How to write a resume

Knowing how to write a resume is vital if you're pursuing a new job or new role. A CV is your personal marketing document, designed to ‘sell’ your skills and abilities to a potential employer. 

Research suggests a hiring manager scans a resume within 10 seconds, so it’s important to quickly demonstrate relevant skills and why you are the best fit in your job application.

Use these tips for how to write a resume to help you land a job interview for your dream job.

How to write a resume that stands out

Tailor your resume to fit the job description

After sending off a slew of applications, it may be tempting to simply copy and paste an email template to some recruiters, attach a cookie-cutter resume with a generic cover letter and put your feet up – but this approach won’t win you interviews. Instead, you need to closely review the job description and mirror its language, addressing the core competencies outlined in the advertisement.

There are many ways to do this, but at the heart of all of them is research: learn about the place you’re applying, understand the job ad and show them why you’re the best fit for them. In addition, if you’re in a creative job role or industry, include supporting materials such as a portfolio that showcases your abilities.

Some people will also go the extra mile like this interactive resume created by a designer or this slide deck made by a financial analyst. Just remember that these unique resume formats should be an addition to, not in place of your standard resume: infographic-style or specially formatted resumes might be more hassle than they’re worth since recruiters have a specific template for all resumes.

Highlight the important skills

There will be lots of ways you can benefit any company you work for, but the beauty of a creative resume is that it focuses on the exact skills you’re able to bring to the table – the ones the company you’re applying to is looking for.

With that in mind, find out what problems you are most able to solve for the company and make sure the skills that solve them are front and foremost in your resume. Eye-catching infographic resumes are a particularly effective way of presenting facts and figures in an engaging format. Web product manager Phillipe Dubost went as far as to make an Amazon page advertising himself, which swiftly went viral.

Focus on your achievements

When you write a resume, it should focus on the unique accomplishments that make you stand out. Demonstrate how your employment history contributed to the organisation; did you save money or time, exceed targets, solve problems, improve processes, or attract new customers? Where possible, quantify how you added value with numbers, percentages or dollar amounts.

RELATED: Resume and cover letter advice

Ensure your resume makes for a compelling read

The tone of your resume should be enthusiastic, upbeat and professional. Put your strongest and most relevant points first in a resume summary, using action words such as ‘completed’, ‘developed’ and ‘managed’, and superlatives such as ‘first’, ‘best’ and ‘highest’. Presenting your accomplishments confidently using high-impact words are key components in how to make a resume extremely compelling for your reader.

Use a practical resume format

There is no ‘perfect’ or ‘correct’ way to structure a resume, but you should always ensure that it is laid out in a practical and easy-to-follow format. For example, your basic details (name, address, phone number, mobile number and email address) should be clearly listed on the front page. Next, list your training and/or education with the most recent studies first. Finally, list your career history in reverse chronological order, including your job title, company name, start and finish dates, key responsibilities, and accomplishments for each role. At the end of your resume, it is standard to include your references, or note that you have references available on request if required.

Quick resume format tips

  • Choose a fuss-free layout that provides enough white space so the resume is easy to read. Ensure the design suits the industry and job function you are targeting (for example, a graphic designer’s resume will need a more creative look than a finance professional’s resume)
  • Keep the text size no smaller than 10 point font and provide enough white space so it’s easy to read.
  • Aim for 2-3 pages to include the information that is relevant for the role – there is no need to include everything that you’ve done over your career.
  • Ensure your name and contact details (mobile phone and email address are requirements) are clearly visible at the top of the resume.
  • Include a career summary or professional profile at the beginning that highlights your relevant experience, core competencies and technical skills. This should capture the attention of the reader instantly and place you in the ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ rather than the ‘no’ pile when being screened.
  • For each role you’ve held, include the company name, job title and the dates. Start with your most recent role and then add your previous roles in reverse chronological order.
  • Describe briefly the scope, responsibilities and important aspects of each role, to whom you reported, the number of people you managed, size and type of projects you handled and size of budget if relevant.
  • Include bullet points of your accomplishments for each role. These should include the tangible results of your efforts. These accomplishments may be profit improvements, streamlining of processes, time savings, cost savings, improved morale within the department, completion of projects under budget or ahead of schedule, etc.

