What to include in your resume when applying for a job in Australia
I speak to a lot of top South African professionals who aren’t sure what they need to include in their resume to get an Australian recruiter’s attention.
Most advice you’ll find online will be confusing at best – and wrong at worst.
As someone who has built Australia’s premier personal branding firm, I know exactly what you need to include in your resume – and what to exclude – in order to get noticed by Australian recruiters and hiring managers.
Below is a step-by-step guide, in which I’ll share with you the secrets and tricks of the resume writing trade. Also, I’ll tell you why many South African job applications fail – and what you should do about it.
Armed with this knowledge, you will have no trouble having your resume noticed by Australian recruiters and employers.
Let’s get stuck into it. First, here are 9 things that you must include in your resume.
Your Contact Details
This piece of advice might seem too obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong.
Provide your name, email address, phone number and the URL of your LinkedIn profile. Nothing more, nothing less. (Note: there’s no need to include your physical address).
This typically appears under your name and acts as your professional tag line. Keep it simple, powerful and skill-based by highlighting your profession and value proposition. For example:
Marketing Manager | CRM Expert | Driving Sales Revenue
Your Professional Profile
Your professional profile is an opportunity to make your value proposition stand out. Using 150 words or less, your aim is to answer the three branding questions highlighted above.
Think solutions, think achievements, think personality.
Recruiters are likely to snooze if you open with something like:
“Dynamic Marketing Manager with 15 years’ experience leading the development and execution of CRM strategies that drive sales revenue.”
They want to be wowed and wooed by your ability to solve their problems:
“Connecting with customers through a like-minded voice, I have transformed the CRM culture of major corporations to deliver multimillion-dollar revenue growth.”
Your Employment Summary
Recruiters scan read. They’re busy people with literally hundreds of resumes to get through.
Research has shown that recruiters typically spend 6 seconds per resume and use an ‘F’ reading technique to pull out the key information.
We know that ‘previous experience’ is the highest rated element on a resume that recruiters look for, so let’s make it easy for them to find.
Place your employment summary on the first page of your resume. Make sure the format enables scan reading and only list your experience from the last 10 years. For example:
Marketing Manager CRM Jan 2014 – Current
Jules & Co.
CRM Team Leader Mar 2010 – Dec 2013
CRM Advisor Mar 2010 – Dec 2013
Senior Copywriter Feb 2007 – Feb 2010
On rare occasions, I recommend to clients to go back further than 10 years, but only if the role is highly relevant and brings something ‘extra’ to their value proposition.
Otherwise, just list any previous roles towards the end of your resume – job title, organisation and dates of employment will suffice.
Your Key Skills
This is where you’ll find the most conflicting advice. I advocate that key skills should be put on a resume to either:
- Highlight your core leadership competencies. 3-4 bullet points that call out your expertise in management, whether that be strategy, people, finance, compliance etc. Try to link these with tangible results.
- Optimise your resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (bonus read: how to optimise your resume for ATS?). Research suggests that 95% of Australian companies use ATS to shortlist the top 20% of candidates. A grid-based key assets section is your opportunity to include all the keywords ATS are looking for.
Everything I’ve talked about so far should fit on the first page of your resume as a snapshot summary of who you are, what you do and how you do it.
Now, let’s dive deeper.
Your Responsibilities & Achievements
Recruiters see responsibilities as competencies and want to know how your skills and experience can solve an organisation’s problems.
They don’t want to know all the intricate details. Give them the overarching themes only. These tend to fall into 5 categories:
- Mandate – What were you asked to do and how were you measured?
- Strategy – How did you identify problems and craft the solutions?
- Finance – How did you manage financial performance or impact financial results?
- People – Who did you manage, how, and what did this bring to the organisation?
- Continuous Improvement – After you solved the initial problem, how did you take your solution further?
When writing your responsibilities, use bullet point formatting to gain the reader’s focus.
Also, shape your sentences using HOW, WHAT, WHY. For example:
Defined a CRM vision and strategy shifting marketing methodology from a disruptive to a community-based focus, driving the growth of a customer database engaged in the organisation’s products.
Each of your responsibility bullet points should start with a power verb (e.g. defined, drove, shaped), as these add impact, strength and substance.
Your achievements should be listed straight after your responsibilities. I recommend that you use front loaded sentences for maximum impact. For example:
Delivered a 15% increase in revenue performance YOY, executing a targeted CRM strategy to build values-based relationships with over 20K customers.
