The internet is full of guides that teach you how to write a resume for the Australian job market. Unfortunately, most of them are written by online resume builder companies with a vested interest in making you sign up for their platforms rather than making it easy for you to write a resume.
This resume writing guide is different – because, as of October 2023, I’ve personally trained over 50 resume writers to write excellent resumes that Australian recruiters love.
With this wealth of experience, I can teach you how to write your resume, too. It’s easier than you think.
How To Write An Australian Resume in 8 Easy Steps:
- Learn the purpose of each resume section.
- Prepare to write.
- Decide on resume format and template.
- Create the resume header (your name, etc).
- Write the Key Skills section.
- Write the Employment History section.
- Fill out peripheral sections (education, etc).
- Write your Profile last.
I’ll also share a bonus trick that professional resume writers use to cut the amount of time it takes to write a resume by 50%.
Of course, you can avoid having to write a resume altogether by outsourcing the job to a good resume writer, or using a good resume builder.
Here are my recommendations:
Step 1: Learn The Purpose Of Each Resume Section.
Let me familiarise you with the essential elements of an Australian resume. I’ll show you what you must include in each section – and what you should exclude.
If you’ve written resumes before, feel free to skip this step.
Headline. A catchy one-liner that highlights your value as a candidate. Targeted to a specific role, it must pull in aspects of your desired job title, current skills, industry and keywords in the job ad.
Contact Information. Includes your Australian phone number, professional email address, address and LinkedIn profile URL.
Profile. A story-driven elevator pitch that showcases the skills, achievements and experience that you bring to the table. Don’t confuse this with a resume objective or a personal objective.
Employment Summary [Optional]. Gives the hiring manager a preview of your experience and encourages them to keep reading. Use it only if you have more than 3 roles under your belt.
Key Skills / Assets. Includes a combination of your hard and soft skills. Use either bullet form or short, punchy sentences.
Professional Experience. Presents your work history in reverse chronological order. Offers insight into mandates, responsibilities and achievements.
Earlier Career History [Optional]. Gives you the flexibility to list distant roles. If some of your work history falls outside of a 15-year window, put it here.
Education & Additional Sections. Lists your university degrees, certifications and courses.
Step 2: Prepare Yourself.
Preparation is a key part of learning how to write a resume. Strategy before tactics, as they say. Measure twice, cut once.
A. Pick Your Target Role.
A resume is a marketing document, not a historical record of your career. Its content will change depending on the role you decide to apply for.
This means you must narrow the list of jobs you’d like to apply for to one.
One dream job.
This will enable you to achieve maximum cut-through by targeting specific pain points of hiring managers on your resume.
If you’d like to target more than one role, you’ll need to create a resume for each one.
B. Know The Purpose Of Your Resume.
Your resume is a tool that demonstrates:
- Why you’re a fit for the job.
- How you’re different to 50 other similarly qualified candidates who sent in their resumes in response to the same job ad.
The second point is critical. There’s not much value in demonstrating that you can do the job if you can’t set yourself apart from your competition.
Your resume must clearly articulate how you’re uniquely positioned to solve a specific set of commercial challenges – and why you should be hired over similarly qualified candidates.
Unfortunately, most resume writing guides focus on the first point and miss the second one entirely. (This article focuses on both).
C. Study The Job Description.
We all get over-ambitious at times. Put on your hiring manager hat, read the job description and ask yourself:
- Am I a fit for the role?
- Can I see any experience gaps?
If you’re unsure, read the job ad again. Does it mention:
- Budget sizes that you haven’t managed?
- Team sizes that you haven’t led?
- Credentials that you don’t have?
- Years of experience that you haven’t yet attained?
Be honest with yourself. There’s a fine line between being ambitious and being foolish.
You’ll be competing against dozens of supremely qualified job seekers, so there’s little value in applying for roles you’re not a fit for.
You’ll simply be wasting your time and burning bridges.
D. Create An Outline.
Grab a piece of paper (or open a new Word document). Write down your:
- Employment dates in the last 15 years.
- Job titles.
- Mandates (i.e., were there specific reasons you were brought on?).
- Primary responsibility in each role. If you were responsible for projects, provide a quick summary of those.
