How to write a resume
A resume - sometimes called a curriculum vitae or CV - is a summary of your education, training, work experience and skills. A good resume demonstrates how your skills and abilities match up with the requirements of a job.
How Long Should a Resume Be?
A resume isn't an exhaustive list. If it's too long it probably won't get read. The best resumes are usually no longer than one or two pages.
If you've just left high school - whether you finished or not - a one-page resume is perfectly reasonable. If you're at uni, or you've finished uni, you've probably got enough experience to fill two pages.
If you need to go over two pages that's okay, but make sure everything you include is necessary to explain how good a fit you are for the job.
The worst thing to do is to pad out your resume. There's nothing wrong with a one-page resume, as long as it has all of the relevant information on it. More is not necessarily better.
Do I Need to Change My Resume Every Time?
You need to change your resume for every job application so that it lists the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. Not every job will have the same set of requirements, but every resume you send out needs to be 100% relevant to the requirements of that job.
The point of a resume is to convince a recruiter or employer you're worth interviewing. A tailored resume makes that case better than a generic one, so it's worth the extra time.
How to Tailor Your Resume
First, find out what the job requires. If you found out about the job from a job listing, the key requirements or skills should be in the ad. There may also be a position description, which is a document that outlines exactly what kind of skills and experience a job requires. If you found out about the job from your networks, ask the person who told you about it what skills and experience the employer is looking for.
If you feel like you need more information you can always contact the recruiter or employer and ask them. There should be a phone number or email address either on their website or the job listing.
Questions you could ask include:
- What can you tell me about the job?
- What can you tell me about the ideal candidate for the job?
- Is there a position description that I can look at? (only ask this if the job ad didn't mention a position description)
- Are you expecting any internal applicants? (If they are, you could ask them if they think the internal applicant(s) are well suited to the role)
Be polite and introduce yourself when you make contact. Showing you have the initiative and ability to research the job can make a good impression.
Next, make a list of the job requirements and think about jobs that you've done or experiences you've had that required those skills. These are the experiences you need to put on your resume. Anything that doesn't match up to those job requirements should not be included.
It's important to do this every time you apply for a job. For some jobs you might only need to tweak your resume slightly. Other jobs might need a complete rewrite. Either way, it's worth the effort and can improve your chances of getting an interview.
Ways You Can Meet a Job's Requirements
Things like your academic record and work experience can show how suited you are to a particular job, but these aren't the only things you can include. Other things that can demonstrate your abilities, include:
- Volunteering or extracurricular activities (including sports or hobbies)
- Any extra training or courses that you've done (including on-the-job training)
- Any awards or recognition you've received
If you include this sort of thing, make sure it's specifically related to the job. There's no point mentioning that you coach your sister's soccer team if you're going for a job at a cafe.
What You Should Definitely Include on Your Resume
Here's a brief rundown on the essential things to include on your resume.
Put your full name and contact details on your resume, including your address, telephone number(s) and email address.
Make sure you use a professional-sounding email address. Email addresses like email@example.com don't create a great impression. If you haven't got a professional-sounding email, get one. Make it as close to your real name as possible - something like firstname.lastname@example.org is ideal.
The best place to put personal details is in the header of your resume. That way it will appear on every page. This will also leave room for (and focus attention on) the most important stuff: proof you have the skills and experience for the job.
Education and Training
This is a summary of your education and training history, starting with your most recent studies. Make sure that you include all training that's relevant to the job you're applying for, including any on-the-job training you've done.
If you haven't done much study or training, just put down what you have done. Don't pad things out with things like First Aid or Responsible Service of Alcohol, unless they're relevant to the job you're applying for. More is not always better.
Generally speaking it's best to start with your most recent job and work backwards, listing:
- The name of the employer
- Your job title
- The dates you worked there
- Your duties and responsibilities
- Any major achievements while you worked there
Make sure that each job that you list demonstrates how well you are suited for the job you're applying for. Emphasise the skills that are asked for by the recruiter or employer.
If you've done a lot of different kinds of jobs, you could list your work experience in a way that links those jobs to the job you're applying for. You could list the jobs in related fields first, under "Relevant Work Experience" and then briefly list the other jobs under "Other Work Experience".
You can also include any work experience or volunteer work that you've done. Only include volunteering and work experience that's relevant, though. No sense mentioning that you volunteer at the RSPCA shelter if you're going for a job in IT!
Remember - a short resume is a good resume. More is not always better.
