How to Write a Resume
A resume has one purpose – to get you a job interview. Employers and human resources personnel may look through hundreds of applications and may only spend a few seconds reviewing your resume. To get someone to look at it for longer, your resume must quickly convey that you are capable and competent enough to be worth interviewing. There is no single “correct” way to write and present a resume but the following general rules apply.
- It is targeted at a specific job or career area for which you are applying and brings out the relevant skills you have to offer.
- It is carefully and clearly laid out, logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped.
- It is informative but concise.
- It is accurate in content, spelling and grammar.
- Make sure the spelling is correct. Get at least two people to check and read your resume. A quick pass through spell check is not enough.
- Don’t use the word ‘I’.
- Start every sentence with a verb or action word.
- Print to good quality plain white A4 paper only.
- Keep sentences short.
- Use the past tense.
- Do not underline.
- Do not use all upper case lettering.
- Do not use any graphics or images.
- Only use bold and italics sparingly for emphasis and easy navigation, such as on section and sub headings.
What Not To Include
- Don’t include anything negative or critical. Your resume must convey you in a positive light.
- Don’t include poor grades, or unfortunate work experiences.
- Don’t include references unless specifically requested – they can be requested upon interview.
- Don’t include a photograph unless relevant, such as for acting work.
- Do not include information about your health or any disabilities you have.
- Do not include any trade union or political affiliations.
- Don’t give details of your existing salary or expected salary unless requested.
- There is rarely an advantage to including any personal interests or hobbies in your resume unless relevant to the job.
- Don’t re-write your current job description.
- Don’t include reasons for leaving.
- Concentrate mostly on achievements, not just responsibilities. Show what you achieved for the company during your work there.
- Only include recent jobs. What you did 30 years ago will probably not have much relevance today.
- Include any voluntary or work placement activities. The employer will be interested in the quality of experience, whether or not it was paid.
- When listing your previous positions, include details that illustrate exactly how they have given you the skills which will be useful in the position you’re applying for.
- Don’t belittle or undervalue your experience. It is up to you to sell yourself and demonstrate how and why your experiences have given you useful skills.
- If you have little work history, or are currently attending or due to finish school or college, then place the education section above work history.
- Don’t include poor grades.
- Include honours, if awarded, and any professional qualifications you have gained.
- Give more detail to the higher qualifications listed, such as degrees and masters.
- Give full course details and dates.
- If you do not have a degree, then show you successfully completed other educational courses or training such as night school, continuing education, seminars, or workshops.
- Write ‘degree expected [month/year]‘ if you have not yet graduated.
- If you have nothing to detail in an education section, then focus on writing the other sections of your resume, highlighting the skills and experience you have gained.
Chronological or Functional?
We do not recommend a functional-style resume, as most employers now look upon this option as an attempt to hide gaps. Keep to a reverse chronological format (dates in order of most recent first). Do not attempt to hide any gaps, as most of the time there is a perfectly good reason, such as being made redundant or being fired (it happens!), child birth, or illness that can be explained at interview.
There is no need to include attributes such as gender, date of birth, a photograph, whether you have children, weight, height, or marital status. There are exceptions however, for example if you are an actor, but these are few and far between. If you are seeking to work overseas, then include details of the passport(s) and work permits you currently hold.
You must include a profile/objective section. This can act as a summary of what is contained in your resume, but be careful not to make it too long and try to be as succinct as possible.
Make sure you list any other skills that will interest an employer if they are relevant. When listing languages, make sure you include your level, such as fluent, intermediate, or basic, showing whether you read, write, or speak it. For computing skills, make sure you mention the packages you have used, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, and to what level (i.e. basic, intermediate or advanced).