- Top 3 accomplishments in each of your roles.
Last, reflect on the themes and values that underpin your work. For example, you may be someone who brings out the best in employees, or you may have a talent for making customers happy through empathy.
E. Block Off Time In Your Calendar.
Don’t try to write your Australian resume on the fly.
Surgery waiting rooms, hotel lobbies, train stations and childcare centres are not suitable environments for selling your best self in written form.
- Allocate 3 X 3-hour sessions towards writing your resume. Yes, nine hours in total.
- Block off these times in your calendar. Don’t treat them as poor cousin appointments that get pushed around by other stuff. Your career is on the line. Treat it with the respect it deserves.
F. Tame Your Inner Perfectionist.
Get your thoughts out first and polish them later.
You don’t have to write a perfect resume, one sentence at a time. It’s much easier to create a rough first draft and improve it.
Remember – excellent writing is rewriting.
G. Aim For Correct Length.
A lot of online resume builders advise you to limit your resume to one page in length.
This is nonsense in the context of the Australian job market – unless you’re writing a networking resume or a bio.
How long your resume should be will be determined primarily by your level of seniority. Use this as a rule of thumb:
- Graduates and interns: 1 page
- Junior managers and young professionals: 2 pages
- Middle managers and professionals: 3 pages
- Senior managers and executives: 3-5 pages
Step 3: Choose A Great Resume Template.
Don’t build your resume layout from scratch. There’s nothing worse than staring at an empty Word document with a blinking cursor or trying to design your own resume template.
It never ends well – trust me.
Give yourself a head start by downloading one of many free resume templates on the Internet or by using a resume builder.
Alternatively, download my free resume templates below:
Template 1: Download Now.
Template 2: Download Now.
Template 3: Download Now.
When browsing resume templates, look for those with contemporary, clean, easy-on-the-eyes designs.
- Avoid old-school resume templates that make your resume look like it’s stuck in the 1990s.
- Choose designs that control the user experience and tell the hiring manager which elements to look at first. If a resume design doesn’t have a clear visual hierarchy, it will appear dense, confusing and “too much hard work”.
For this reason, stay away from two-column layouts. They often fail at presenting content in a visually hierarchical manner.
Notice, for example, how the resume example below dumps all of the information in front of you. The resume content isn’t easily skimmable and does not feel inviting to read:
Step 4: Decide On The Right Resume Format.
There are three resume formats: reverse chronological, functional, and combination.
Let me make this decision very easy for you:
- Use reverse chronological resume format if you have more than 1 role.
- Use functional resume format if you have no work experience (i.e., you’re a graduate).
- Don’t use the combination resume format, ever.
The reverse chronological resume format is best suited for professionals, managers and executives – because it puts a big spotlight on your most recent (and therefore important) roles.
It also gives employers an excellent overview of your career progression.
The functional resume format is best suited for graduates because it takes attention away from your most significant weakness – that you don’t have an employment history.
Instead, it highlights your strengths – academic achievements, transferable skills, communication skills and extra-curricular activities.
Step 5: Write A Killer Headline.
It’s time to start writing your resume.
Kick it off with a snappy headline that echoes the role you’re seeking, acknowledges your current job title and is buoyed by relevant skills, specialisations or achievements.
The headline should live in the resume header, right next to your name.
It’s immediately apparent that the person is Chief Financial Officer, operates in the Climate Technology space and has something to do with IPOs.
Here are a few other examples:
- Financial Controller | CPA | FP&A
- Sales Representative | Forex | Hedging
- Senior Supply Chain Manager | Planning & Execution
- IT Program Manager | CSM | PMP
- Executive Sales Director | Acquisition & Business Development
If you get stuck, refer back to the job ad and the position description. Ask yourself – what is their main pain point? Craft a headline that appears as an antidote.
Step 6: Enter Your Contact Details.
This section is self-explanatory, but let me provide a few critical nuances.
- Your Name. Use the [Firstname] [Lastname] format.
- Phone Number. Your mobile is fine. Include your country area code if applying internationally.
- LinkedIn URL. Did you know that you can change the default, ugly and long URL that LinkedIn gave you by default to one that’s simple, short and attractive? Here’s how to do it.
