An easy guide for Australian university students looking for work on how to write a resume to get that dream job part time or post graduation.
The first step of applying to any job is demonstrating why you have the skills and experience to do that job better than anyone else.
Enter, the humble resume.
Usually a few sheets of paper distilling your past jobs, education and qualifications to just a few bullet points, writing a killer resume can be a hard process to pin down. How do you show your personality? How long should it be? What if you don’t really have that much experience?
No worries. We’ve got the steps to help you write a kick-ass resume, whether you have an old one that needs freshening up, or no experience in the workforce at all – plus, a few special insider tips that will set you apart from all the other papers in the pile.
#1 The Basics
Open up a Word Document, and get all your relevant information down.
This will be your name, address (or at least, your city location), phone number, e-mail address.
Include the name of the universities you’ve attended, the degree you hold or are in the process of obtaining (e.g. Bachelor of Science) with your major and location of the campus. Feel free to include any clubs you joined or achievements you were awarded. If you’re an international student or exchange student, include that! Employers are often really impressed by the courage and skills required to move across the world to study in a new country, as they should be!
List all your educational institutions in reverse chronological order, meaning you should start with the most recent and work your way back – including high school, if you wish!
List any past jobs or volunteer work from the last 10 or so years. Same as with your education, start with the most recent or present job you’ve held and work your way back. Make sure to list the job title, the company you worked for, the location of the job, and maybe a few bullet points on what tasks you were entrusted with and any other details about the job that explains why your experience there makes you a qualified candidate.
Think of any extra or miscellaneous skills you possess that you think make you more employable. Are you really social? Maybe write down ‘people-oriented.’ Do you know your way around a computer? ‘IT Proficient’ is a really good skill to have! Speak any other languages? Make sure you include that! What makes you unique to all the other applicants applying for this same job? What skills do you have that they don’t? For more ideas, check out this list and this list. Come up with maybe 15 or so skills you think describe who you are!
#2 A Professional Summary (Optional)
Personally, I see the resume as the first point of contact between you and a potential employer, and with all the other applicants and resumes they have to sift through, the professional summary could be a key aspect to introduce yourself and endear yourself to the reader. Come up with 2-4 lines introducing yourself, describing what kind of job you’re after, a few of those skills we talked about earlier, and maybe a personal anecdote that gives them an idea of who you are!
For example, ‘My name is Emma Park, and I am a Biotechnology student at Flinders University. I’m seeking part-time hospitality work to balance with my studies as I love working with others and interacting with customers. Outside of work and study, I love to hike, go out with my friends, and I’m a bit of a nerd for a good horror movie.”
Lucky for you, there are a ton of free websites out there that will take all the information you’ve collated above and put it into a beautiful resume for free!
Now, the only catch is – a lot of companies these days use fancy technology and computer systems to filter through all the resumes they receive, meaning that sometimes the ‘pretty’ resumes with funky formatting actually end up losing or jumbling a lot of your information and writing. Because of this, I would keep your resume as basic, clear cut and simple as you possibly can, and then make it even more simple. Features like multiple columns and even the cleanest clean infographics can still very likely get garbled and jumbled up. The only exception would be applying for jobs in the art or design industry, in which case, still keep your resume as simple as possible, and consider using colour and font rather than layout to demonstrate your aesthetic skills. Highlight your portfolio of work quickly or at the top of the page so you can redirect potential employers to somewhere all your hard work won’t be eaten up by a computer.
I would stick to free, easy templates like Resume.io and My Perfect Resume. The formats aren’t as gorgeous as some of the ones you’ll find online – they’re not covered in cursive fonts and flowery infographics, but they’re skimmable, easy to read, and nothing will get lost in translation.
They will prompt you for the information above in Steps 1&2 and collate all your details into a wonderful, professional resume!
#4 Finalising Your Resume
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Make sure there are no grammar or spelling errors. You can use free websites like Grammarly to help in this department!
- Proofread and proofread again: send it through a human contact. Get someone who speaks good English to proofread your resume, to make sure all the sentences flow and it reads smoothly. I’m sure they’d feel honoured! People love to do favours for others.
- Try and keep your resume as short and brief as possible – 1-2 pages, if you can! If it’s longer, cut anything you think is unnecessary, or that you’ve already described in detail.
- Save your resume as a PDF, and name the file with your first and last name, the word resume, and the month and year. E.g. EMMA PARK RESUME MARCH 2020. Save a few versions of it so you can update it with any new info or experience you pick up along the way.
What’s a reference, you may ask? Well, a referee is somebody from any previous work or volunteer experience who can vouch for you in a professional or personal context. Some jobs require them and some do not, which is why you don’t have to include a list of them on your resume, but you should have a list at the ready should your employer ask to speak with your referees. This list should be properly formatted with all your referee’s job titles and contact details.
You will need to ask this person’s permission before you list them as a reference, and chat to them about the job to which you are applying so they may prepare for what they would like to say should they be contacted.
Don’t feel strange about asking any old colleagues, managers or co-workers, even if it’s been a long time since you’ve seen them. Like I said before, most people feel lucky to be asked for a favour, and especially when they feel someone respects them to a calibre to ask them to be their referee. They would probably love to reference you! If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you can use past professors, coaches or teachers to recommend you.
#6 Some Final Words of Advice
- Don’t use a picture or headshot. I’ve been told by several job recruiters they just don’t like it!
- Try not to use too much ‘industry’ speak – sometimes, the recruiter going over your resume may not be familiar with the engineering or medical jargon you’re using. Keep the language as straightforward as you can.
- Don’t lie on your resume. Even if it’s the job of your dreams, or the job asks for some seemingly unnecessary prerequisites – don’t lie. You will be found out, especially if the hiring manager calls your old workplaces, or you’re asked to perform a task you said you could do and you actually can’t. If the job is asking for something you don’t know or can’t do, then move on to a different job application, or seek a more junior role. You’ll get there one day, but you can’t lie your way to the top.
That’s it for the resume! The next step – writing a cover letter. And don’t slack, you’ll need to write one of those, even if most companies say they’re optional. Trust us, they make you look better, make you stand out, and make you look like you want the job even more so than all the other applicants that didn’t write a cover letter. Stay tuned on our follow up on how to write a kickass cover letter, and we can’t wait to see you get out there and dominate the industry with all your rockstar application materials.