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Writing a good résumé
If you’re looking for a new job then treat your résumé, or CV, as your own personal calling card.
Your résumé announces you to a prospective employer so it's a key document that's worth spending time over. It should outline your work experience, key skills and competencies, as well as your value to their organisation. It should also address the essential criteria listed in any position description. Lastly and most importantly, it should be accompanied by a personalised cover letter.
How long should a résumé or CV be?
You want the Hiring Manager to read your résumé so keep it brief, concise and relevant. Your résumé must show why you should seriously be considered for the role.
Standard length for résumés is 2-3 pages. Give due consideration to the layout – it must be easy to read.
Do I need to change my résumé every time I apply for a job?
Your résumé should address the position requirements specified in the job ad and/or position description. Both usually outline the reason for the hire, the nature of the opportunity and the key skills required.
A tailored résumé written just for the role will have much more impact than a generic one. If you value the opportunity then make the time to customise the presentation of your skills, experience and motivations. The result will best demonstrate what makes you a suitable candidate for this particular job.
What if I don't have much experience?
If you believe that your direct experience might fall short of what is required, instead show the value of your experience. List your responsibilities and achievements, the relevance of your training and qualifications, your specific experience (e.g. volunteering or project achievements), as well as your personal traits and strengths.
Always balance this with the need to be concise, accurate and well presented.
How do I organise my résumé's information? What do I include on my résumé?
The structure of your résumé will vary depending on your work experience, education and training background. The Hiring Manager’s initial view of your résumé is your opportunity to sell your key points. Ensure that your career objective, education and your most recent employment history are all on the first page.
Here's a brief rundown on the essential things to include on your résumé:
The cover letter is your chance to introduce the person you are, and to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Your cover letter should convey your motivation for developing a career within the Disability, Aged or Community Care sector, and convince the potential employer that you have the right integrity, attitude and character to be a success in this role.
The obvious applies here - full name and contact details including address, telephone number(s) and email address.
Career objective / Personal statement (optional)
A career objective shows commitment to follow a particular path. It also shows that you have given consideration as to how and to where you would like to see your career develop. Training or further education options could be mentioned in support of your desire to advance in your chosen field. Write this with the position description in mind.
Education and training
List your educational qualifications and any further training in order, starting with the most recent studies. A brief summary (2 lines) can explain the value and relevance of each course completed. If you have undertaken many courses over an extended period then include only those that are most relevant to the particular role. This allows the important courses to stand out and sell you as a candidate.
List your work history chronologically, starting with the most recent role. Include each employer's name, your job title, the dates you worked there, and your responsibilities, tasks and achievements. Be concise and to the point, and give less priority to older roles. What you write should be relevant to what the position description is asking for. This will help you to tick the boxes with the recruiter.
Skills and abilities
Keep these relevant to the role for which you are applying. For entry level and frontline roles, having a current First Aid Certificate, driver’s licence (perhaps with car and full comprehensive insurance) and general office skills are a good start. Experience in teamwork, reporting skills and clear communication abilities will be looked on favourably.
Your interests and hobbies can complete a well-rounded picture of yourself and show extra-curricular activities that might be valuable at a later date. For example you may have volunteering commitments or participate in team based environments, whether sporting or social.
Choose people who can vouch for your workplace ethic and your contribution. List their name, position title, organisation and contact details. Make sure they know that they will be contacted to provide a reference and alert them to the particular role you have applied for. Alternately, you may prefer to 'provide referees upon request' at a later stage when an employer shows interest in you.
What makes a bad résumé?
- Acronyms, abbreviations and jargon
- Exaggerated experience or false claims
- Irrelevant information
- Confusion between job responsibilities and achievements
- Unexplained gaps in employment history
- Outdated information
Remember that a résumé reflects your own particular style and lists what you want to prioritise when presenting your personality, skills and experience to a Hiring Manager. After you've written your résumé, and before sending it, do these two simple checks:
- Proof read your résumé
- Run a grammar and spell check!
Make a note of the roles that you have applied for and follow up directly with the organisation to confirm receipt. That will also give you an opportunity to detail your availability for an interview.
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