RELATED: Free resume templates

Make it clear

Using impressive graphics or a clever gimmick might be an attractive idea, but they should always have a point. Clarity in communication is a crucial transferable skill in any job or industry. If your skills don’t leap off the page in a way that is well-formatted and clearly presented, it will be much harder for your prospective employer to get the information they need to make the right hire. If your infographic resume is more ‘graphic’ than ‘info’, you will likely struggle to get the recognition you’re looking for.

Keep it concise

Your resume reflects you and you need to include as much of what shows you off as talented and employable as possible. However, there’s only so much you can include before the person reading will start to glaze over. Focus on the specific skills you have to offer and how they relate to the company you’re applying to. Cut any excess and let the facts you do choose really stand out.

Follow up

Recruiters and hiring managers are frequently inundated with applicants, so even if yours was impressive and stood out, you may not hear back immediately. The last thing you want to do is pester, but a prompt after two days to see how things have progressed is well worth doing: it shows that you’re interested in this role in particular, rather than a job in general.

How to write a resume objective

If you have a clear and specific goal in mind when searching for a job, it can be useful to provide a career objective statement on your resume. A well-written objective statement that outlines your background and achievements is another chance to show that you’re the right fit for a job.

What is a resume objective statement?

A resume objective statement, or CV objective statement, is an opening statement at the top of your resume that outlines your work objectives. The aim is to summarise, as concisely as possible, your background and key skills as well as what your goals are.

While some may argue that resume objectives are unnecessary or outdated, if crafted properly they can show that you know what you want out of your career and demonstrate that you have suitable skills and experience for the job.

How to write a good resume objective statement

Like all well-written resumes, your resume’s opening statement should be tailored to suit the job you’re applying for. Aim for one or two sentences summing up your background and where you’d like to go.

Your objective should directly relate to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying to be a manager at a chain clothing store, but you eventually want to be head of merchandising at a luxury clothing brand, your statement should still align with the store manager position and how you’d like to grow within the business.

It’s also important to show that your goals will add value to the business. So, while you want to talk about your career aspirations, you should also include information that highlights your skill set and experience in the field.

For example, a poor resume objective would look like, “Seeking a senior accounting position where I can challenge myself professionally”.

A good objective for a resume might read, “Certified accountant with an MBA looking to apply my 7 years’ experience in corporate accounting to grow XYZ Company.”   

Resume objective examples

1. Objective: Obtain a challenging leadership position applying 10+ years’ lean management experience to achieve maximum profits and scale at XYZ Company.

2. Objective: Utilise my 5 years’ Ruby and Python programming experience to develop robust tech solutions as a Back-End Developer at XYZ Company.

3. Career objective: A challenging and fast-paced logistics management position within the private sector where extensive supply chain management experience and a forward-thinking approach are of value.

As you can see in the examples above, the applicant’s education, experience, and value to the company are all made clear within a single sentence.

6 resume-writing tips from the pros

1. Make it bespoke

“Focus all content purely on the role and industry you’re targeting. Using pages to talk about an unrelated job or field diverts attention from what skills you have, where you are heading and why you’ll be of value to the specific job.”

Gayle Howard, Certified Master Resume Writer

2. Champion your achievements

“In your job history, focus on achievements, don’t just list responsibilities and duties. Do this by writing a 1-2 sentence overview paragraph on each job role and then a bullet list of specific objective achievements for that role. You can discuss the full specifics at the interview stage.”

Mandy Johnson, Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Business Advisor

3. Engage

“Make a detailed list of every key skill and quality required for the role and ensure that you articulate how your work or other experience demonstrates these.”

Aziza Green, Digital Marketing Pro

4. Structure is king

“If you’ve had a solid career history with companies and job titles that will enhance your application, add a career summary in table format, listing the company name and job titles in reverse chronological order.”

Jane Jackson, Career Management Coach and Best-Selling Author

5. Format appropriately

When writing bullet achievements, put the result first. The formula the professional writers use is this: Achieved XXX (result), by doing XXX (action) to resolve XXX (problem).

Gayle Howard, Certified Master Resume Writer

6. Keep it brief

“Be clear, concise and keep it relevant.”

Sarah Jensen, Creator of Rock Your Goals workshops

A standout resume is the first step to landing your next job. After that, it’s up to you to fully prepare for the interview process and impress them with your communication skills and expertise.

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