- Address. Some job seekers prefer to reveal their city and country; others list their full residential address. It’s up to you.
- Email Address. Ensure that it looks professional, and ideally, include at least one of your names. You could also consider purchasing a domain resembling your name and hosting your email address. (Here’s how to do it).
- Do Not Include your DOB, gender, marital status or photograph (read the full list of items that you shouldn’t include).
Step 7: Write A (Very Basic) Profile.
Here’s a secret that only professional resume writers know about. If you use it, you’ll write your resume in 1/2 of the time.
Write your Profile last.
Writing will be easier once you become more familiar with your commercial value. This usually happens after you detail your professional experience.
For now, I only want you to write a skeleton profile. List 5-10 bullet points that mention your:
- Significant achievements (e.g., you exceeded sales targets by 14% in Q3 2021).
- Major strengths (e.g., you’re highly analytical, can work under pressure).
- Educational milestones (e.g., an MBA, PMP, Agile, Scrum).
- Business impact (e.g., your work leads to a reduction in overhead costs, improved customer satisfaction, increased revenue).
Later, you’ll expand on these bullet points to create an impressive, fully-fledged Profile.
Step 8: Create The Key Skills (aka Key Assets) Section.
You must follow two golden rules when writing your skills section:
- Be relevant to the job you’re applying for
- Echo keywords from the target job ad
Let me show you how this works in real life.
I grabbed This job ad this morning from Australia’s favourite job site, Seek.
I’ve highlighted all keywords that jumped out at me as possible candidates for the Key Skills / Assets section:
This particular job ad was nice enough to offer a dedicated “Skills and Experience” section that I could draw on to grab the following:
- Excellent written and communication skills
- Deep understanding of financial markets across FX, crypto, commodities, energy and equities
- RG146 Certification
- Tertiary degree in Business or similar
- Existing network
- BDM or account management experience
First, notice that many of these requirements are not skills per see.
This employer wants to interview candidates who, besides having communication (soft) and finance (hard) skills, are tertiary qualified, certified finance professionals with plenty of connections and experience.
This is why I prefer to expand the purpose of this section to “Key Assets” rather than simply “Key Skills”.
By removing this constraint, you give yourself the freedom to present more of the exact attributes that the employer is looking for.
By the way, not all job ads will be kind enough to provide you with a dedicated skills section to draw on. Most of the time, you’ll need to scour the body of the ad itself for hints.
For example, the job ad above tells us that interested job seekers must have the ability to:
- Nurture warm, interested leads
- Develop existing client relationships
- Work with High Net Worth (HNW) individuals
- Provide insights on financial markets
Now that I’ve pulled those out, I’ll shape them into 3-5 assets that lead with a keyword and follow it with evidence. Here we go:
- Strong Results Focus. Experienced BDM with a proven ability to exceed targets in fast-paced, high-pressure sales environments by developing warm business leads and expanding existing accounts.
- Written and Communication Skills. Take complex and technical financial information and present it as actionable insights to clients and leadership teams.
- Stakeholder Management Skills. Success in establishing and developing strategic relationships with senior stakeholders, including HNW individuals, and influencing investing decisions.
- Degree Qualified ASIC Certified. Holding an MA (Business) from Sydney University and an Advanced Diploma in RG146 from TAFE NSW.
By the way, what’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills?
- Hard skills are technical. They can be measured and are directly related to your tasks (e.g., MySQL, Agile).
- Soft skills are personal. They are intangible and point to your intrinsic attributes (e.g., leadership skills, stakeholder management skills).
Step 9: Write Your Professional History.
Do not include every single role that you’ve had since university. Your job is to highlight, not list everything.
Here’s a guideline that will help you cull the chaff:
- Include between three and six of the most recent and relevant roles from the past 10 to 15 years.
- List remaining roles in an “Additional Work History” section that includes titles, organisations and tenure (I’ll show you how to do this later).
Once you’ve selected your roles, start listing them in reverse chronological order.
Your formatting of each role should look like this:
Notice how the section starts with very broad, high-level, strategic details to set the context, then drills into very tactical, high-resolution stuff to showcase the impact of your work.
The steps below show you how to write a resume just like that.
A. Enter Job Title And Dates.
Make sure these are correct. Do not stretch truths to cover up career gaps. You will get caught, and it will cost you dearly.
B. Spotlight The Company.
Write an employer snapshot. Keep it short (2-3 lines maximum) and provide insight into company size, history and industry. Here are a few examples.
International design house:
Medium-size private company:
Don’t copy and paste from the ‘About Us’ section of the employers’ websites. You’ll infect your resume with meaningless corporate fluff.
C. Spotlight Your Role.
Why were you hired? What commercial context existed around your role? Who were you reporting to?
This is another opportunity to set some strategic context, this time focusing on your role. Here are some ideas to guide you:
D. List Your Responsibilities.
Quite simply – were you hired?
Kick off each bullet point with an action verb like “provided”, “determined”, or “forged”. When describing a role you’re presently in, remember to use the present tense.
Here are a few examples of responsibilities to guide you:
Never kick off responsibility with “Was responsible for…” It sounds weak and vague.
E. Showcase Your Achievements.
This is the most important part of your resume.
You really must read my guide to writing achievements that land jobs, but for now, let me give you a few important pointers.
An eye-tracking study undertaken by usability research pioneer Dr Jakob Nielsen found that the dominant reading pattern online looks like the letter ‘F’:
This means you must kick off each bullet point with an action verb and the result, rather than the action you took.
For example, compare this:
See the difference? The secret to front-loading your achievements lies in this 3-step formula:
You can use it to convert this boring achievement:
Into this attention-grabbing one:
Here’s another example of an achievement pre-transformation:
Step 10: Fill Out Peripheral Sections.
These sections offer evidence of your suitability for the role and make your resume easy to navigate.
A. Employment Summary.
Think of it as a mini table of contents for your work history. Provide only job titles, dates and employer names, like this:
B. Additional Career History.
As mentioned earlier, roles that aren’t relevant enough to make the cut for the Professional Experience section should live in this dedicated section on the last page of the resume:
C. Education and Professional Development
Lump all of your education, training (including courses you’ve done internally at work) and certifications under this umbrella:
If you have awards, honours and publications, put them into the Achievements sections of individual roles, where they’re more likely to be seen.
Step 11: Finish Your Profile.
Now that you’re familiar with the details of your work history, let’s finish off that Profile.
Your Profile is the elevator pitch of your brand. It needs to be relatable, specific to you and commercial in nature.
But first, a few ground rules to make sure you don’t waste time and end up with a great resume:
- Write in the first person. (Unless you happen to be the Queen).
- Avoid buzzwords and cliches such as “detail-oriented”, “results-driven”, “strategic thinker”, “team player”. (List of buzzwords to avoid).
A. Profile, Resume Summary Or Resume Objective?
This gets confusing, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Profile and Resume Summary are sometimes used interchangeably, especially in the American job market.
They usually refer to the same thing, but I suggest that you DON’T think of this section as a Resume Summary – because its purpose is not to summarise but to sell.
It’s a sales pitch.
Keep its purpose to a higher standard, and you’ll write a more compelling resume.
- A Resume Objective, sometimes called a Career Statement (or simply an Objective), is a 3-4 sentence summary of your employment goals, values and strengths.
Back in the 1990s, it was fashionable for all resumes to sport a Resume Objective.
These days, it’s considered old-fashioned and only belongs on resumes of recent school leavers and graduates who don’t yet have much of a career history to showcase.
As a rule of thumb, if you have any work experience, go with a Profile. If not, go with an Objective.
Let’s break it down.
B. How To Write A Profile.
Start by making a list of your specialisation points, most impressive achievements and points of difference.
- Specialisations are your friend. The narrower, the better (e.g., you’re a business analyst known for your work in the Australian cryptocurrency space).
- Highlight quantifiable stretches of experience (e.g., you offer 15 years of success in leading and shaping teams).
- Pinpoint for career-defining, quantifiable achievements where you exceeded expectations, preferably in the last few years (e.g., you turned around the fortunes of a poorly performing business).
