For many job seekers, one of the most daunting aspects of looking for a new job is working out how to write a resume that will catch the eye of a prospective employer, and ultimately help them to stand out from the crowd. A well written, eye-catching resume can mean the difference between landing your dream job, or having to settle for something second best.
Remember, usually your resume is the first impression a potential employer will have of you. Top resumes which attract the most attention (and ultimately land you the most interviews) are those that outline your achievements and value to the company in a short, sharp and proactive way.
Take into consideration the fact that often hiring managers are swamped by hundreds of resumes for any one job, and they may only have a couple of minutes to scan each one. This is why it is so imperative that the information you list on your resume is concise, easy to read, and follows a reverse-chronological order i.e. listing your most recent job history and education first.
In particular, employers will be looking for the below key information about you:
- Contact details.
- Career strengths.
- Employment history.
- Education & training.
Our step-by-step guide to writing a resume
The golden rule is to make it as easy as possible for your prospective employer to find the key information about you that will lead to them picking up the phone and setting an interview date.
You can use the step-by-step guide below to show you how to write a resume that is packed with facts employers want to know:
Your contact details
Your name, address, phone number and email address should be displayed prominently at the top of your resume. It is best practice to use your full name (not a nickname), and if you have also spent time cultivating your personal brand on social networks, it is here that you can provide links to your social profiles (eg. LinkedIn).
This is a chance for you to detail in one or two short, concise sentences what your career aspirations are and how they relate to your current qualifications. Explain why you are looking for work (example: you want a new challenge, you want to upskill etc), exactly what you are looking for in your next job (list the actual job titles) and why it is that you are qualified to apply for these roles. A common mistake jobseekers make is that they forget to include 'what's in it' for the hiring manager - this is your chance to sell yourself, and outline what it is that is unique about you, and the benefits your potential employer will reap if they hire you.
For example: Having worked within the (sector) industry for (x) amount of years, I have extensive experience working as (job title). I am currently seeking a new challenge and exciting work environment where I can utilise my skills (list your skills here), and knowledge (in the areas of x, y z) to drive (x,y,z business objectives).
This should be a dot-point section (up to 10 points), which outline your key skills and abilities, and can be made up of both tangible and intangible assets. For example for tangible skills think about any computer applications, or software packages you may have experience in - powerpoint/keynote skills, experience using excel spreadsheets etc. For your intangible skills, think more about the abilities you have such as 'quick learner', 'personable', 'reliable' etc.
- I have an advanced skillset in all areas of computer skills including Excel, Word and Powerpoint.
- I have excellent communication skills and have experience in both face-to-face and phone based customer service.
This area is usually the most compelling to prospective employers and should include a list of all your recent and past employment history, including paid and unpaid work. Use strong, clear wording and always be prepared to back up what is written on the resume in your interview. A good format to follow is:
- Job Title.
- Name of Employer (and the address or suburb of where it was located).
- Dates of employment.
- List of key responsibilities and achievements (NB: put yourself in the mind of your potential employer - what type of keywords and key responsibilities would they be looking for as they scan each resume? Make sure you not only list your day to day duties in your current/past roles, but also how the business you worked for benefited from the work you did. For example, if you were an IT software developer, and one of your key tasks was to develop a mobile app for the business you would list 'development of mobile application which increased sales revenue by x amount' etc).
- Any awards/recognition you may have received during your time at this company.
Education & Training
Don't underestimate the value of outlining your education and qualifications - particularly for those who have limited job experience. Your education and training section can cover anything from university degrees, TAFE diplomas and certificate courses, industry-specific courses, in-house courses, and any other professional training you may have undertaken during your career.
List your highest qualification first (eg. BA in communications), and then below this, list your other qualifications in order of the relevance they have to the job you are applying for. For instance, even though your latest qualification might be a Forklifting certificate, if you are going for a job in marketing, you should list all relevant courses to that instead.
A good format to follow is:
- Name of degree/diploma/certificate etc.
- Name of education institution.
- Location of education institution.
- Graduation date .
- Any course credits or key achievements pertaining to this course (eg. Finished in top 5% of class with high distinctions).
Do you belong to any industry associations or hold memberships which pertain to the role you are applying to? If so, you can list these here. As an example, if you are an accountant, and a member of the chartered accountants association. A good format to follow is:
- Name of association.
- Your role/title within the organisation.
- Years/months active within the organisation.
- Any honors received.
Hobbies and interests (optional)
Many hiring managers now look not just at your skills and experience, but also at how you would fare in terms of cultural fit within their organisation. For this reason, it is sometimes worth including a short list of your hobbies and interests to give them a sense of who you are and what you enjoy doing outside of work hours. You never know - perhaps the hiring manager is an avid fan of salsa dancing, and the fact that you listed this as one of your hobbies and when paired with your other skills and experience, perhaps this is something a potential employer sees as a valuable attribute to have. Whatever your hobbies, if you do indeed decide to include this section, be careful in terms of what you want to divulge - there is always a chance that this section could work against you if the reader dislikes or is threatened by the activities you list.
References & referees are usually listed at the end of your resume. This can be a list of around 2 to 3 people who you have worked with in the past or present - usually your managers, or ex-colleagues. Always ask for permission before listing someone as a reference. A good format to follow is:
- Full name of referee.
- Job Title of referee.
- Company name of referee.
- Location of company.
- Phone number & Email address of referee.
Procuring good references (both written and verbal) are an important aspect of your job search - the people you list will be called and asked to provide some information on your relationship to them, and give an indication of how you performed in your role when they knew you. Usually contact details for referee's are not required until the very latter interview stages - so you have the choice of providing their reference details on your resume or simply including a line in this section saying 'References available upon request'. Either way, it is customary for prospective employers or recruitment agents to ask your permission first before proceeding to contact the people you list here.
Some hints & tips on how to write a winning resume
our resume should be thought of as your own personal shop-window, proudly displaying to prospective employers your skills and experience, as well as highlighting your key career achievements to date. It is your number one personal marketing tool, and its purpose is to engage with your potential employer with the primary objective of being offered the chance to interview for the role you are after.
One of the most difficult things about writing a resume is figuring out what makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd and why you would be a good fit for the job. If you can’t even answer these questions yourself, you’re going to have a difficult time convincing a prospective employer that you are the one they should hire. So, before you start writing your resume, sit down and make a list of your skills, strengths, interests and experience. Figure out how to define your own personal brand.