How to write an effective resume Part 1: The Basics

A resume provides a first impression to a potential employer. It should represent you as a professional, qualified and appropriate candidate for the job. Taking the time to perfect your resume will certainly be worth the effort and should be a high priority in your job search.
Here are some tips to writing an effective resume.

1. Adapt your resume to the advertised job.
Just as in an interview you should emphasise your strengths and relevant qualifications for the job, so too should your resume provide a clear case for why you are a suitable candidate. It may be helpful to have one master resume which you change and adapt to each job. However, if you simply send a standard, general resume to a range of different positions, you are likely to be overlooked. Read the job description carefully and include experience and education which supports the skills required. For example, if the job requires ‘administration skills,’ make sure your resume clearly emphasises these specific skills, even if there are other skills you may be keen to highlight too.

2. Use action verbs.
In order to convey your enthusiasm and achievement, use action words to describe responsibilities and achievements. Words such as initiated, managed, achieved, reached, created, addressed, communicated, constructed, implemented, developed, planned, presented, supervised, produced, formulated, reviewed and operated are persuasive and impressive in resumes. They communicate your commitment to delivering outcomes and your ability to take action.

3. Provide examples of your experience.
If the position calls for ‘excellent communications skills,’ be sure to provide an example of how this is demonstrated. For example, ‘developed strong interpersonal communications skills by providing high level customer service for clients.’ Be as specific as possible. For instance, instead of stating ‘administration skills,’ provide details such as ‘prepared accurate minutes,’ ‘handled general enquiries promptly,’ ‘maintained and expanded client database’ or ‘monitored stocktake levels.’ Wherever possible, put your examples in context!

4. Be truthful.
A resume is certainly the time to put your best foot forward. However, it is not an opportunity to exaggerate or outright deceive a prospective employer! If you are lacking certain specific experience but you believe you have the necessary skills, indicate on your resume how your experience has given you the transferable skills to apply to this position. Don’t lie about educational qualifications, software that you are in fact not familiar with, the duration you worked at a past job or tasks which you in fact did not perform. It is best to be truthful and ensure that your resume reflects all the things you can do!

5. Be concise.
For school leavers and those relatively new to the workforce, two pages should suffice. Otherwise three to four pages should be the maximum length of your resume. Try to be clear, concise and relevant. Avoid a ‘shopping list’ and instead, create a succinct document which is easy to read.

6. Check and check again!
Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to proofread your resume. Then the next day, proofread it again. A misspelt word is often a huge turnoff for employers reading your resume. Take the time to check every word on the page, including headings and your personal information. Aim for consistency where possible in writing your resume. Try to keep the wording in the same tense and use clear language throughout.

7. Ensure your resume abides by local standards.
Each country has slightly different requirements for layout, content and design of a resume.

For more specifics on how to prepare a resume for the Australian market, please read Part 2: A step by step guide to writing an Australian resume

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