Not formatting achievements in this way dilutes them – and that’s a real turn-off for recruiters.
Your Education & Professional Development
Australian recruiters value education and professional development if it is relevant, credible and supports your value proposition.
You should include any formal education or professional courses on your resume by simply listing the name and major of your course, alongside the awarding institution.
Master of Arts, Digital Marketing University of Cape Town
Diploma, Finance for Non-Finance Managers University of Pretoria
This is the section where you, predictably, include any other insights that are relevant to the job role you are applying for.
These could include:
- Non-Executive / Committee / Voluntary Job Roles
- Professional Memberships /Affiliations
- Visa Status
Now that you know what to put on a resume, you need to know how.
These tips will make your resume easy on the eye and ensure that key information pops:
- Length: 3-4 pages is standard in Australia.
- Font: Stick to a clean and modern font (e.g. Calibri 11pt).
- Format: Don’t use images, tables or graphs. They can look messy and confuse ATS tools.
- Size: A4 as standard.
Bonus Read: 5 Things You Should Absolutely NOT Include On Your Resume
Applying for a job is like dating. You can spend a lot of time learning what to say. However, you will undo all of your progress if you blurt out one wrong thing.
Let’s face it -we’ve all been there (both in dating and in job search).
To help you avoid taking irreversible damage, here’s a list of things you should not include on your resume when applying for a job in Australia.
- Demographic Details.
To avoid unconscious bias in the recruitment process, personal details such as gender, age, location and marital status should not be included in a resume.
- Your Photograph.
An ancient proverb tells us ‘The eyes are the window to the soul’.
However, when applying in Australia, do not include your photograph on your resume.
It seems that recruiters in Oz prefer to get familiar with you a little further down the recruitment line.
- Third Person References.
A once standard practice in resume writing, third person references are now considered old fashioned and impersonal.
Inject your voice into your professional profile so recruiters can connect on a more human level. For example, ‘I am a seasoned marketing leader’ instead of ‘Stephanie is a seasoned market leader’.
When it comes to your responsibilities and achievements, drop the pronouns altogether to avoid first person references.
For example, ‘Manage a multimillion-dollar marketing budget’, not, ‘I manage a multimillion dollar marketing budget’, and ‘Delivered 15% revenue growth’, not, ‘I delivered 15% revenue growth’.
- Informal Grammar.
Resumes are the most formal piece of your professional branding documents and need a tone to match. Avoid using informal grammar such as ‘I’m’ or ‘I’ve’. It should be ‘I am’ and ‘I have’.
- An Objective.
Once you’ve applied for a role, recruiters know what your objective is. Placing in an explanation of what you want to gain from an employer is of little value.
They want to know how you can solve their problems. If you’ve followed the process above, your resume will communicate that perfectly.
Your Resume Alone Is Useless.
Now it’s time for some bad news.
A traditional resume, by itself, is quite unlikely to get you noticed in Australia.
Digital technologies are rapidly changing the way people look for and find work and, as such, highlight the need for a broader approach to job search.
Consider this. What actions do you take when you buy a new car? Do you look at the car, ask the dealer for a fact sheet and then hand over your cash?
Of Course Not.
If you’re like me, you spend a considerable amount of time interacting with the car and its brand through a number of touchpoints.
Some of them may be:
- you take it for a test drive
- you read what the motoring journalists have to say
- you play with the “build my car” feature on the manufacturer’s website
- you watch YouTube videos which feature the car
- you read the marketing propaganda that the manufacturer has sent you
Similarly, when looking for a job, you must view yourself as a product that’s for sale.
Your goal, then, becomes to provide your potential employers (buyers) with a number of touch points through which they can interact with – and be impressed by – your brand.
What Does This Have To Do With Your Resume?
Your job application will be much more effective if you think of your resume as just one piece in your larger personal branding mix.
This mix should include:
- a well-written LinkedIn Profile (that’s not a copy of your resume)
- an excellent headshot on your LinkedIn profile
- an active and engaging social media presence
- a personal website (this is optional, but will give you an edge over other candidates)
The key point I want you to take away is this – become digitally mature.
As you’re thinking about what to include in your resume, look beyond the resume itself. Use the digital tools at your disposal to build a strong personal brand, thus helping recruiters and hiring managers in Australia to get a better feel for who you are.
This article is reprinted by permission from