Writing a Résumé

A résumé is a document that you need when you apply for jobs. It summarises your:

  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Qualifications
  • Achievements

Your résumé should be tailored to the job 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 job
  • Aims to get you selected for the next stage of the recruitment process

From an employer’s viewpoint, a résumé is a tool 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.

When you write a résumé for the first time, make a Master résumé. This will have all your:

  • Education and training
  • Qualifications (e.g., White Card, Certificate I in hospitality)
  • Work history
  • Skills
  • Co-curricular and Extra-curricular activities
  • Volunteering
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Leadership roles
  • Other relevant information

Keep adding to your master résumé as you:

  • Do more education or training
  • Get a new job
  • Have a new achievement
  • Do additional volunteering, hobbies or interests

Each time you apply for a job you will need to create a new résumé for that specific job. Extract sections from your Master résumé that align with the keywords for the job you are applying for. Put these sections in the résumé you create for the job you are going for.

The following are general guidelines for writing a résumé for a specific job you are applying for.

  • Know the employer’s or recruiter’s needs. You can find this out by analysing the job advertisement. Look for keywords that show what the employer is looking for.
  • If you are contacting an employer to see if there are any jobs going you can still tailor your résumé. Use a careers website like the Good Careers Guide. Locate the job you are going for and use the list of personal qualities and job tasks to tailor your résumé.

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.

Résumé Length

Your résumé should 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, 2-4 pages is reasonable.

Information to Include in your Résumé

  1. Your Name and Contact Details
    Example
    My Name
    Email: xxxxxxx@mail.com
    M: 0419 666 777

    Should you include your street address in your résumé?

    Street addresses on résumés are no longer relevant. Employers are unlikely to write to job applicants. They are much more likely to contact applicants by phone or email.

    It may not be in your best interests to have your home address available for multiple strangers to access.

  2. Opening Statement

    Your opening statement is a short paragraph (2-4 lines). It is where you summarise what you can bring to the job and employer. It should link to the keywords in the advertisement, or the personal qualities for the job.

    This statement is often referred to as your elevator pitch or value proposition. It is a short statement that you could say to someone in the amount of time it takes to take an elevator ride. The statement explains and refers to the value you can bring to the job.

    The heading for your opening statement may be Profile or Summary. You may wish to start this short paragraph with your objective as in the example below.

    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 well 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. Their order may depend on what you are applying for:

    • If you are applying for a job and you have had previous work experience, you could 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 further training, such as an apprenticeship or traineeship, you could put Education first.
    Education
    Include education institution name, location, dates of course commencement and completion, qualification. List education from the most recent qualification and work backwards.
    Work History
    Use a heading such as Work History, Work Experience or Employment. If relevant use sub-headings for employment, school work experience or volunteer work. Include these details for each role:
    • Position, employer, dates of employment
    • Achievements and contributions, e.g., significant awards received, leadership roles, etc

    Start listing work history from the most recent job and go backwards.

  4. Key Skills
    This is where you highlight the skills and qualities you have that:
    • are related to the position and that
    • you know the employer is looking for in the ideal candidate

    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

    For each heading give examples from your experience to show you have the skills and qualities the employer is looking for.

    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. You may have gained skills and qualities that employers are looking for through hobbies and interests.

  6. Referees
    This 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

    Jody Smith, Dance Teacher, Academy of Dance
    Phone: 0400 111 223

    There are other headings you can include in your résumé. These will depend on the job requirements and your experiences. They will go above the Referees section. These could include headings such as:

    • Qualifications – e.g., White Card, Bronze Medallion, Certificate I in Construction, AMEB Grade 4 Piano
    • Sport
    • Cultural Activities
    • Community Involvement
    • Awards
    • 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 best to use a font size of 11 or 12 and larger for section headings. You need ‘white space’ for margins and between sections of the résumé.

Applicant Tracking Systems

If you apply online for a job there is a good chance your résumé will be read by a robot, called an Applicant Tracking System..

Only if it gets past the robot, will your résumé be read by a human. To get your résumé accepted by the robot:

  • Keep the formatting simple
  • Avoid images and graphics

Résumé Samples and Template

Get help to write your résumé by reviewing résumé samples. Locate examples of résumé samples and templates:

Video résumé

Some recruitment specialists say that employers are showing more interest in video résumés. A video résumé is a way to share your skills, experience, qualifications, work history and personality with an employer. There are some possible downsides to video résumés. One of these is potential unconscious bias on the part of the recruiter or employer. If you are asked to do a video résumé, consider the tips and advice from Job Jumpstart.