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Updating or writing a resume isn’t something anyone looks forward to! It can be time-consuming, difficult and stressful – not to mention all the differing advice, preferences and industry nuances.

As a recruiter with an internal HR background, I have seen a lot of resumes, so I know what works and what doesn’t. Here are my top 10 tips for a resume that showcases you and highlights your suitability for that next opportunity. (It is comprehensive. Can you tell I am a detail-focused person?)

1. Focus on your first page

It’s important to have all the critical information on the first page of your resume and ensure that you tick all the requested skills/experience listed in the job advertisement. Your resume’s job is to get you a ticket to the dance (or interview), where you can provide more detail and information on why you’re perfect for the job and the organisation. To this end, your first-page profile needs to be short, sharp, punchy and tailored to the role.

Below is a summary of the information that needs to fit on page one. Page two will provide a more detailed overview of your experience, responsibilities and achievements.

Do include:

  • Personal details: Name, mobile number, email and LinkedIn profile; information about your VISA status, if necessary.
  • Location: Some say to include this, others don’t. If you choose to include it, there’s no need for your full address – just the suburb.
  • Qualifications: Include all relevant education, training courses and certificates, with most recent first. Be careful of listing too many and detailing internal training that may not be considered appropriate.
  • Key competencies: Mirror the points and language in the job advert or position description. It can help to do a quick search on SEEK of the role type you are hoping to secure to get a feel for the skills and language employers in the market are looking for.
  • Employment summary: This is a table listing the date, role and company of your positions to give a snapshot of your career. Put the most recent roles first, and if adding a column giving a summary, keep it ultra-brief!

Don’t include:

  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Marital status
  • Photo

2. Keep things short and sweet

One of the trickiest things about writing a resume is understanding how long it should be. Depending on the role and industry, anywhere between two and six pages can work. It should certainly be no longer than that – 20+ pages is a big no-no! People don’t want to (nor have time to) read a novel.

3. Check spelling, grammar and language

Your resume’s grammar, spelling and language use need to be checked – multiple times.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Don’t rely on Microsoft Word for spellcheck and grammar. It’s not perfect, so check carefully yourself. Also remember to set Word’s language setting to English (Australia) to avoid American spelling creeping in.
  • Be careful with tense. For past roles, use the past tense (e.g. managed), and for your current role, use the present tense (e.g. managing).
  • Watch capital letter usage. Capitals are needed for role titles, but not across a whole bullet point.
  • Check your plurals. No unnecessary apostrophe’s!
  • No acronyms or jargon. Remove all acronyms, specific terminology or jargon used in your previous/current places of work.
  • Stick with one perspective. You can write your resume in first person or third person, or remove all pronouns. Whichever you choose, keep it consistent throughout – chopping and changing often occurs between the Profile and Professional Experience sections. Removing all he/she/I pronouns can make your resume more concise, helping you get straight to the point.

Bonus tip: It can be useful to read your resume aloud like a speech, and also to get two others to read it over – one who understands your job and another who doesn’t. This will ensure your resume makes sense to people both inside and outside the industry, company or technical specialisation.

4. Format appropriately

Formatting can be tricky. Ultimately you want your resume to be clear, easy to read and pleasing to look at. Don’t forget that it’s a reflection of your capabilities – particularly if the role requires excellent written communication skills!

Here are some formatting tips:

  • Use the same font type and size across the whole document (excluding your name – this can be bigger). The most appropriate size depends on the font chosen, but I generally recommend size 10 or 11.
  • Bullet points are meant to be brief, so check that they are.
  • Bold headings can help segment the document and draw attention to specific sections.
  • Make sure there is some white space, but no large areas (e.g. a third of the page).
  • Start new paragraphs, jobs or sections on new pages.
  • Ideally, when you have your formatting perfect, save the document as a PDF so its appearance will remain as you intended. However, do check whether the job advert requires a specific format.
  • Don’t get mixed up with different versions of your resume. You certainly don’t want to be applying for Company X with a resume that still says Company Z in the profile section. If needed, use a standard file format that makes sense to all, such as Resume_Your Full Name_Date_Company_Job Title.

5. Talk tech

These days, technology is an important part of most jobs. Include a section in your resume that details any relevant programs/platforms/software systems you have experience with. But don’t be tempted to say you’re an expert in a certain program if you only know the absolute basics! (More on being honest in your resume below.)

6. Double-check your dates

Make sure all the dates listed for past employment and education are correct. It’s quite common for years to be incorrect, which requires clarifying and doesn’t make the greatest first impression. Also be sure to explain any gaps in employment.

7. Avoid repetition

Try not to repeat yourself. If someone takes the time to read your whole resume word for word, you want to take advantage of that by telling them something they don’t already know.

8. Tailor role descriptions and achievements

Your responsibilities and achievements for each role should be tailored to suit the position you are applying for. It’s great to use the STAR method for your achievements. Do include results, e.g. ‘Turnover was reduced by 15%’, but try to be succinct to allow for discussion at the interview.

For recent graduates, I would also recommend using this space to include a summary of projects you completed at university.

9. Make references available on request

Don’t include your referees’ details on your resume – you want to control who is contacted and when. Instead, include something along the lines of ‘Excellent references available on request’, and make sure you have these details handy to provide when requested.

10. Be honest

Honesty is important. Your resume should directly reflect you, your experience, what you have achieved and the type of role you are seeking. If this is not the case, it will make for an awkward job interview!

Ready for a new role? Update your resume, send it to us and let GWG help you find your next opportunity!

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