RÉSUMÉ WRITING TIPS

Résumé Writing Tips from Certified Professional Australian Resume Writers

DID YOU KNOW …?

The person that you submit your CV to for that application you saw on Seek may only be the gatekeeper screener. They may not be the person who interviews you, and they may not be the decision maker in the hiring process either, but they may decide if those people read your résumé in the first place, and they may have a say in whether you get called to interview or not.

With this in mind, you should  write your CV to cater for all types of readers …

1) Gatekeeper Screeners who just glance over CVs to check that key words and selection criteria are addressed;

2) Detailed Readers such as hiring managers and key decision makers who like to drill down into the finer detail about results, achievements, successes; and,

3) Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – the software programs assist with recruitment, extract information from your documents to assist in determining if you meet the key criteria for a position, and may even determine if your document gets read by a human in the first instance. Around 80% of organisations in Australia use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

EVIDENCE-BASED RÉSUMÉS GET RESULTS. 

In order to really make your CV stand out from the rest, it is important to include examples of your achievements and successes to show where you can add value to a potential employer. Your past successes act as an indicator of your future potential with your next employer, and it is vital that this is demonstrated in your CV.

When recruiters talk about achievements though, what they really want to understand are results, not just what you did and how you did it, but what the bottom line impact was for the client, employer, business or colleagues. Focus not on what you did, or how you did it, but the outcome (the result). There are a number of acronyms that can help with this.

CAR

C = CHALLENGE (think of a challenge you faced or problem you had to resolve; why was it a challenge; why was it so difficult?)
A = ACTION (what action did you take; why did you take that action?)
R = RESULTS (what was the result of the action you took?)

SOAR

S = the SITUATION (for example, the situation in which you found yourself on day one of the job).
O = OPPORTUNITIES (for example, the opportunities you identified to help the business).
A = ACTION (for example, the plan or strategy you implemented to reach that goal).
R = RESULTS of your actions

WHO

W = WHAT you did at work, a volunteer activity, or school-related activities
H = HOW you did the work, and what skills you used.
O = What the OUTCOME was. If you struggle to quantify or qualify results, think about what you learnt from the experience, what you contributed, or what was gained by doing the work.

STAR is another tactic you could use.

Read more about resume achievement statements here.

RESUME WRITING ACTION WORDS.

Using action words to describe your achievements shows you really mean business, and can that you can deliver. Check out our list of words here.

GIVE YOUR RÉSUMÉ A CLEAR NAMING CONVENTION.

Give your résumé a naming convention that ensures it is crystal clear who you are and what you are applying for, or the position you want, and give it a current date. For example: BROWN, Jim – Executive Administrator – Feb 2015. Calling it ‘My CV ‘ along with the date it was written, is not going to help if it’s filed by HR by its date or without the name of the file name easily visible.

WHAT ARE KEYWORDS AND WHY ARE THEY NEEDED ON A RÉSUMÉ?

Keywords are really important on résumés, but what exactly are they? Typically, they are phrases and nouns that have to do with technical and professional areas of job expertise, projects, industry-related jargon, tasks, achievements, job titles, and so on. An effective combination of nouns, phrases, and verbs is necessary in a résumé because while the human eye is attracted to verbs, applicant tracking systems—the software used by recruiters to screen applications before they do—are searching for keywords.

Resume Keywords and Buzzwords
Résumé Keywords and Buzzwords, courtesy of Open Colleges

TIPS FOR AVOIDING AGE DISCRIMINATION IN THE JOB MARKET.

Never, ever, ever include your date of birth on your résumé. Firstly, it’s no one’s business. Secondly, whether we like it or not, despite the fact that it’s illegal, age discrimination DOES occur in the job market, so that’s another reason not to include it. Age discrimination in the job market can work both ways though. You can be seen as too old, or too young. Yes, it’s illegal to discriminate based on age, but it happens. Don’t give the reader of your résumé an opportunity to make unfounded judgements about you based on your age. Focus on the value you bring to an employer, and your results (not the number of years of experience), remove graduation year dates from your qualifications (unless you are a new Grad or have a strategic reason to leave them in) and don’t use an email address that includes numbers that could be interpreted as your year of birth.

SHOULD I INCLUDE MY HOME ADDRESS ON MY RÉSUMÉ?

In the first instance, including your home address could potentially expose to you to economic and demographic profiling. Secondly, your address could also influence the screener because in their opinion, you live too near, or too far away from the place of employment, and they might make assumptions about the length of your commute that doesn’t work in your favour. Don’t expose yourself for discrimination based on your address. If an employer needs your address as part of the screening process, they can ask for it.

The flip side of this is if a job advertisement specifically states that locals will be given preferential consideration. If this is the case, by all means indicate the city or town in which you live to support your application, but leave your street and suburb detail out, if for no other reason than to protect your privacy.

And yes, we’ve heard anecdotes about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) screening out candidates based on their location, or lack thereof. For every position you apply for, wherever possible, we always advise that a candidate makes contact with the employer/recruiter before submitting an application. ASK if there is any preference with regard to the location of candidates, and reflect their response in your CV.

DREADED INTERVIEW QUESTION #1: WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?

When you’re asked this question, what they really want to know is ‘What area could you most improve upon?’ This question strikes fear into most interviewees. Be prepared for this one and give yourself an edge over the competition. Understanding WHY it’s asked and you’re halfway there – it’s asked not only to determine where you think you can improve, but also to assess your honesty, and your ability to self-assess. We ALL have weaknesses, so be honest, give a real example and illustrate how you’ve learned from the experience, how you manage the weakness now, and how you’ve turned it into a strength. Or, look at your weakness as a negative trait, and reposition it as a positive attribute.

HELP! MY RECRUITMENT AGENT ISN’T WORKING FOR ME

We often speak to potential clients who seem exasperated that ‘their’ Recruitment Agent doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help them, and we often have to remind them that ‘their’ Recruitment Agent is NOT ‘working’ for them – they are working for their fee-paying clients, i.e. the companies with the vacancies that need to be filled. A Recruiter is judged by the quality of the candidates they bring into an organisation for further consideration, so it’s not their job to be charitable, spend hours trying to read between the lines of your CV to determine if you’re a possible contender for a role, or to find you a job. It’s their job to reduce that stack of 500 CVs to 6, vet possible candidates, and put them forward to the organisation for consideration, so the position will be filled with the best person for the job. That’s how they make their money! Make the recruiters’ job easy with a great CV that focuses on your accomplishments and successes, and you’ll find your relationship improves immeasurably.

WHAT IS THE HIRING MANAGER LOOKING FOR?

The goal of the Hiring Manager is to employ the most qualified candidate for the job, and one who will fit into their organisation. They are likely to be held accountable for your performance on the job. Depending on the structure of the organisation and the recruitment process, they may only see your CV after it has been screened by a Recruitment Agent, and their HR Department. When the Hiring Manager reads your CV they are looking to see if you have the skills to be successful in the position that is available, based on your past experience and training. Within a few seconds, they want to know a) your current level; b) the roles and functions you performed; c) the settings you performed them in; d) past experience; and e) current expertise. Does your CV measure up to the Hiring Manager screen?