How to Write a Resume: Your Step-By-Step Guide
Posted April 24, 2018, by Jenny Sakr
When on an almighty job hunt your most powerful tool is your resume. While you may think that times have evolved and the way to go is social media, the colossal CV will always reign supreme.
A survey of 200 top-tier HR representatives revealed that despite the growing popularity of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, the majority of employers still consider them a secondary means for assessing candidates’ suitability.
So how do you ensure that this important tool is the sharpest in the shed? Follow our tips and expert insights on the importance of a resume, and how to write one that’ll leave a lasting impression.
What is a resume?
Your resume is like a personal sales document that highlights the skills and achievements that are most relevant* to the job you are applying for. In your resume, you should include a summary of your education, employment history, credentials, your skills and capabilities, and other accomplishments.
*If you’ve been working for over 10 years and have a lot to feature on your resume, then be sure to include only the information and work experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Eg: If you’re going for a role as an operations manager then there’s no need to include a casual job you had 12 years ago at a fast-food chain. This will only waste valuable resume space and the employer’s time.
TIP: Before you start to compile all the information you need, ensure you have all the correct dates and details of your employment history and studies.
What's On a Resume?
Be sure to have your name and contact details clearly displayed at the top of the page. These details should include your full name, email address, best contact number, city and state.
Career Profile/Career Objective
Career Profile or a Career Objective section sits at the top of your resume and is a short summary identifying your key areas of expertise, your capabilities and mention where you wish to take your career. This should not exceed two sentences.
Eg: Competent marketing professional with over four years experience and a track-record of successfully engaging audiences through online and social media marketing strategies. I possess a Masters in Digital Marketing and am seeking to leverage my skills and knowledge to move into a leadership role.
This is generally a simple and straight-forward component to any resume. List your highest level of education at the top and work back from there.
Include the year you graduated, your qualification and your education provider. Eg:
2017 Masters of Public Health
2015 Bachelor of Applied Public Health
Torrens University Australia
If you are currently studying then replace the graduating year with ‘Current’.
Arguably one of the most important parts of any resume and where your potential employer will be keeping an eye out for our your experience teams up with the vacant role and job ad they posted.
Your employment background should clearly and succinctly inform the reader of where you have worked, your role title, how long you worked there* and a bulleted list of your responsibilities, tasks** and accomplishments.
*You don’t need to recall exact dates, month and year are fine. Eg: May 2016 – February 2018, or if you are still working with an employer then May 2016 – current.
**If you want to convey a sense that you’re a dynamic, proactive worker who approaches tasks with gusto, be sure to use strong action verbs to describe your previous tasks.
This section should be listed in reverse chronological order, and can include relevant work experience, internships and volunteer work. Otherwise, you may choose to include these under a separate sub-heading.
Awards & Achievements
We’re all for a little modesty but who doesn’t love a good opportunity to shout their successes from the rooftops! Show your potential new employer what a catch you are by listing any awards or stand out career achievements. This can be anything from being recognised as an employee of the month to receiving a national award from the Prime Minister.
Be sure to include the year it was presented a short explanation as to what the award means to help give some context. Also, if it’s not obvious, be sure to mention the organisation that presented the award.
If you cannot think of any relevant inclusions then don’t be afraid to leave this part off – it’s all about quality, not quantity.
We’re sure your list of skills and talents is endless, but let’s try and keep your resume skills list relevant to the job, and as closely matched to the job ad as possible.
The most vital thing to note here is that you should not be listing skills that you do not have!
Keep an eye out for keywords mentioned in the job listing and be sure to prioritise these on your resume. Eg: If a job lists that you must be proficient in the Microsoft suite then you would want to state that you’re “Experienced in Microsoft Office programmes including Word, Excel and OneNote.”
You should have a nice mix of technical capabilities (hard skills) and interpersonal skills (soft skills). So for every hard skill you include, such as “an expert in MYOB programme”, you may want to include a soft skill, like “great leadership and teambuilding skills”. A good set of hard skills and soft skill are necessary to the success of any applicant.
Interests & Hobbies
This part sits at the bottom of the resume and allows your employer to know a little bit more about who you are on a more personal level, it is optional and not necessary, but if your resume is looking a little brief then this may be a nice touch.
List three of four dot points of how you like to spend your spare time, your favourite holiday destination, a favourite book or even a cool fun fact about yourself.
Think about the impression you want to make i.e. saying you like spending your weekends partying probably isn’t something you want to include. Also, avoid sensitive areas like religious beliefs and political views, and information about your marital status or age – it’s simply not necessary.
It is not a necessity to always include your reference’s names and details on the resume as these are generally requested during the interview process.
It is always good to include a note in this section stating, “References are available upon request.” However, if you do opt to include two or three references* then you simply need to include their name, relationship to you and contact number.
Eg: Nina Scotts, Manager at We Lend Finance
0411 123 456
*It’s important to let your reference know you have put them down, so they can be prepared if/when the call comes in.
The choice for a referee is someone who has been your manager or supervisor in a former or current role. Other people you can consider asking may include a teacher from school, TAFE or Uni; someone you’ve volunteered for; a coach for a sporting team you’re part of; or perhaps a customer or client you regularly deal with.
The references section should sit last on your resume.
Presenting Your Resume
Format & Style
Whatever content you choose to include, you should always present it in an attractive, streamlined and clear way. The layout and style of your resume is one of the most important factors to its success. Your aim should be to present something that’s neat, succinct and eye-catching. There's no point listing your fantastic achievements and top-notch skills, only to have the overall look and feel of the document ruin the impression.
Why not take a look at our premium resume templates to ensure your application stands out in all the right ways.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about resume length, but two to three pages is generally considered ideal.
Still studying and struggling to fill in space? Check out our top tips for beefing up your resume.
When in doubt leave it out! The most important thing is to ensure your resume is relevant to the role you’re going for, don’t add things that aren’t true or just to fill in the gaps.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s important to remember not to waffle on and lose the interest of your recruiter/employer. No matter how impressive your credentials and achievements, no one is going to read through 10 pages of them.
Spelling & Grammar
You want to give the impression that your attention to detail is impeccable, therefore your spelling and grammar need to be on point! A study found that “even one error reduces the chance of the candidate being shortlisted by between 30 and 45 percent. It is, therefore, essential that all spelling and grammar are correct.” To avoid any hiccups, try running your completed copy through grammar and spelling checkers like Grammarly or SpellCheckPlus.
We’ve been offering job seekers and professionals career advice for over 10 years. We know what employers are looking for, so trust us to help give your resume the performance of a lifetime! So, now that you’ve got your CV down-pat be sure to check out our top tips on how to write a killer cover letter.
Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.