Writing a Résumé

A résumé is a document that details your experience, skills, qualifications, education, skills and achievements related to a work opportunity that you are applying for.

Your résumé summarises:

  • Who you are.
  • What you’ve done.
  • How well you meet the requirements of the job or work opportunity you are applying for.

From your point of view, a résumé is a self-marketing tool that:


  • Highlights your experiences, skills, and achievements in relation to a specific position, or potential work opportunity.
  • Aims to get you selected for the next stage of the recruitment process.

From a recruiter’s or employer’s viewpoint, a résumé is a screening tool used to shortlist job applicants for the next stage of the recruitment process.

This means that your résumé must impress, otherwise it may not go any further in the recruitment process.

Writing a good résumé

There are many opinions about what makes a good résumé and sometimes you may find conflicting views. The following are general guidelines that are common to most credible sources of information on how to prepare a quality résumé. Some of the guidelines have been based on research into what recruiters look for in Australian résumés.

Know the needs of the employer or recruiter. You can find this out by:

  • Analysing the job advertisement to find out what the employer is looking for in the ideal candidate. Highlight the keywords that indicate what the employer is looking for in the advertisement.
  • If you are making a direct approach to an employer when you don’t know if there is a vacancy, you can find a description of the type of job you are looking for on a careers website such as Job outlook or the Good Careers Guide

Use the information you have located about what the employer or recruiter is looking for to:

  • Match your experience, skills and achievements to the employer’s needs.
  • Show that you are a good fit for the job.

This means that you need to tailor your résumé to the job that you are applying for.

Résumé Length

Your résumé is a summary so it should include relevant information and be as brief as it can be, while also having enough white space to make it appealing to the eye. Depending on your age and experiences, no more than 2-4 pages is a reasonable estimate.

Information to Include in your Résumé

  1. Your Name and Contact Details
    Example
    My Name
    Email: xxxxxxx@mail.com
    Address: 54 Wandering Lane, Mysuburb, Mycity, Mystate, 0045
    M: 0419 666 777
  2. Opening Statement

    Your opening statement is a short paragraph (2-4 lines) where you summarise what makes you unique in terms of what you can bring to the position and employer. This statement is often referred to as your value proposition and refers to the value you can bring to the role. The résumé heading for your opening statement may be something like Profile or Summary, or you may wish to start this short paragraph with your objective and then proceed with your value proposition.

    Example

    Seeking casual farm labouring work over the Summer holidays
    Previous casual work in school holidays picking fruit, fencing, drenching sheep and doing general farm hand work. Ability to follow all safety procedures, communicate effectively with supervisors and other workers and to work as a member of a team. Teamwork skills gained through playing Club and school Soccer.
  3. Experience – Education and Work History

    Work history and Education are two important résumé sections, however, their order may depend on what you are applying for:

    • If you are applying for a job and you have had previous work experience, put Work History first. Work history can include paid employment, volunteer work or school work experience.
    • If you are applying for a job that involves training, such as an apprenticeship or traineeship, you may wish to consider putting Education before Work Experience.
    Work History
    Use a heading such as Work History or Work Experience and if relevant sub-headings to distinguish between paid employment, school work experience or volunteer work. Include these details for each role:
    • Education or training institution, location, years attended.
    • Qualification.
    • Subjects.
    • Achievements and contributions, e.g., significant awards received, leadership roles, etc.
  4. Key Skills and Attributes
    This is where you can highlight the skills and attributes that you have that are directly related to the position and that you know the employer is looking for in the ideal candidate. You can find out what the employer is looking for by identifying keywords in the job advertisement or by looking up the personal requirements for the occupation you are applying for by doing a search for the occupation on a career information website such as Job outlook or the Good Careers Guide

    Once you have worked out what skills and attributes the employer is looking for, you need to include these with examples from your experience in your résumé.

    Example
    Advertisement for a Carpentry Apprenticeship

    We are looking to put on a Carpentry Apprentice. The successful candidate will demonstrate:

    • Strong desire to work in the Building and Construction Industry
    • High achievement in Maths and English
    • The ability to work effectively as part of a team.

    Possible Headings:

    Enthusiasm for the Building and Construction Industry
    Academic Skills
    Teamwork Skills

    Beside or beneath each heading you can give examples from your experience to show that you have the required skills and attributes

    Example

    Enthusiasm for the Building and Construction Industry

    • Completed two weeks school work experience in Carpentry
    • Studied woodwork since Year 7
  5. Interests
    It can be helpful for young people to include interests on their résumé. Many skills and attributes that employers are looking for may be gained through hobbies and interests. Similarly, people who are making a career change may wish to draw on skills gained through hobbies and interests to demonstrate their suitability for their new career direction.
  6. Referees is always the last section. Referees are the names and contact details of people you have asked to support your application for a specific position.

    Example

    Brad Johnston, Owner/Manager, BJ Building
    Mobile: 0451 444 678

    Jason Smith, Soccer Coach, Hilltop Football Club
    Phone: 0400 111 223

    Depending on the job requirements and your experiences, there may be other relevant headings and content can be included above the Referees heading. These could include headings such as:

    • Sport
    • Cultural Activities
    • Community Involvement
    • Awards
    • Qualifications
    • Computer Skills
    • Leadership
    • Languages
  7. Be sure to include achievements in your résumé. Australian research has shown that employers are more likely to shortlist résumés that have achievement statements. Many young people don’t realise that they have achievements. Here are some examples:
    • Selected for the top Maths class for 20XX.
    • Improved academic results over 20XX.
    • Selected to represent my school in the All Schools Knockout Athletics, December 20YY.
    • Received positive feedback from Supervisors about customer service standards.

Tailoring Your Résumé

The main sections where you will need to change your résumé are:

  • Opening statement
  • Key skills and attributes
  • Reordering résumé sections to ensure the most relevant information is listed first.

For good information on how to tailor your résumé to the position that you are applying for, see the article on the Job Jumpstart website and download the checklist on writing a tailored résumé.

Presenting Your Résumé

Your résumé should be word processed. It should have a professional appearance, with a consistent font throughout. For ease of reading it is probably best to use a font size of 11 or 12 and larger for section headings. You need with plenty of ‘white space’ for margins and between sections of the résumé.

Applicant Tracking Systems

If you think your résumé may be read by an applicant tracking system, keep the formatting it simple and avoid images and graphics. More information on how applicant tracking systems work and for techniques on how to get the system to rank your résumé ranked highly, read this article Applicant Tracking Systems.

Your résumé should be word processed. It should have a professional appearance, with plenty of ‘white space’ for margins and between sections of the résumé.

Résumé Samples and Template

Get help to write your résumé by reviewing résumé samples and information from other websites.

If you need to write a résumé quickly, you may wish to start by using: