Combined with other application requirements, such as online application forms, selection criteria and cover letters, a good resume can increase your chances of getting an interview.
A good resume presents who you are, what you have to offer and how you add value. It highlights your education, skills, employment history, responsibilities and achievements. Curriculum vitae (CV) is another name for resume, often used by university lecturers and researchers.
You don't need to have had paid work to put together a resume. If it is your first job search, you can write about any skills, abilities and personal qualities you've developed from school activities, hobbies and community involvement.
Chronological and skills-based resumes work best for young job seekers with short or no work history. Take a look at these resume samples and templates with example content for a student, an apprentice and a university graduate:
What should you include in a resume?
What you write depends on the job you're applying for. Only include information that clearly shows the skills the employer is looking for.
Usually this goes in the document header. Include your given name and surname, address, phone number and email address. You may also consider adding your LinkedIn profile address if you have one and if the profile is maintained.
Don't include other personal information like your age, religion, gender or marital status. You also don't have to include a photo.
If you're an early career professional, your resume could begin with a career objective statement. It should be relevant to the position you're applying for and tell the employer:
- what position you're looking for
- what level of responsibility you want
- where you see yourself in the near future.
Employers prefer a carefully worded, specific job objective. Here are some examples:
- To gain experience in all aspects of hair care and salon management, enabling me to become an asset to your business
- To broaden my business knowledge and experience, with the ultimate aim of working as a commercial consultant for non-profit organisations
- To gain more experience and knowledge in the field of electronics and warehousing, where I can use my skills to improve your company's productivity and reputation
Education and qualifications
List your most recent education and qualifications first. Include any relevant university degrees, certificates, short training courses, workshops, licences, forms of accreditation, and other training you've done or are currently doing.
If you're still at school or if you've left in the last two years, include the details of your school. If you've completed studies since leaving school or have some work history, you don't need to include school information. Only list your grades or marks if you think they will help your application.
Employment history or work experience
This section can include paid work or volunteer positions you've had.
Include your job title, company name and location, the dates that you worked there or how long you worked there. Use years and months – days are not necessary.
Add one or two sentences to describe what you did in each job using the STAR technique.
- Situation: Describe what your role or situation was.
- Task: Describe what you were required to do.
- Action: Describe what you did and how you did it.
- Result: Describe what happened as a result of the action you took and perhaps what you learnt.
Ask yourself 'Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?' to add detail to your descriptions. For example, if you have been a child care worker you might ask yourself:
- How many children did I look after?
- How old were they?
- What activities were involved in caring for them?
Your STAR response might be:
I did work experience in a childcare centre for 50 children aged between six weeks and five years. My job was to assist childcare workers in the room for children aged 18 months to three years. Daily tasks included supervising playtime, snacks and mealtimes, outdoor activities and nap time. I introduced story-reading time before the afternoon nap. The children were markedly more relaxed, and this made it much easier for staff to settle them into their beds.
Use the past tense when describing jobs you used to do. Use short, clear sentences so that readers can pick up information quickly.
Describe achievements, accomplishments, results and awards that demonstrate how well you did your job. Measurable results you achieved could include:
- dollars saved or earned
- time saved
- customer satisfaction increased
- production increased.
Competencies or skills summary
Your work history may not show that you can do the job, particularly if you've just left school. You can overcome this by having a section that describes the things you can do that relate to the job or industry you're applying for. List all your marketable skills and strengths, not just the ones you've used in paid work – you gain many important skills in other areas of your life.
If a lot of your skills are related to each other, group them under subheadings like Computer, Interpersonal, Mechanical skills etc.
Your referees are people who know you and can talk to a potential employer about the kind of worker you are or might be, based on what they know about you. Good people to ask are:
- a respected teacher
- someone you volunteer with
- a sports coach or team captain
- your manager during work experience
- your manager if you have a part-time job.
You should ask your referees if they are happy for you to put their names and contact details on your resume. You don't have to list names – just write 'Contact details for referees are available on request'. Provide their details at the interview if requested.
Ask each referee for permission to include:
- their name
- their title
- the company they work for
- their work phone number and/or mobile
- their email address
- a brief statement explaining how they know you.
Give your referee a copy of the job description or advertisement you're responding to so they know what to emphasise when the employer contacts them. Give them a copy of your resume, too, so they remember your achievements.
Other items you could include in a resume
These are the things that aren't always necessary but may help to give an employer more of an idea of who you are and what you have to offer.
Summary of experience
This is a big-picture or general statement that describes what work you do, and what strengths and abilities you can offer. Write a brief description of your experience, skills and personal qualities. You can make it a short paragraph or write it as a bullet-point list. Keep in mind the employer's needs and the qualities or 'selling points' you have that will meet them.
Activities and interests
Listing your interests and hobbies can help an employer form a picture of you. They may refer to your interests at the beginning of an interview.
Hobbies or community activities can show that you've got initiative, creativity, communication skills or organisational ability. These are especially important if the skills are relevant to the jobs you're applying for.
As you write this section, keep asking yourself:
- What am I trying to tell this employer?
- What does this activity or hobby reveal about me and my values?