Make sure your resume has page numbers on it, even if it's just one page. Page numbers on a one-page resume make sure the recruiter or employer knows they're looking at the whole thing. Page numbers on a two-page (or three-page) resume ensure that if a page is missing, they go looking for it so they don't miss out on any information about you.
What You Should Maybe Include on Your Resume
Here's a few things that you should consider including on your resume - but only if they show you're a good fit for the job.
A professional profile directly links the job's requirements to your skills. It's kind of like a mini-cover letter, designed to grab a recruiter or employer's attention and encourage them to read on. Some recruiters may jump straight to resumes without reading cover letters, especially when there are a lot of applications to read. A professional profile can help to grab their attention right at the start.
You can create a professional profile by asking the following questions:
- What skills and abilities can I bring to this employer?
- What excites me about this role?
- How can I show that there is a link between the skills listed on my resume and this job?
If you include a professional profile, make sure it's only a few short bullet points and make sure that it stays relevant to the requirements of the job.
This is a list of your activities outside of work and study. A list of relevant interests can show how well you're suited to the job. You might include clubs you're a member of or sports you play.
If you include interests, make sure they're relevant to the job you are applying for. No sense mentioning the astronomy club in an application for an electrician apprenticeship.
What You Should NOT Include on Your Resume
Here are a few things that you don't have to include on your resume, although there are some circumstances when including some of the following information might be a good idea.
Other Personal Information
Discrimination in employment is a real concern. You're not obliged to provide any personal information on your resume over and above your name and contact details. This means that you don't have to provide:
- Your date of birth
- Your marital status
- Your gender
- Any languages you speak
- Any disabilities that you have
- Any other personal information
A possible exception to this when providing this information would be an advantage. For example, if the employer is looking for someone young, or a female applicant, or an applicant who comes from a particular background. In this situation consider including such information if you think it would strengthen your application.
Career objective statements are a general statement about your career goals. They don't really help to prove you're a good choice for the job. They risk distracting from the important information on your resume. Consider adding a professional profile instead (see above).
Referees (or Written References)
It is no longer standard practise to provide referees or written references as part of a job application. You should still find some people to be your referee, but you don't need to include their details on your resume. Instead, simply end your resume with a brief statement along the lines of "References can be supplied upon request."
To learn more about finding someone to be your referee, check out our Who Can Be My Referee? page.
Typos or Factual Errors
Submitting a resume or cover letter with spelling mistakes will guarantee you don't get an interview. Make sure that you spellcheck your resume before you send it, but get someone else to read it as well and check for mistakes you might have missed.
Double-check everything that you include in your resume. If you mention the company's name, make sure you get it right. If you mention the name of places you've worked before, make sure you get that right. Mistakes on resumes are worse than typos.
You should also consider getting your resume looked at by someone professional. Check out "Get Someone to Look at It Before You Send It", below.
Lots of Fonts
Making your resume "fancier" by choosing lots of cool fonts is a bad idea. Recruiters and employers want to read your resume, not admire its design and layout. Pick a single, simple font (e.g., Times, Arial, Helvetica) and stick to it.
Showing a recruiter or employer what you look like doesn't help them decide if you're right for the job. There are exceptions, like modelling or acting jobs, but in general, unless your picture has been specifically requested, don't include it.
Get Someone to Look at It Before You Send It
Most high schools have careers teachers and most unis and TAFEs have career counselling services. If you're a student, get in touch with them and ask them to look at your resume before you send it. They might not be able to look at it straight away, so don't contact them the day before the application is due - allow some time for them to actually read through it.
If you're not a student, Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) or your local Learn Local organisation may be able to help out with resume assessment. If they can't, they will be able to recommend someone who can help. You can call the Victorian Skills Gateway on 131 823 to find an RTO or Learn Local organisation near you.
After you've written your resume, and before sending it, go through this checklist:
- Detail - Make sure you've provided specific examples of your achievements and how you've used the skills you have
- Tailoring - Make sure everything you've included shows how well-suited you are for the specific job you're applying for
- Presentation - Make sure the resume is simple and well laid out, printed on clean, white paper in a standard font (e.g., Times, Arial or Verdana) at a standard size (10 or 12 point)
- Proofreading - Make sure there aren't any spelling mistakes, typos or grammatical errors
- Get Some Advice - Ask a friend or get a professional to look over your resume before you send it
For examples of ways to put together a resume, check out our Sample Resumes and Cover Letters Page for some templates that you can download use to create your own resume.