How to Write a Resume

Combined with your cover letter, correct resume writing markets your true potential to prospective employers. It should showcase your abilities and relevant credentials in a manner applicable to your situation, and appealing to the hiring manager. Not writing your resume correctly could mean missing out on interviews.

Irrespective of one’s profession or the type of roles you seek, there are some key resume writing elements which remain the same. Therefore, give the following sections some consideration:



Provide your contact details, interests and memberships of any professional affiliations.


A profile is a short statement describing your experience, in addition to your career goals and aspirations, and should be tailored for each position applied for. Just as a business markets their products and services in a professional, confident manner, you too need to market your key strengths and abilities in a professional, confident manner. At a glance it informs the hiring manager of your expertise and what they can expect from you.

Key Attributes or Strengths:

You’ve most probably noticed that most advertisements ask for certain attributes. This may be fantastic communication skills, great analytical abilities, or strong strategic skills. This area should demonstrate your core strengths, whether they are personal attributes or your skill base, in-line with the requirements advertised. Don’t underestimate the power of your key attributes in matching your skills to that of the employer. (In an honest way of course!)


Qualifications shouldn’t be confused with training courses or other educational matter. Essentially, this section is utilised for required qualifications (eg: a degree) for a vacant position; or something which is a pre-requisite for the role(s) you will be seeking.

Employment History:

Should your resume writing be functional or chronological? Many participants in a recent Employer Survey said a big NO! to functional resumes, and prefer to see a chronological resume, clearly stating your career history and what your achievements or main accountabilities were for each respective position. Your history should be listed in reverse chronological order, and include the duration in each position, the name of the employer, your job title, main accountabilities, and any quantifiable key achievements. Job gaps greater than three months should be explained.

Voluntary Involvement:

If you have experienced stages of unemployment and have volunteered your time in these periods, it would be best to list this detail even if it was five years ago! It demonstrates to the employer that you are willing to advance your skills and contribute to the community in times of change. In some instances, consider listing this information within the Employment History section itself, this can then explain any ‘gaps’ you may have in your employment.


If applying for a position with a professional organisation, 9 times out of 10 they will request two or three phone referees with your application. Referee detail should include the person’s name, job title (and relationship to you if it isn’t obvious), company name, contact telephone number(s) with area code, and email address. You should gain the person’s permission before listing them as a referee. Personal referees are a no-no; your referees should be entirely professional.

If in doubt about the information and structure of your resume, ask yourself this: “What is an employer looking for – what do they want from me?” Answer that question and you’ll recognise what information should prominently be displayed in your resume.

  • Don’t expect the person reading your resume to know and understand industry “jargon”. Explain the term in “layman” language.
  • Start each sentence with a powerful action word.
  • Know and understand your attributes and aspirations, and succinctly describe this to the reader.
  • Check your dates. Are there any gaps or overlaps?
  • Forget fancy fonts. Not only can it be hard to read, but it also makes it unreadable for scanning software.
  • Always double-check your resume for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.
  • Your resume is a reflection of you. Keep it as concise as possible, and don’t waffle! Quality rather than quantity is the rule.
  • Make it easy for your prospective employer to find the information they are looking for.
  • Tailor your application for each individual position.
  • After you have written your resume, seek an independent review. Being “too close” can lead to costly mistakes.
  • First impressions do count.

Be honest about your accomplishments and structure your resume in a positive manner which will highlight your true strengths and capabilities. Every person is unique! Let it shine and you will certainly be rewarded with a high rate of interviews!

Common Resume Writing Mistakes

Below is a brief sample of the common resume mistakes, as highlighted by employers, which could be costing you an interview.


Forget the section labelled “Career Objective”. Latest survey results were very surprising indeed, with 82% of employers rating a “Profile” as high, as opposed to 25% for a career objective. The survey also revealed that your profile (or something similarly named) needs to contain the right mix of information, combining the profile with a career objective.

Page Length

  • American templates and information, and indeed some Australian companies, base their resumes on 1 page (2 at most for senior roles).
  • Over 82% of employers prefer (in fact demand) a resume of 3 to 4 pages in length (and expect up to 6 pages for senior roles).
  • To quote one employer “usually any less than 3-4 pages does not give a clear picture of past experience and skills”.

Date of Birth

  • There is no legal requirement for you to supply date of birth.
  • Less than 2% of employers stated they didn’t wish to see date of birth.
  • To quote an employer: “If applicants don’t supply their DOB most employers assume they are ‘hiding’ something negative” and “Sometimes it IS important to assess the age of the applicant in relation to their level of experience. Eg: have the applicants achievements occurred over a short or long period of time”.
  • Note: unfortunately employers will, and do, discriminate. This will need to be evaluated for your particular circumstance.

Phone Referees

  • If your resume states “references available upon request” or similar, your prospective employer will immediately be wary.
  • Only 5% stated “provide at interview”. (Note: employers should not be contacting your referees without prior permission – usually obtained at interview. However, you must also be aware that this isn’t a perfect world!)
  • Most government positions require a list of three phone referees, on application.
  • To quote an employer: “Not have referees listed – makes you ask why – and you don’t have time to waste. IF you have to make a choice between someone who has given the list and another who has not – you are making the interviewer work – when you should be showing how you can work for them.”

Graphics & Borders

Unless you’re in a position which requires a great deal of creative flair such as: website designer; graphic artist; photographer; etc – stay away from graphics, photos and fancy borders, no matter how desperate you are in gaining the hiring manager’s attention! This was one area specifically commented on, time and time again. (This also applies to IT applicants who insert Microsoft logos.) Refer to the employer comments below regarding this issue.

Enlightening Employer Comments

  • “Having just received over 500 applications for a part time IT support officer job, addressing the selection criteria in the covering letter was of paramount importance. If I had to wade through each CV to find the details, I was immediately put off.”
  • “In the recently advertised position, we received over 350 resumes. The resumes that were automatically excluded were the ones that had spelling mistakes, unprofessional email addresses, any that had an inappropriate photo attached, anywhere they had used Monster or Seek resume services.”
  • “Spelling is critical. I often shortlist people who can spell liaison / liaise correctly. Everyone seems to use this word but so many spell it incorrectly. To me it demonstrates an attention to detail. Also, if I receive a resume without a covering letter I don’t even respond to it.”