- Unique intersections are your friend. These act as points of difference to set you apart from similarly qualified candidates (e.g., you’re a marketer with a military background, which means you bring an unusual sense of rigour to the profession).
Shape this data into 2-3 paragraphs that contain your most significant professional selling points.
Here is an example of a profile that has the power to beat the resumes of all the other applicants:
And here are a few more lines you can use as inspiration for your own resume:
C. How To Write A Resume Objective.
Start by making a list of your strongest attributes. Think about your:
- Strengths (e.g., conscientiousness, attention to detail, perseverance)
- Relevant skills (e.g., research skills)
- Volunteering experience (e.g., work with NGOs, political parties)
- Education milestones (e.g., graduations)
- Awards and distinctions (e.g., GPA scores, scholarships)
Next, think about how you will be able to contribute to your target organisation.
Finally, shape this raw data into a short, punchy paragraph. Here are a couple of Resume Objective examples that you can use for inspiration:
Step 12: Run It Through An ATS Simulator.
An ATS, or an Applicant Tracking System, is an automated scanner designed to streamline the recruitment process.
This gatekeeper between you and your dream job works by filtering out resumes that don’t meet the criteria listed in the job description.
The good news is that ATS simulators allow you to pre-empt its results.
They scan your resume (often for free or for a minimal cost) and provide instant feedback on its ability to pass through the tracking systems:
Your goal is to aim for a score of 80% and above. Good simulators like JobScan will show you precisely what you need to change to improve your score.
Step 13: Proofread, Tweak, Re-Tweak.
Your own typos become invisible to you after a short while. Don’t trust your eyes to eliminate all errors from your resume.
- Use an AI language checker like Grammarly. Apart from picking up spelling mistakes that you’ve missed, it will provide pointers for improving the readability and engagement of your resume.
- Ask a couple of your friends to proofread it. They’ll pick up things that both you and Grammarly missed, but take their feedback with a pinch of salt. Everyone will have an opinion, but not everyone will have a good one.
Step 14: Save It Well.
I often see Australian resumes with filenames that have the power to derail one’s job search and turn off the hiring manager.
- CV – not helpful for filing/finding
- Ann_Draft_CV / CV Draft – Doesn’t suggest much effort in preparation
- John_Sales_Only_Resume – Could suggest a second sector choice
- Alex_2006 – Looks like your resume hasn’t been updated since WWI (or thereabouts)
First impressions count. You’ve just spent an hour learning how to write a resume. Don’t jeopardise your chances with a minor detail like this.
Keep it simple, for example:
- Goodwin_James or Goodwin_James_[company/recruiter name]
5 Resume Mistakes That Australian Job Seekers Need To Stop Making.
An effective resume is more than a mish-mash of your previous roles and buzzwords.
- 1. Cliches and Bloat. In other words, your resume should never say that you’ve “managed a team of 15 analysts at KPMG for 10 years” and claim that you’re “a highly motivated self-starter“.
- 2. Poor Attention To Detail. There’s no excuse for having a resume with typos, misspellings and grammatical errors.
- 3. Weak Targeting. One resume should target one role. Don’t try to sit on more than one chair with your one butt.
- 4. Poor Design. Your resume must look as good as it reads.
- 5. Weak Achievements. Most people confuse achievements with responsibilities. A responsibility describes what you did, and an achievement describes how well you did it.
Final Takeaway For A Perfect Australian Resume.
Writing an effective resume takes time – and many iterations.
As with most things in life, it’s possible to take shortcuts, but these tend to come back and haunt you – through lost job opportunities and rejection letters.
The passion you have for your work and your ability to deliver tangible value should shine through in every word of your resume.
My advice? Don’t try to wing it.
Once you’ve learned how to write a resume, you’ll be able to sell yourself to employers every time you need a new job.
Take my advice and beware of those painfully generic professional resume writers whose services abound these days.
If I were one of them, I might sum up this article with a tired old adage: “you can write the perfect resume by telling, not selling.”
But since we’re all originals here, I’ll close with a Hopi proverb:
“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”
P.S. Do you have more thoughts on how to write an Australian resume? Any tips that you’ve found particularly helpful? Share in the comments below and let’s start a conversation!