This means that you should consider leaving out information that is unrelated to the theme of your résumé. Accordingly, your résumé must be reviewed for every new internal or external position, project or work opportunity to ensure it matches the position or work opportunity you are applying for. Indeed, over time, you may produce several résumés targeting different work opportunities.

Personal Details

In an Australian context, there is no need to include details such as gender, martial status, religion.

Profile Statement or Career Summary

You may wish to consider including a profile or career summary section on the front page, close to the beginning of your résumé. A profile statement is your ‘sales pitch’. It encapsulates what you have to offer the position or work opportunity you are seeking. The profile statement or career summary highlights your experiences and strengths in a few short sentences or bullet points. It provides an overview of your candidacy and aims to entice the reader to review the remainder of your résumé with great interest.

Work History

Document work history in reverse chronological order, including internal job roles, jobs those previously held in other organisations, positions of responsibility held, projects, committees or other professional experience activities. Identify your achievements, i.e., how well you carried out your responsibilities. Each job, position of responsibility, project, committee, or other professional activity should be clearly identified, including the title, dates and duration. Some authors recommend that for each role you have two sub-headings: Responsibilities (i.e., what you did – just your key responsibilities) and Achievements (i.e., how well you did it). Other authors recommend replacing responsibilities altogether with achievement statements for each role, e.g., “Coached the Senior Firsts Football Team to the State Premiership 2 years in succession”, rather than listing “Coached the Senior Firsts Football Team” as a responsibility with “Won the state Premiership two years in succession “ under a separate heading as an achievement. If you decide to do away with key responsibilities and just focus on achievements, it may be useful to include a 2-3 line description of the role before listing your achievements in the role.

Education

Include educational attainments and training relevant to the work opportunity you are applying for.

Volunteer work

Include your volunteer work that is relevant to the work opportunity you are applying for. Apart from being able to demonstrate relevant skills and achievements, if you are applying for a work opportunity in a school, volunteer work activities such as service club activities, participation in community performing arts groups, or sports clubs may benefit the school’s co-curricular programme.

Hobbies

As with volunteering, list relevant hobbies and projects. If applying for a work opportunity in a school, these activities may be highly relevant to the co-curricular programme in a school.

Referees/References

Top Margin Resumes Online, advises that there is a trend in Australia away from providing details of referees or references on a resume. Instead, resumes are commonly stating ‘Referees available on request’ beneath a relevant heading such as ‘References’. As Gail Howard notes, however, for Government positions, referee details are a specific requirement of the job application. This may also apply in other large organisations, including schools. Therefore, it is important to check whether the details of referees are required for the position you are applying for.

Appearance

Use a common font such as Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial and a font size that is neither too large, nor too small. Font size 11 for the main text and up to Font size 13 for headings are usually easy to read and enable you to avoid your résumé becoming too long.

There should be adequate ‘white space’ in your résumé so that it does not look too cramped on the page. The appearance of ‘white space’ is achieved by having good sized margins around the document. 3.17 cms for left and right margins and 2.54 cms for top and bottom margins is the default in Word. This is adequate for your résumé, although if you are trying to conserve space so that your résumé does not occupy too many pages, left and right margins of 2.5 cm should not compromise the appearance of ‘white space’ too much. For ease of reading, maintain consistency with your formatting throughout.

Structure

A google search will yield numerous examples of résumé formats. The Templates section in Microsoft Word has several résumé templates. You could use one of these as a base to construct your Australian style résumé.

Executive Coach and Career Management Specialist, Barry Horne recommends the following structure:

Your Unique Sales Proposition,

  • Profile Statement
  • Employment Summary Table
  • Core Competencies/Key Strengths
  • Career Highlights

Employment History and Contexts

  • Employer Profiles
  • Key Responsibilities
  • Role Accomplishments

Background (Supportive) Information

  • Professional Memberships
  • Training
  • Qualifications
  • Community/Recreational Interests (Optional)
  • Personal Information
  • Referees

Further Information on Résumés

For good advice on résumés see:

Cover Letters 

A cover letter is a short letter that accompanies your résumé or CV and any other application documents that you send when applying for a vacancy or expressing interest in a work opportunities that may become available in the future.

There is an abundance of advice that you can access through an internet search. Some useful web links include:

Addressing Selection Criteria 

Dr Ann Villiers is an expert on writing and talking to selection criteria. Her website provides information on a range of topics for applicants, interviewers and employers on the job application process. Several articles are free of charge, her award-winning book, How to Write and Talk to Selection Criteria now in its 6th edition will help applicants prepare convincing applications for all advertised job vacancies that require applicants to respond to selection criteria or person specifications.

There are numerous sources of information on how to respond to selection criteria, including:

For sample selection criteria responses see Careerfaqs

Professional Portfolios 

In our changing world of work where full-time, permanent, secure jobs in schools (and other organisations) are blended with, or being replaced by more temporary forms of employment such as short-term contracts, project work, casual or relief work and outsourcing, a professional portfolio has become an essential tool. Your professional portfolio provides concrete evidence of your current skills, knowledge, achievements, learning and employment experiences to prospective employers, or in the case of self-employed workers or consultants, to prospective clients.

A professional portfolio has two components:

  • A master portfolio, which contains all your portfolio artefacts.
  • A presentation or showcase portfolio. This type of portfolio contains a carefully selected sample of your portfolio artefacts that are targeted towards a particular work opportunity that you are seeking. Your professional portfolio can be in hard copy format, professionally presented in a hard-copy ring binder and/or presented as an eportfolio.

The precise nature of the contents of your portfolio depend to some extent on your experiences and skills and on the type of job you are applying for. There are numerous websites that provide good information on how to prepare a professional portfolio and the nature of the materials to include. Some examples of these websites are listed here.

General

Professional Portfolios – Teaching Staff

Professional Portfolios – Administration Staff

Your Personal Brand 

Job search specialists recommend that in today's competitive job market where it is so easy to simply upload your résumé or CV, it is important to make yourself to stand out from the crowd by defining your personal brand, ensuring for your social media posts are consistent with your personal brand across the social media sites you use, and ensuring that your job application documentation reflect who you are, part of which is your personal brand as well as what you have done and you achievements.

This article on the top 5 career-related social media activities contains a link to great resource with a variety activities and exercises to help you define your personal brand .

Get Professional Help with your Job Application 

There is no shortage of advice on how to prepare your job application and present your personal brand when applying for a new position. Some tips and suggestions may be conflicting, making it difficult for you to decide on the most appropriate approach to your job application. It may be useful to have a third party involved. Two approaches include:

  1. Locate a professional career practitioner on the Career Development Association of Australia website. Career practitioners are listed by state/territory and their entry includes the range of services they provide, making it easy to identify those who specialise in job application support.
  2. Teachers’ Professional Résumés is an Australian business that has been supporting education professionals with their applications for teaching positions and promotions since 1990. This organisation has assisted education professionals in Government, Catholic Education, and Independent schools in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, United States of America and the United Kingdom.